Roof leaks can be unpleasant, hazardous, and costly for tenants and landlords.
Clogged gutters, cracked vents, destructive storms, and normal wear and tear are often the culprit behind these property damages.
Regardless of what caused your leak, timely repairs are vital to preventing accidents, mold infestations, flooding, and water damage to your unit. A critical question in this situation is: How long does a landlord have to fix a leaking roof?
In this guide, we’ll examine the timeline for roof repairs that your landlord must follow. We’ll also discuss the safety hazards, habitability implications, and emergency indicators for leaking roofs. Let’s get started!
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
Landlords typically have between 7 and 30 days to fix a leaky roof. The exact timeframe with depend on factors like state and local laws around habitability, any agreed upon lease terms relating to such repairs, and the overall severity of the leak.
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 Responsibility to Fix a Leaking Roof
Did you know that your landlord may have additional responsibilities other than the ones stated in your lease agreement? Many state laws require landlords to comply with something called an implied warranty of habitability.
Under this warranty, your landlord must provide you with a safe and livable dwelling, even if your lease in silent on this matter. This includes making sure that the unit complies with local housing codes. Source.
Now in most cases, housing codes will require an intact roof that doesn’t have substantial leaks, so landlords will generally have an obligation to fix leaks in the roof when they occur.
Of course, there may be exceptions to this rule.
For example, if you are living in a condo, the HOA, rather than the landlord, may be responsible for fixing the exterior of the building, including leaks in the roof. I know this because this applies to most of the condos that I rent out.
But regardless of whether the landlord or the condo association is responsible, you will want to make sure that the repair gets done promptly.
So let’s move on to how long a landlord (or other responsible party) has to fix a leaky roof.
First, Check the Lease
This may seem like an obvious point, but the first place you should check is your lease. In many cases, it will cover in detail what the landlord’s responsibilities are with respect to repairs and how quickly they must be performed.
Now in some cases, the lease will be silent on this matter (or will have vague language around how quickly the repairs must be made, such as “promptly” or “within a reasonable time”). If that’s the case, it may be helpful to see if your state and local laws offer something more definitive.
Next, Examine State and Local Laws
While many states have adopted the implied warranty of habitability in some form, they often have different views on what that covers.
Generally, most state laws provide landlords with “a reasonable amount of time” to accomplish repairs. This time frame is usually around 30 days, depending on your state.
However, the severity of the leak can also determine the window of time that’s “reasonable” for your landlord. Serious leaks that require critical repairs involve shorter periods, such as 3–7 days.
Meanwhile, leaks that pose an “immediate hazard to life” are granted 24 hours in some states or localities
To help you identify if your roof leak requires immediate and high-priority repairs, check for the following emergency indicators:
- Home interior’s exposure to the elements
- Rotting roof deck
- Large amounts of missing shingles
- Fast and voluminous water entry
To fully understand what your landlord’s legal obligations are with respect to fixing a leaky roof, you should review the laws applicable to your jurisdiction.
Below are how some key states and localities have addressed this issue.
New York City
Let’s start with one of the biggest and most densely populated cities in the country.
New York City has adopted the implied warranty of habitability and classifies repairs into three basic categories, each of which has a different timeline for remediation.
There are Class A, Class B and Class C violations. Under NYC law, a leaky ceiling qualifies as a Class B violation and must be fixed within 30 days. Source.
If they fail to do so, they could be cited with daily fee and penalties.
California has a bit of a different framework. They also have adopted the implied warranty of habitability.
They use the word “untenantable” but it amounts to basically the same thing. Under California law, a lack of “effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls” can make an dwelling untenantable and the landlord must fix the leaky roof within a reasonable period of time. Source.
Obviously, if the tenant is somehow at fault for the leak, then they are excused from paying for this type of repair.
As mentioned above, landlords are permitted a “reasonable” period of time to correct issues like this. What is “reasonable”? California statute provides that 30 days is presumed to be a reasonable timeframe for making repairs to leaky roofs. Source.
Like NYC, tenants must give proper notice of the issue in order to give landlords a chance to fix it promptly.
Obviously, your state and local laws may differ from the laws of these states, so it makes sense to research the laws that apply to you.
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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Safety Hazards of Leaking Roofs
Ok, so now you know what the basic timeframes are for repairing leaky roofs (or at least how to find out).
Let’s turn to why it is important to get a leaky roof fixed promptly. You can use this knowledge to spur your landlord to action if they are not responding quickly enough.
Mold and Mildew Infestation
Landlord are often terrified of the word “mold”.
It can spread quickly if not addressed and can cause significant health issues for residents.
The constant presence of rainwater leaves wet patches on your floors, walls, and ceiling. This situation can quickly become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. You may not spot mold right away, but its spores can start to affect your air quality.
In addition to being unsightly and difficult to get rid of, mold can trigger allergies and cause respiratory problems for your family members.
Prolonged exposure to moisture can result in paint stains, rotten wood, a warped ceiling, and deteriorated walls. Even tiny drips can lead to a spongy and waterlogged foundation over time. When this happens, the unit’s structure loses its strength and integrity.
Structural damage isn’t just expensive to repair—it’s dangerous for tenants, too. A weak structure can easily give way and collapse over living spaces in severe cases.
Fire and Shock Risks
Leaks and exposure to the elements can cause damage to your unit’s insulation and electrical wiring. This results in uncovered wires and open circuits, possibly leading to fires.
Additionally, water from leaks can become electrically charged after contact with wires. Unaware family members who touch affected components can suffer from shock.
Indoor floods and puddles from roof leaks can cause accidents to occur. Small kids and elderly family members are particularly vulnerable to slipping and falling on wet floors.
Compromised Weather Protection
One of your roof’s primary functions is to provide temperature stability and protection from the elements. Leaky and severely compromised roofs can make a unit uninhabitable, especially during the winter and rainy seasons.
What Should I Do if I Have a Leaky Roof?
The first step is to contact your landlord in writing to let them know about the issue. Clearly describe the problem (include photos or videos if you can), and ask for the issue to be fixed promptly.
Keep a record of all evidence and communications. I would suggest looking at the lease and your appliable laws to understand what type of notice is acceptable and the proper means of delivering it.
If your landlord is still not responsive, include a follow up communication and ask for an explanation of the delay. Is some cases, they may be hard at work trying to resolve it but may have trouble due to labor or material shortages and the like.
It is best to try to keep a good relationship with your landlord if possible, especially if they are trying to fix the problem.
If your landlord is being unresponsive or moving too slowly, then you can escalate matters by reaching out to your local housing authority. They often have the ability to compel the landlord to act.
You can also get some advice from local tenants rights organizations who are often well-versed on these types of issues.
Finally, you may have legal options, such as filing suit against the landlord, using remedies like repair and deduct, or withholding rent.
However, some states do not allows these types of remedies, so you should be 100% sure that they are available. Otherwise you could find yourself facing an eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent.
So there you have it – a comprehensive look at how long your landlord has to fix a leaky roof and some practical tips on what you can do when faced with this situation. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!