What to do if I’m facing eviction for not paying due to security issues?

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What to do if I’m facing eviction for not paying due to security issues?

Now the reason I refuse to pay is because of the security of my apartment is in disarray. There have been 2 attempted break-ins where the front door was damaged and my back door window was broken. I filed a police report both times. The sliding glass door never truly locks so I have to stay home 90% of the time, my bedroom window will not lock,and has a crack in it that they refuse to fix. Also, my dishwasher has a hole behind it that vermin and insects get through all the time. I have multiple times told the landlord about the issues wrong and he says it’s my responsibility to fix them, including pay $200 for the windowpane that was broken during the attempted break-in.

Asked on December 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A tenant is only obligated to pay for damage which he or she (or  his or her family, guests, etc.) does--so a tenant would not be responsible for, say, window panes broken by criminals.

The "implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to provide rental premises that are "fit for their intended  purpose." Significant security issues caused by a landord failure to provide doors or windows that lock can violate this warranty. A violation of the warranty can give the tenant the right to seek monetary compensation or to not pay rent until the issue is addressed (or even to treat the lease as terminated and move out). Also, significant pest infestations can likewise violate the warranty.

The problem though is that only issues that truly render the premises effectively unusable as a residence violate the warranty; lesser issues do not, and if the issue does not violate the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant may not withhold rent and could be evicted for not paying.

To evict you, your landlord has to take you to court--he can't just lock you. Make sure you go to the court date and bring ALL the past due rent with you (in a money order) or at least be prepared to pay it in full that day. Explain the issues to the judge and that you have the money available to pay once your security and health has been provided for. The judge may, if he thinks the issues serious enough, order the landlord to fix them before you have to pay; if the judge does not feel they are that serious, you should be able to pay the rent that day and avoid eviction.

The above is the general principal for this situation. Every situation is different however, and depends on its own facts. You are advised to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney immediately, to determine what to do in your case.


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