Are you living with a broken window and wondering how long your landlord has to fix it?
It’s a legitimate question – after all, a broken window or window lock can pose significant safety and security issues by allowing intruders easy access to your home. On top of that, a broken pane can invite bugs, pests and even birds into your home.
Of course, if you live a cold area, a broken window can make your home very uncomfortable or even unlivable if you are going through a severe winter.
In this article, I am going to answer the question of how long a landlord has to fix a broke window and discuss the legal principles and rules that may come into play.
I will also cover some tips on how you can prompt your landlord into action if they are ignoring your repair request or are delaying it beyond reason.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
Landlords are typically required to fix broken windows within a reasonable period of time, which is often 30 days. However, that timeframe may vary depending on state and local laws. Factors impacting the timeframe include how badly the window is broken, whether it impacts habitability, and the availability of qualified techs who can repair the window.
It is worth noting that a landlord is usually not required to repair a broken window if the tenant caused the break.
Ok, 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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Your Landlord’s General Responsibility for Repairs
The Implied Warranty of Habitability
There is a legal principle called the implied warranty of habitability that requires landlords to provide a safe and livable space for their tenants. As a general matter, failing to substantially comply with local housing codes is considered a violation of this implied warranty. Source.
Because this is an implied warranty, it means that even if your lease does not specifically state that you must be provided a safe and livable home, the law will imply that this type of provision exists in the lease.
Many states have adopted the implied warranty of habitability in their landlord tenant laws.
Although states and localities differ on how they interpret this warranty, below are some general areas that are covered by it:
- Roof and exterior walls that offer weather protection
- Functioning plumbing, electric, and heating facilities
- Working toilets, bathrooms, and sinks
- Adequate trash disposal systems
- Secure locks on doors and windows
- Clean and secure common areas
- Compliance with local housing codes
Examples of Habitability Laws and How They Deal with Broken Windows
Now the above items are general conditions that are often deemed within the scope of habitability.
But there are jurisdictions that specifically call out broken windows as potentially violating the implied warranty of habitability.
For example, New York City has a checklist of potential habitability conditions, which include window problems, such as broken glass and broken locks. Source.
NYC law also calls out broken window guards. They are deemed a Class C violation and must be repaired within 21 days.
Perhaps the most important window defect in NYC is a broken window pane that results in unacceptably cold temperatures during the winter. This could rise to the level of an immediately hazardous condition that requires 24 hour repair. Source.
Let’s turn now to a different area of the country.
Colorado law states that working locks on windows is considered a part of the warranty of habitability. Source. So under Colorado law, a landlord must repair broken window locks within 96 hours. Source.
But what about a broken pane or other issue with the window?
The short answer is you need to look at how serious the condition is and whether it impacts the life, health or safety of the tenant. If it does, then the landlord must act much more quickly (i.e., within 24 hours).
So a minor crack in the glass won’t qualify for this expedited repair, but a shattered and open pane in the middle of a brutal Colorado winter likely will.
There are many more examples of laws like this across the country this, but as I mentioned earlier, laws around habitability and how they intersect with broken windows vary across jurisdictions, so it is best to familiarize yourself with applicable laws in your region.
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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Now, as I mentioned at the top of the article, if the tenant has caused the window to break, it most cases, the law does not require the landlord to fix it, so bear that in mind.
How Can a Broken Window Impact Habitability?
A broken window can be a serious issue since it can prevent tenants from maintaining adequate heating during cold winters, harsh winds, and unwanted temperature fluctuations. Since adequate heating is often considered a vital part of habitability, the lack of it can cause a rental property to become unlivable.
What’s more, a broken window exposes tenants to numerous safety issues, such as:
- Glass shards and the window’s sharp edges
- An entry point for birds, insects, and other animals
- Rain leaks, puddles, and water damage, which can lead to mold and other dangerous conditions
- Vulnerability to break-ins and outsiders
- Loss of privacy
Given this, you will likely have a strong case to ask for prompt repairs from your landlord.
How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Broken Window?
First, Check Your Lease
As you probably already know, your lease is going to be the governing contract between you and your landlord regarding your tenancy. So it makes sense that you should check to see what it states about your landlord’s obligation to make repairs. In some cases, the lease may even mention broken windows and how quickly they must be fixed.
If it does not, then you will want to see if there are provisions dealing with general repairs obligations to see it they shed any light on the issue.
Second, Check Your State and Local Laws
If the lease is silent or unclear (or you believe the lease may be contrary to governing laws), then you will want to check your state and local laws to see if they address the issue.
As we saw earlier, some jurisdictions are pretty clear on repair timelines for things like broken windows, but many may not address the issue. Again, check your state and local laws or contact a lawyer to help you navigate through this.
When it comes to critical repairs that could impact livability, most state laws allow landlords 3–7 days to resolve conditions that significantly threaten a unit’s habitability, although that could be shortened (or in some cases lengthened) dramatically in some cases, depending on the severity of the issue.
Critical repairs often include severe pest infestations, loss of electricity, and lack of heating during the winter. Broken windows, damaged door locks, and other issues that endanger a tenant’s security may fall under this category.
Now we discussed this a bit already, but when it comes to broken windows, the lack of proper heat caused by the broken window can be a critical factor in how quickly a landlord must respond.
Meanwhile, landlords often have a longer time period, such as 30 days, to handle non-critical repairs (again, different states and localities may have different requirements). Squeaky floors, unhinged cabinet doors, and broken minor appliances belong to the non-critical repair group.
What Can I Do If My Landlord Is Not Repairing the Broken Window Promptly?
The first thing you want to do is contact your landlord in writing in accordance with the terms of your lease and applicable laws. State clearly the nature of the problem and ask for a prompt repair. You should keep a record of this communication.
If they have responded and you know they are working on it, then you should allow a reasonable period of time for them to fix the window (obviously being mindful of lease and legal requirements).
If they are being unresponsive or delaying the repair beyond what is reasonable, then you can start looking at the following options:
Contact Your Local Housing Authority
If the broken window rises to the level of a housing code violation or is otherwise endangering your health or safety, you can contact your local housing authority to report the condition. They can often get the landlord to remedy the situation quickly.
Ask Your Local Tenants Rights Organization to Assist
You can usually find a tenants rights organization in your local area whose purpose is to help tenants in your situation. They will often be able to provide expert advice on your situation and the some effective ways to get the required repair done.
Contact a Lawyer
If neither of the above options is working, you can always hire a qualified lawyer to help you. Make sure their practice includes landlord-tenant issues and they are familiar with your state and local laws.
Repair and Deduct
In some cases, you may be allowed to pay for the window repair yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. Now not all states allow this, so you need to be careful before employing this type of remedy.
Similarly, you may be able to withhold rent until the window repairs are made by your landlord. Again, not all states allows this, and if you do not pay the rent in full when due, you could be subject to eviction proceedings, so be very cautious before using this option (or the previous one).
So there you have it – a detailed look at how long landlords have to fix a broken window. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!