Is your landlord often unavailable? Have you already made a call, sent an email, or a text message to no avail? For some people, renting an apartment might seem more convenient until they meet an unconcerned landlord.
Renting can be great because it gives you flexibility and can save you a lot of money, but if your landlord is ignoring you when repairs needs to be made or there is some other serious issue with your rental, it can become a nightmare.
If this is happening to you, you are likely wondering whether your landlord has the right to ignore you.
In this article, I am going to answer that question and give you some tips on what you can do if your landlord is not being responsive to your attempts at communication.
Of course, if you just want a quick answer to the question, it is as follows:
As a general matter, your landlord may not ignore you if you have an issue that affects the habitability of the unit or otherwise jeopardizes the health and safety of yourself or others. Your lease is a good place to start to determine what your landlord is responsible for addressing.
Ok, we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
We may earn commissions from products and services that are purchased or recommended through our website as part of our affiliate partnerships. As an Amazon affiliate, we may earn from qualifying purchases.
What Are the Tenant’s Rights?
Nearly every lease contract includes an implied warranty of habitability.
This is an unstated promise that a rental property will be livable.
This warranty ensures that the property is up to code with all applicable safety measures and that it’s generally fit for human occupation. If your landlord fails to provide you with a habitable property, you may have grounds to break your lease or even due your landlord for damages.
Now your landlord may argue that the broken items aren’t serious enough to make the dwelling uninhabitable. It’s a common objection and you should be prepared for it. On that note, let’s talk about what types of things make a property uninhabitable.
What May Be Considered a Breach Of The Warranty Of Habitability?
According to Investopedia, some of the most common examples of conditions that must be met to make a dwelling habitable include:
- Drinkable water
- Hot water
- Heat during cold weather
- Working electricity
- Adequate ventilating system
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Working bathroom and toilet
- Sanitary premises, including the removal of insect or rodent infestation
- Protection from criminal harm in the form of locks and window guards
- Up-to-date conformity to building codes
So if you have alerted your landlord to a condition that would violate any of the above and they have not corrected the problem within a reasonable period of time, they may be violating the law and it is not ok for them to ignore you.
Note: It’s important to note that different states may have different standards on what conditions are serious enough for you to terminate your lease early, so you will want to check the landlord-tenant laws of your state (and in some cases local municipalities).
Check out our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenants laws of your state.
If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.
By clicking the banner below, you can get a one week trial membership for only $5, which you can cancel at any time.
But as a general rule, the failure to meet the above conditions are acknowledged as serious problems by most states. If you are experiencing any of these issues, be sure to document them with photos and video and keep all of your repair receipts. This will help you prove that the property was not habitable if you ever need to litigate this in court.
If your landlord does not address an issue that affect habitability, then there are a number of legal steps you may be able to take. Now different states may have different approaches to what tenants can do (and your state may not allows any of these remedies), but here are some remedies that you may have in your state:
- Withhold rent and use the money to pay for repairs
- Withhold rent until the landlord repairs the problem
- Sue the landlord for damages
Issues That May Affect Health and Safety of Yourself or Others
Habitability is important, but there are other serious issues that may need your landlord’s attention. If you are faced with a serious health or safety issue, your landlord may face liability if they ignore you.
For example, if another tenant in the building is a drug dealer or running a criminal enterprise and you tell your landlord about it and they do nothing, they may face issues, depending on your state and local laws. The same may hold true for a pet or exotic animal that is a danger to the community of tenants in your building.
So check your state and local laws to see if your landlord has an obligation to correct these types of things if you tell them about it.
How to Request Your Landlord to Make Repairs
Not all landlords are bad. If you’re lucky, you can get your landlord to fix your housing problem after a simple email, call or text. That’s how it should work. But you’re here because it’s not working, so here are some things you can try:
Step 1: Write a Letter to Your Landlord
Write a letter that describes the problem. Include pictures to show the specific areas that need fixing. Be respectful but give a deadline for your landlord to make the necessary repairs.
You may also convince your landlord by pointing out that it can get worse. Let him think of the possible problems that might arise if he doesn’t take immediate action. For example, you can express your concern that repairs might cost more in the future.
Of course, you should read your lease first to make sure that the repair is something that the landlord is required to cover.
Step 2: Send the Letter via Certified Mail Delivery
This process ensures that you’ll have proof just in case you need to take legal action. So, make sure to document everything. Keep your return receipt, another copy of the letter as well as the pictures.
If possible, use time stamps for your photos. This could help back up your claims.
What to do When Your Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs
If you’ve already written a letter, but still don’t hear from your lessor for a while, it might be time to seek help from a third party. These are drastic steps and can seriously ruin your relationship with your landlord, so exhaust the other options before you go this route.
Report Your Landlord to Your Local Housing Authority
If you landlord is ignoring an issues that affects habitability or the health and safety of yourself or others, you may want to report them to your local housing authority.
You can write a letter to your local housing agency and file a complaint about your landlord’s behavior. But you need to know that the landlord typically isn’t going to be responsible if the problem is caused by your actions or inactions.
Sue Your Landlord
As mentioned, before you proceed, be aware that doing this can worsen your landlord-tenant relationship. This isn’t the best, but it might be your only option when everything else fails.
Be sure to have the letter, the certified mail receipt, and the pictures with you when you go to court.
So there you have it – a clear answer to the question of whether your landlord can ignore you and some steps you can take if this happens. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!