What to do if your landlord has repeatedly ignored your requests for repairs and the like?

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What to do if your landlord has repeatedly ignored your requests for repairs and the like?

I’m renting a house and the landlord has been very unprofessional with everything. When we first came to look at the house, it was still riddled with the past tenants belongings and trash; she made it very clear on several occasions that it would be taken care of. Then we discovered a major cockroach problem, which she refuses to deal with. We have a list of 25+ problems and we’ve made mostly oral contracts. Will this still hold up in court if we sue? What should we do? I have a 4 year-old son and I am pregnant.

Asked on April 18, 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 that you may be able to take.  First of all, by way of background, every residential lease includes what is known as an "implied warranty of habitability".  This warranty basically gives a tenant the right to live in a sanitary and safe (i.e. livable) premises.

If your landlord refuses to perform repairs/maintenance necessary to make your rental habitable, 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:  If money is an issues depending on your income, you could also ask Legal Aid for assistance or the state/county bar association (although there are income eligibility requirements).  A  local law school clinic might also be of help to you.


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