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Remedies for needed repairs

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Learn what steps to take when your landlord is ignoring needed repairs in your rental.

Learn what steps to take when your landlord is ignoring needed repairs in your rental.


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  • 1. Remedies for needed repairs Learn what steps to take when your landlord is ignoring needed repairs in your rental. Tenant Association of Allentown www.taofallentown.org
  • 2. Notify landlord in writing So your landlord is ignoring needed repairs. What do you do? The first legal step you should take is to send your landlord a letter and send it certified mail (Return Receipt). In this letter you want to let your landlord know of the issues and how they concern you. Do not skip this step. You may need to prove to a judge that you notified the landlord in writing which is why you should send the letter certified mail.
  • 3. Misbelieves • I called my landlord and told him over the phone. That should hold up in court. FALSE! (Letting your landlord know over the phone is not written notification and is word against word.) • I sent my landlord an email. That should be proof. FALSE! (Some judges do not accept emails as written notification and there is no proof the landlord received the email.) • I sent my landlord text messages. That should be proof. FALSE! (Some judges also do not accept text messages as written notification and there is no proof the landlord received the text message. • My landlord is already aware of the issues. I don’t need to tell him. FALSE! (Even if your landlord is already aware of the needed repairs you still must send the letter to him.)
  • 4. Letter sent to landlord I sent the letter to the landlord. Now what do I do? The next step is to wait. Once the landlord receives the letter you must give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the needed repairs before proceeding to take any other action.
  • 5. Reasonable amount of time? You maybe asking yourself what is considered a reasonable amount of time. There is no set time frame and it depends on the needed repairs. This is a common argument between the tenant and landlord. We recommend for non-serious repairs to give the landlord about 30 days to make the repairs or at least start them. For serious repairs you can lower the amount of time. For example: No hot water would be considered an emergency and you would not want to wait 30 days. For serious repairs you can also call code enforcement at: 610-437-7694 or 610-437-7695.
  • 6. Remedies So you sent the letter and gave the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs but the landlord is still ignoring them. Now you have a few remedies you can use. On the next few slides we will discuss these available remedies and how they are used. Please read carefully on how these remedies are used because it could mean a difference if you used them legally or not.
  • 7. Remedy: Repair & Deduct One of the available remedies you can use is repair and deduct. • Repair and Deduct may be a good solution for you if: – you don’t want to move, – your problem is something specific that a repairperson can fix, and – the repairs will cost less than what you pay for your monthly rent.
  • 8. Remedy: Repair & Deduct Cont. If you can, take pictures and/or videos of the problem. If he/she doesn’t fix the problems, you need to write to him again. Tell him that because he/she has not fixed the problems, you plan to get it fixed yourself and to subtract the cost from your rent, if he/she does not repair it immediately.
  • 9. Remedy: Repair & Deduct Cont. If the landlord doesn’t do anything within a day or two, call around and get about three written estimates of how much the repairs will cost. Choose the most reasonably priced company. Remember, you can only use repair and deduct if you can pay for the repairs.
  • 10. Remedy: Repair & Deduct Cont. Get the repairs done. Get a receipt. Then, when it is time to pay rent, write to your landlord again, telling him/her that you got the repairs done, and how much money you spent. Give him/her a copy of your receipt, and copies of the other estimates you had gotten, so he/she can see you spent a fair amount. Subtract the amount you paid for repairs from your usual rent amount, and only pay your landlord the difference.
  • 11. Remedy: Repair & Deduct Cont. Important: only spend the money on the repairs, not on anything else. The next month, you must go back to paying your usual amount.
  • 12. Remedy: Repair & Deduct Cont. Before you get the repairs done, make sure that other people have seen the problem and its effects, so that if you ever need to go to court, you’ll have proof that the problem was serious. In addition, if you can get the repair people to describe the problems in their written estimates or receipts, that could be helpful.
  • 13. Remedy: Withholding rent • Withholding rent may be appropriate for you only if: – you cannot afford to pay for the repairs, and – your problems are so serious that your home is uninhabitable. – But be careful, because it is not often the most appropriate choice, and many courts do not look favorably on it. In addition, while you are withholding rent you should be looking for another place to live, because the landlord may then try to evict you.
  • 14. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. Examples of what would not be appropriate problems for withholding rent are torn carpeting, leaky faucets, toilets that won’t stop running, cracked walls, or a small or minor amount of bugs or rodents. Examples of what might be appropriate are no hot water, no heat in the winter, dangerous conditions in the structure of your home, a seriously malfunctioning sewage system, or an extreme amount of rodent or other infestation.
  • 15. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. The safest way to withhold rent to try to get the landlord to improve conditions is to put the rent money into an escrow account at a local bank. This way, if your landlord tries to evict you or sue you for the money, you can prove to the court that you were not using the money for another purpose.
  • 16. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. The first step in this process would be to write to your landlord, tell him about your problem(s), and ask him to fix it. Do not skip this step– you must tell him in writing, even if you’ve already told him before about the problem.
