What are my options if I have lived in my apartment for 9 months but there are issues which the manager has failed to resolve?

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What are my options if I have lived in my apartment for 9 months but there are issues which the manager has failed to resolve?

There are broken tiles in the bathroom that cut up our feet and she had someone take out another tile 2 months ago. The fireplace/chimney has been broken since we moved in, although we pay for it. Birds nested there at one point and they wouldn’t remove them, and now that they are gone they refuse to cap the chimney or clean it out making my animals sick. Also, we asked for different locks because 3 times since we moved in people we did not know let themselves into our house while we were asleep, without an appointment. These issues have been addressed multiple times to no avail.

Asked on September 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The broken tiles and chimney are things you probably do not have legal recourse for, in terms of grounds to seek a rent abatement or force the landlord to take action. While all rentals are subject to what's called the "implied warranty of habitability"--the obligation, imposed by law, that the rental be "fit for its intended purpose," such as residence--it is only affected by issues that affect habitability. Conditions that are suboptimal but which do not affect habitability do not violate the warranty. That means that you'd only have recourse if either 1) the lease specifically, for example, states there is a working fireplace (then you could take legal action to enforce the lease); or 2) it was, for example, specifically represented to you, prior to signing the lease, that the fireplace worked *and* it was a material (or important) consideration to you that it did (in which case, you *may* be able to seek compensation under the rubric of "fraud"--a material misrepresentation made to induce you to enter into the transaction or lease).

However, you may have recourse against the landlord for the issue with locks. If there is no good security--e.g. bad or ineffective locks; or the landlord does not secure his/her copy of the keys--as may be the case, that could be a violation of the implied warranty of habitability, since it would be a significant impairment of safety, which means an impairment of habitability. Or if the landlord is knowingly giving other people access to your home, then he or she is violating your right to quiet enjoyment, or the right to use the premises free from unreasonable disturbance. Thus, the issue with the locks might afford you grounds to seek monetary compensation, a court order forcing the landlord to finally correct the issue, or even potentially to break the lease without penalty. You should speak with a landlord-tenant attorney about this issue and your options.


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