REPAIRS AREN’T GETTING DONE – WHAT DO I DO
This issue is a big one. I read so many tenant complaints about repairs not being done on social media. I also read a lot of bad suggestions to these posts and most of the suggestions could lead the tenant into an eviction without a leg to stand on. So if you are a tenant and there are repairs that your landlord just won’t fix, what do you do?
To begin, we need to take a look at the repair that’s needed. Not all repairs are required for a landlord to do. What?!!! You scream as you read this.
It’s true – there are some repairs that a landlord is not required to do. Let’s take a look at some examples.
- Cleanliness: Everyone’s definition of cleanliness varies. So let’s say you are shown a property and it looks presentable, so you turn in an application, go through the process, and move in. As you get everything settled in you notice some things you consider dirty, filthy, and/or disgusting. In respect to ‘cleanliness’ being the issue – this is not something a landlord must repair by sending someone in to clean or even give a rent credit for. More than likely your lease states that you have inspected the property and take it as-is, where is, and with all faults. This means that if you decide to withhold rent, in all or part, you could be faced with an eviction you can’t win. Instead, you should document your concerns with photos. You can notify the landlord what you have seen, and the best way to make sure you can prove the landlord receives the information, send it certified return receipt.
- Brown sparse lawn: Unless the property is located in a strict association that requires a well maintained lawn, a landlord is not required to provide a lush green lawn. This would be another instance of accepting the property as-is, where is, with all faults. If you are a tenant that prefers a lush green lawn and likes to work in the yard, then try to negotiate this before ever applying for the property. Maybe the landlord will take off some rent over a specified amount of time in lieu of lawn work, maybe the landlord agrees to a one-time rent reduction with a receipt for lawn care supplies such as fertilizer or sod. Maybe the landlord won’t negotiate anything. This is something to know up front so you know what you’re dealing with. If negotiations were made, make sure the arrangement is put in writing BEFORE you sign the lease. If it’s not in writing, you have no proof of the arrangement.
- Flooring: A landlord is not required to replace the flooring every so many years. This is yet another ‘accepted as-is, where is, with all faults’ matter. If the flooring is not in acceptable condition when you view the property, don’t apply or try negotiating during the application process. If the landlord won’t replace the flooring, don’t sign a lease.
- Painting: I’ve heard often by tenants and applicants – ‘A landlord is required to paint every 3 years’. No they are not. When you view the property and the paint is old, see if the landlord is willing to negotiate. Either have the property painted or let you get a rent credit, with a receipt for paint, same as in the other examples. Again, if any arrangement is made about painting, make sure it is in writing when you go to sign the lease. The same applies if you are renewing your lease. If you feel the interior needs a freshening up with paint, make sure to negotiate this before signing a new lease.
Where these are examples of things a landlord is not required to fix, it is usually in a landlord’s best interest to do so. However if the landlord elects not to do them, these are not usually items that allow you to withhold/reduce your rent without prior written permission to do so.
Now let’s move forward to repairs that a landlord is required to correct and how you can address it when the repairs are not being done. Because there are so many that can be listed, repairs that a landlord is required to address can simply be stated as: all things that are included in the lease agreement, unless otherwise noted. What does that mean? An example is air conditioning. You go to sign the lease; it says central a/c is included. This means that if the air conditioning stops working properly, the landlord must repair it.
Let’s say there is a washer and dryer included, but the lease states that they are ‘not warranted’ or ‘as-is’. This means should the washer and/or dryer stop working; the tenant can pay to fix them or throw them away and replace with their own.
Here’s another repair a landlord is required to do; let’s say a pipe busted and in order to fix the leak, drywall was cut out. The drywall should be repaired and the wall is usually repainted depending on the location.
So to the nitty-gritty – what does a tenant do if the landlord is not repairing things that are included in the lease agreement?
**Be prepared to move out**
After giving the landlord ample time to get the repair done, the tenant can take action when the repair doesn’t happen. A tenant should send a letter via certified return receipt that states the nature of the repair, that ‘X’ amount of time has passed, and now you are demanding the repair be corrected within 7 days.
Please note that some repairs may not be able to be completely corrected within 7 days, but this is more than enough time to get things moving.
If after the 7 days has expired and actions have not been taken, the tenant can send another letter via certified return receipt. This letter will state something about the repairs not being done in a timely fashion, you are electing to terminate your lease agreement, and will be vacating by ‘X’ date. (This should be at least a 30 day notice.) The tenant should then vacate by the specified date.
If this route has to be taken, be aware that this doesn’t mean the tenant has the right to destroy the property or leave the property in an unclean state on the way out. Usually the return of the security deposit will still depend on the condition of the property per the lease agreement, less the needed repairs. There is not a requirement of the landlord to refund the security deposit in full.
At the start of this article, I stated that I read a lot of bad suggestions to tenants who are having repair problems. One of the bad suggestions is –‘Withhold the rent and turn it into the courthouse or the sheriff’s office’.
If rent needs to be withheld, then the tenant holds it themselves. The sheriff’s office won’t take it. They are the law enforcement officers not the law enforcers. The clerk of courts won’t take it unless a case is open. The landlord would have to file eviction against the tenant before the rent can be deposited with the clerk of courts. Make sure, however, if rent is withheld, the entire rent amount is held, not just a portion. At some point the entire rent amount will be needed.
This information is meant to let tenants know that there are options, this is not meant to be legal advice as Anchor Real Estate & Property Management are not attorneys. For guidance and help, contact your Florida Real Estate attorney.