My Landlord is not ready to make repairs

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My Landlord is not ready to make repairs

My landlord isn’t making repairs to our unit. We stay a 2bed, 1.75 bath and we
are not able to open the bathroom door thats attached to the master bedroom as
the door does not sit on the railing. Our microwave’s door hinge has also come
off the door and our landlord says that it didn’t happen due to wear tear. We
have been staying here for the past 1.5 years now. Please help us understand more
about our rights.

Asked on June 17, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You may not have any rights to force  repairs: the law only obligates landlords to make repairs that affect "habitability," or the ability to essentially safely and healthily live in the unit. Typical repairs that must be made are broken external doors (no security), lack of heat or hot water, lack of A/C in hotter climates in summer, mold conditions, major leaks or holes in roofs/windows, etc. However, a broken microwave door would, in my experience, definitely not qualify as a habitability issue; a jammed bathroom door *might*--but if there are other bathrooms and/or you can get into the bathoom (even if the door doesn't work correctly), I can see certain judges ruling that it, too, is not a habitability issue.
More to the point, there is no good way to even try to compel the landlord to make these repairs. You could withhold rent for lack of repairs, then be brought to court for nonpayment of rent, have to defend yourself in court on the grounds that there was an impairment of habitability, and possilbly lose; or you could make the repairs, deduct the cost of the repairs from rent, and again possibly end up in landlord-tenant court for not paying your full rent.
Your best bet may be to ask your landlord if she will voluntarily give you some rent credit if you pay for the repairs: even if she doesn't give 100% credit, this could be a win-win, since the repairs get made, you pay relatively little (or nothing, if you get a 100% credit) for them, and she doen't have to go to the trouble of arranging for repairs. If you do get agreement from her, get the agreement in writing, even if only email or a text message.


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