A broken lock in your rental unit poses a significant threat to your safety and the security of your possessions. As such, this situation falls under the category of “emergency repairs,” which require urgent attention from your landlord.
The exact amount of time a landlord has to address security issues, like broken locks, may vary from state to state. Some jurisdictions allow 3–7 days for critical repairs, while others provide only 24 hours for conditions that present an immediate hazard to life.
In this article, I delve into the question of how long a landlord has to fix a broken lock, including the contractual and legal landscape governing this issue (which includes your lease agreement, general habitability principles, as well as state and local laws).
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.
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Landlord’s Responsibility to Fix a Broken Lock
If you’re facing a security issue in your apartment, such as a broken lock, you’ll find your landlord’s repair obligations outlined in the following documents:
- Your lease agreement
- Local building codes
- Your state’s landlord-tenant laws
Most state laws require landlords to maintain habitable living conditions in their rental properties. This involves making repairs to sustain the security, safety, and structural soundness of your unit.
For instance, Washington State’s landlord-tenant laws mention that a landlord must provide you with adequate locks and keys and complete repairs to keep the premises in their required condition. Plus, they also require your landlord to comply with building codes affecting safety.
That said, the majority of building codes specify that doors must have proper locks for them to adhere to general building safety rules. The codes affirm your landlord’s responsibility for repairs to keep the property in habitable condition as well.
However, in some states, tenants are liable for repairs under the following conditions:
- The broken lock and other damages were caused by tenants or guests
- Tenants aren’t current on rent payments
- The lease agreement states that tenants are responsible for minor repairs, including broken locks
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Broken Lock?
Generally, most state laws require landlords to complete repairs within a “reasonable amount of time.” This window of time usually lasts for 30 days but may vary depending on the severity of the situation.
In the case of a broken lock, which significantly affects a tenant’s safety, the time frame may be reduced to 3–7 days for a critical repair or even sooner, depending on the circumstances.
For example, in New York City, failure to repair a front door that was damaged during a burglary within 18 hours after the incident was ruled unreasonable.
Some states, such as Texas, presume that 7 days is reasonable for fixing issues like this (i.e., that affect a tenant’s health and safety), though a landlord can challenge that presumption based on factors such as the severity and nature of the condition, as well as the reasonable availability of materials, labor, and utilities from a utility company. Source.
Bottom line is that you need to research your state and local laws (or hire a lawyer to do so) to fully understand the repair obligations in your situation.
For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.
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Tenants’ Responsibilities for Rental Spaces
Landlords aren’t the only ones accountable for keeping rental properties in optimal condition. Tenants of each unit carry their fair share of responsibilities as well.
Regarding the conditions of a rental property, a tenant’s responsibilities include the following:
- Preventing damage to the property
- Using all fixtures and appliances properly
- Maintaining the cleanliness and decency of the rented space
- Keeping the space free from insects and other pests
- Repairing any damage caused by tenants or guests
- Following the lease agreement’s terms on pets, smoking, and alterations
While this is probably common sense for most of you, it’s important to keep in mind that if you want your landlord to fix things, you can’t be negligent or misuse things in your rental.
What If My Landlord Is Not Fixing the Broken Lock Promptly?
I am assuming you have already notified your landlord of the issue in writing, explained the situation and clearly requested a repair (and sent it via certified mail or other proper channel).
If yes, then you should follow up with them to find out what the cause of the delay. It might be that they are working hard to fix it, but there are handyman availability issues or other legit reasons for the delay.
If they are just sitting on it or are ignoring you, then you have a number of options you can pursue.
Report the Violation to Your Local Housing Authority
Your local housing authority can be a terrific resource to investigate the matter and compel the landlord to repair the broken lock.
Since they provide a public service, you won’t need to shell out a lot of money to access their services.
Seek Aid From Your Tenants’ Rights Organization
There are usually tenants’ rights organizations in your area that are pros at assisting tenants with these types of issues. Plus, they have done this so much that they are probably quite familiar with the laws in your state and locality.
Repair and Deduct
Repair and deduct is a legal remedy in which a tenant pays for repairs to essential facilities in the rental property and then deducts the cost from their rent.
However, there are legal requirements that must be met before you can use the repair and deduct strategy, and not every state allows it, so check your laws to see if it is available and, if so, what is required to do so.
You may also be able to withhold rent if your landlord fails to make necessary repairs involving habitability or similar conditions. Again, some states will permit this, while others may not.
You must first confirm that your state allows you to use any of these remedies, or you may face eviction for nonpayment of rent.
Abandon the Property
A tenant may also choose to abandon a rental unit if the problem is severe enough. Again, check your applicable laws to see if this is something you can do.
It’s a pretty dramatic response, though, so you should think carefully before you do this.
So, how long does a landlord have to fix a broken lock? Now you know!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you gain a better understanding of the repair obligations involved in this type of situation. Thanks for reading and happy renting!