When a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to a tenant’s unit, a tenant has several options. One of these actions, referred to as “repair and deduct,” allows the tenant to hire a third party to complete the repair and deduct the cost from the rent due to the landlord. However, the tenant should ensure that he has conformed to specific procedures if he decides to use this option. In general, withholding rent is considered a drastic remedy. It could result in eviction or further legal action. Before you decide to deduct a portion of your rent for repairs, make sure you are standing on sound legal ground.
Legal Duty to Repair
The landlord has a legal duty to maintain the habitability of the premises. This is an implied warranty that accompanies every rental unit. Each state has specific laws regarding the requirements for habitability in a rental unit, but typically the warranty guarantees that the premises are structurally sound, contain working plumbing, heating, and electrical systems, and are free of rodents and pests. In addition, the lease contains provisions outlining the landlord’s duty to repair certain defects or conditions. If the repair in question affects the habitability of the premises or is specifically covered in the lease, then the landlord is required to make the repair. Once the tenant establishes the landlord’s duty to conduct the repair, he can inform the landlord of the issue and act if the landlord refuses to make the repair.
Notice to Landlord and Time to Cure
The tenant should immediately inform the landlord in writing of the defective condition in the unit. In many cases, the procedure for notification is specified in the lease. In either case, the landlord should receive reasonable notice of the repair and ample opportunity to fix the condition. If notice has been given and the landlord has failed to make the repair, then the tenant can repair and deduct.
The “Repair and Deduct” Process
In many states, including Georgia, the tenant can repair and deduct the cost from the rent. The tenant should notify the landlord in writing that he intends to use the “repair and deduct” remedy to address the problem. The tenant should get multiple estimates and keep all copies of receipts and statements related to the repair. When the rent is due, the tenant must pay the rent less the cost of the repair (and submit all paperwork to the landlord). Tenants should be sure to spend a reasonable amount and the repair should only cure the defect and not improve the property in any other manner. It is important that the tenant clearly inform the landlord that he intends to hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent. The landlord may still argue that the repair was not required or that the costs were unreasonable, but the tenant can demonstrate that he followed the proper procedures.
The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at http://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.