If my landlord has refused to fix several problems for the past3 months, what are my rights?

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If my landlord has refused to fix several problems for the past3 months, what are my rights?

I notified them via certified mail that pipes were freezing on cold nights, a sewage smell was coming into the house through the drain pipe in the wall for the washing machine, and the heater in the bedroom didn’t work. No response. I e-mailed them a second notice the next time our pipes froze. Someone came to look at the problems, and was to come back and install a new heater. They never returned. The pipes froze again so I sent another e-mail requesting the repairs. After 3 months and no repairs, I’m really tired of getting the runaround by my landlord. What is my best course of action?

Asked on February 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have several possible options in this case.  By way og background, every residential lease includes an "implied warranty of habitability". Basically, this gives a tenant the right to live in a sanitary and safe (i.e. habitable) premises.  Providing heat is included in this warranty.

If your landlord refuses to perform repairs necessary to make your rental habitable (i.e. livable), as a tenant you can:    

  1. Withhold Rent - You can refuse to make any further rental payments until the repair is properly made.
  2. Repair and Deduct -  You can fix the problem and then charge your landlord for the cost of repair; or 
  3. Terminate the lease - You can choose to end your tenancy and vacate the premises.

However, before you attempt to pursue any of these remedies, consult with a landlord-tenant attorney or a tenant's rights organization.  If you fail to follow the proper procedures for attempting these self-help measures, you could be held liable for breach of your lease. 

Note:  Depending on your income, you could also ask Legal Aid for assistance or the state/county bar association.  A  local law school clinic might also be of help to you.


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