If my landlord made an agreement via text message regarding a rent reduction, is he now legally bound to this deal?

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If my landlord made an agreement via text message regarding a rent reduction, is he now legally bound to this deal?

Our lease it states landlord is to maintain the central air unit. He claims not having the money to repair. Our electric has gone up – we bought 2 window units and are using others we had. Yet we are still paying full rent. We have waited 3 months. We refused to pay rent for last month and told him we were moving. He, by text message, offered to waive that month’s rent as back payment for electric and the 2 A/C’s we bought, plus proposed to take $125 off our rent until fixed. We payed the agreed amount. However now he denies ever saying this, and said he was going to evict us. I still have these text messages. Will the judge accept that as proof?

Asked on August 8, 2011 Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A landlord may agree to modify the rent, reduce it, provide a credit or waive part of it, etc., and that agreement is enforeceable. The issue is proving the terms of the agreement. For that, you may be able to introduce the text messages as proof, as well as offer your own testimony (and presumably, the landlord will offer his testimony). Other proof you can offer is the lease (so you can show that the landlord had an obligation vis-a-vis central A/C which he breached); receipts showing your cost to buy the window units; and electric bills. Note that you *may* be entitled to more than just what the landord agreed to (and, if you can prove the agreement and honored your side, you should not be evicted)--you may be able to get some compensation for the whole time you were bereft of air conditioning, or for the full cost of the window units and something for the increased electric; it's certainly worth trying to recover either for all costs or for the dimunition in your rental unit value from not having A/C. Two things to be aware of: to sue for compensation, you will likely have to bring a separate action, possibly in small claims court--tenancy courts generally handle only possession, not monetary damages. And come to court with the difference in rent--what you would have paid, in the absence of the agreement. If the trial goes againt you--no legal proceeding is ever a given--if you can pay the rent owed, you should be able to avoid eviction.


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