What are the rights of tenants in unsafe housing conditions?


Quick Answer

A tenant has options if a landlord refuses to make repairs to keep the rental unit safe, such as calling government building inspections, withholding rent, repairing the issue and then deducting the costs of repair from the rent, Nolo notes. Moving out and suing the landlord is another option.

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Full Answer

A tenant should report unsafe conditions and problems to building inspectors, and a landlord is typically given 30 to 60 days to fix the problem. This could be a questionable way to deal with the problem because inspectors are not always effective, Nolo notes.

The majority of states allow tenants to withhold rent payments if the landlord's actions result in unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, Nolo says. Each state's laws have different requirements, however, so tenants should make certain they are following all rules if they choose to go this route. Repair and deduct laws vary, and this option may not be practical if the problem is quite large.

If a tenant is prepared to break his lease and move out because of the landlord's refusal to make the rental unit safe, he should confirm his municipality's local laws, which may require the tenant to make a report to building inspectors and allow the landlord a certain amount of time to fix the issue. A tenant should sue his landlord only if the tenant wants to stay in his rental unit.

If a tenant is set to take action against the landlord for failure to make repairs, certain conditions need to be met. The problem must affect the safety of the unit and must not be the tenant's fault. The rent must be paid, and the landlord should be given enough time to resolve the issue, Nolo reports.

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