  • 17. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. Be detailed about the problem– explain how seriously it affects your family’s home, life, health, safety, cleanliness, etc. If you can, also take pictures of the problem.
  • 18. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. If he doesn’t fix the problem, you need to write to him again. Tell him that because he has not fixed your problem, your home is uninhabitable, and therefore, you intend to withhold your rent. Tell him that you will begin paying rent again after he fulfills his obligations as a landlord.
  • 19. Remedy: Withholding rent Cont. Do not spend this money. Put the money into a separate account. You can ask your local bank how to do this. This way, if your landlord takes you to court and wins a judgment against you, you will have the money to pay it back.
  • 20. Remedy: Move out If a landlord does not provide certain things for you that cause a serious problem, such as a working sewer system, heat in cold weather, or drinkable water, he may be violating what’s called a “warranty of habitability”; In these situations, you have the right to end your lease and move out.
  • 21. Remedy: Move out Cont. Do not just leave. If you plan to move out, you should first write to your landlord, tell him about your problems, and ask him to fix the problems within a reasonable period of time. Try to be detailed in your letter; explain how the problem affects your family’s home, health, cleanliness, etc. Keep a copy of your letter.
  • 22. Remedy: Move out Cont. If he does not fix the problems within a reasonable time, go ahead and plan to move. When you know when you will be moving out, write to him again, telling him that because he did not fix these problems, that he has violated the warranty of habitability, and as a result, you are moving out. You may also want to request your security deposit back, and some back rent for the time the conditions were bad. It is probably a good idea to wait until the day you are leaving to send the landlord the letter.
  • 23. Remedy: Lawsuit Suing for back rent and other expenses may be a good solution for you if you’ve already spent your own money to get things repaired, or if you’re moving out and think you deserve some back rent because the home had serious problems. You can sue whether you are staying in the home or moving out.
  • 24. Remedy: Lawsuit Cont. Before bringing this kind of lawsuit, you should make sure that you’ve notified the landlord of the problems (in writing), and given him a reasonable chance to fix them, but he hasn’t. This solution means going to the Magisterial District Justice and filling out lawsuit papers. You can get more information on how to do this from NPLS or a private attorney. You can also contact us.
  • 25. Remedy: Lawsuit Cont. There are many things you can ask for in this lawsuit. For example, you can request: – Reimbursement for any money you’ve spent to repair the problem, or to repair damages to your property, or to make your place more livable under the circumstances; – Refund for part or all of your back rent paid, for the time period when the problem made your home uninhabitable (how much depends on how bad it was or is); – Reimbursement for your extra utility costs, if your utility bills were unusually high because of the problem; – Reimbursement for any money you spent if you ever had to pay for temporary housing because of the bad conditions; – Reimbursement if you suffered some emotional or physical harm because of the bad conditions caused by the landlord or his failure to fix the problem; and/or, – Reimbursement for your property damaged or destroyed because of the bad conditions (spoiled food, damaged clothing, or furniture).
  • 26. Remedy: Lawsuit Cont. Bring to court any photographs which show the bad conditions. It would also be helpful for other people who have seen the bad conditions to come to your hearing and testify for you. If your local Housing Code Enforcement Office knows how bad the problems are, get them to testify at the hearing or make sure to bring their reports with you.
  • 27. Remedy: Lawsuit Cont. • What you need to do at the hearing is prove to the court that: – these problems seriously interfered with your health, safety, cleanliness, etc.; – these problems were your landlord’s fault or responsibility, and, – the landlord didn’t fix the problems within a reasonable time after you told him about them.
  • 28. Remedy: Lawsuit Cont. Bring to court all receipts for your expenses, back rent, utility bills, and for anything else you are asking the Court to give you for having to deal with this problem.
  • 29. Remedy: Combination of remedies You may choose a combination of remedies. Any one of the previous remedies, by itself, may not be totally suitable for you. Your situation may allow you to use a combination of different remedies.
  • 30. Remedy: Combination Cont. Suppose, for example, that for the past 2 months you have paid the full rent but have had no hot water. You have told the landlord about it but he has not made the repairs in a reasonable length of time. In the meantime, you have found another place to live and plan to move there next month. What can you do? You may choose to:
  • 31. Remedy: Combination Cont. • request that a part of the past 2 months’ rent be returned to you; • reduce part of this month’s rent; and • move out next month without being responsible for future rent to your present landlord. You should be aware that none of these options are perfect or easy winners. Any of them could cause your landlord to try to evict you. However, if your landlord is truly not providing you with safe, sanitary conditions, he cannot evict you solely to get back at you.
  • 32. Conclusion Before proceeding with any remedy you must send your landlord a letter sent certified mail. Some remedies may not be best for you depending on your situation. Always have evidence for court such as pictures or video. Get written estimates if possible. Make sure you give your landlord reasonable amount of time to make the repairs before proceeding to use any of the remedies.
  • 33. The End Visit us on the web at: www.taofallentown.org Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tenant-Association-OfAllentown/338488686161316 Email: webmaster@taofallentown.org Phone: (484) 202-0742 Mailing Address: 252 E. Walnut St. Apt. 2RR Allentown,PA Attn. Julian Kern