You are renting an apartment or a house, and you notice a dangerous problem. Maybe it is exposed wiring that could lead to fire or even electrocution. Maybe it is a loose floorboard that could cause you to trip and injure yourself on nearby furniture or appliances. Or maybe it is a leak that could result in a slip or the accumulation of deadly black mold.
If you notice a potentially dangerous problem like those listed above or something similar, you should notify your landlord right away about the problem to have it fixed. Unfortunately, not all landlords are responsive or meet their legal obligations to their tenants.
So what should you do if you have a nightmare landlord? Read on to learn about your rights. To get a free case evaluation from an experienced attorney, call 1-866-900-7078.
What Are Landlords Required to Fix?
There are certain conditions that are instantly considered dangerous, making a unit unfit for human habitation. Even if a tenant hasn’t complained, a landlord who becomes aware of these problems must act in a reasonable and timely manner to fix them.
These issues include:
- Unsafe wiring
- Unsafe flooring or steps
- Unsafe ceilings or roofs
- Unsafe chimneys or flues
- Lack of potable water
- Lack of operable locks on all doors leading to the outside
- Broken windows or lack of operable locks on all windows on the ground level
- Lack of adequate heating (when it is 20 degrees outside or colder, your unit’s heat must be capable of heating your living areas up to 65 degrees, and this applies from November 1st through March 31st)
- Lack of a working toilet
- Lack of a working bathtub or shower
- Rat infestation (assuming it is a result of defects in your building’s structure)
- Gas leak
- Excessive standing water, sewage, or flooding problems that contribute to mosquito infestation or mold (assuming these issues are caused by plumbing leaks or inadequate drainage)
What About Defective Appliances?
When it comes to appliances the landlord has provided, including stoves, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, furnaces, and others, your landlord is required to maintain them and repair them when broken. If your landlord fails to maintain and repair these appliances, you may be entitled to a rent abatement, or rent reduction. A rent abatement depends on being able to show the reduced value of the rental property due to all the defects, something an attorney can help you with.
Note: Unless it’s an emergency, the landlord must be notified of defective appliances in writing.
Humidity without proper ventilation can lead to mold, and you can develop serious health issues when your landlord won’t fix your mold problem. In North Carolina, while there is no specific law regarding mold, landlords are expressly required by law to fix plumbing, drainage, and sewage issues, all of which could create conditions that mold thrives in.
A landlord acts deceptively and unfairly by charging you rent for a residence they know is uninhabitable due to mold – and they put your health at risk. A few of the many dangers to your health that can be caused by mold include hives, headaches, and difficulty breathing.
General Tenant Protections
Rental properties in North Carolina come with an “implied warranty of habitability.” This means your unit must always meet certain minimum standards that make it suitable for a person to live in. Note that this warranty doesn’t ensure you will be free of every annoyance and inconvenience, but it does mean your landlord is responsible to fix serious issues that could cause damages, make your living environment unbearable, and cause injuries to you, as well as injuries to your children or other family members.
Tip: In addition to keeping your premises habitable, your landlord has a duty to keep the fitness and habitability of your rental at the same level they were at when you first moved in. This can provide additional “catch-all” protection for tenants.
What Do I Do if My Rental Property Is Not Up to Code?
First, contact public safety regulators for your city or town. Most have a complaint form you can submit online. If you’ve sustained injuries or damages, your next step should be to contact a landlord-tenant lawyer to seek the compensation you may deserve.
How Do Housing Codes Work?
Housing codes impose certain safety requirements for rental properties. These requirements include adequate heating and adequate plumbing. If your unit or complex has housing or other code violations, you may call state or local building/health inspectors to investigate.
An apartment health code violation and a housing code violation can easily overlap. For example, a malfunctioning heating system may present a significant fire hazard as well as failing to supply a minimum level of warmth. Similarly, a malfunctioning sewage system or a contaminated water source violate the basic warranty of habitability as well as health codes.
Calling on public safety regulators can be an effective solution at times, but keep two things in mind:
- The inspectors in your area may have workload and budget limitations that make a timely resolution unlikely.
- Inspectors have the authority to require repairs by the owner to conditions that make a dwelling unfit for human habitation. An order to remedy a code violation will not compensate you for personal injuries, damage to your property, or for unexpected moving expenses if your landlord delays needed repairs.
Can You Withhold Rent if Things Aren’t Fixed?
You should not stop paying rent because this can lead to your eviction. Instead, seek a written agreement with the landlord that you will pay for repairs or replacements yourself and deduct it from the rent.
Don’t pay less rent if you don’t have this written agreement. Contact an attorney before you do anything. It is also important to keep a record of all issues as well as your communication and repair requests with the landlord.
How to Document Problems and Ask for Repairs
You should always document problems and ask for repairs from your landlord in writing. It is important to document what you have done to notify your landlord about the problem and your requests to have it fixed. You can do this by sending your notification by e-mail or through a letter sent by certified mail. Review your lease for the specific means of notification required as well as the address you should use.
Be sure to provide details about the problem and to specifically ask to have it fixed. Take photos both for documentation and to include with your request to your landlord.
Verbally asking your landlord to fix the problem is not enough. Should your landlord neglect or refuse to fix the problem, it is important to have tangible documentation that you provided notification about the problem and requested to have it fixed. Should you become injured or suffer damages as a result of the problem, this documentation is even more important.
Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Pay for Repairs?
Your landlord can charge you for repairs if the issue was caused by you (or your guests). You may also be charged a portion for repairs if you failed to act reasonably to mitigate the damages. For instance, if you noticed a problem but failed to report it in a timely manner, you may owe the difference in repair costs now versus how much it would have cost to fix the problem at an earlier stage.
What to Do if You Were Harmed by a Landlord’s Negligence
If a landlord refuses to make repairs after all your reasonable attempts, it’s time to tell them you mean business through an attorney. Fill out our online form and someone will get back to you quickly.
We know that profits can come first for some landlords and property owners. When one vacation rental company refused to refund clients for advance payments on properties closed due to Covid-19, we didn’t hesitate to take them on and fight for the millions customers were owed. As a plaintiffs’ firm with formidable litigation lawyers, we’re always ready to go to battle on behalf of regular people getting mistreated by those who think the rules don’t apply to them.
Since 1997, we’ve helped 55,000+ people recover over $1.4 billion in total compensation (and counting).1 We’re ready to put our talent, experience, and resources to work for you.
Worried about affording an attorney? Thanks to our contingency fee arrangement, there are no up-front costs, no hourly fees, and no surprise charges.2 To speak with someone right now, call 1-866-900-7078. Get a free case evaluation from one of our attorneys – there is no obligation to hire us afterward.