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Holding a Landlord Accountable for Upkeep

Repairs Not Covered in Terms of Lease?

You've found a home you adore. Hopefully you've read the lease from top to bottom, noticed that the landlord has promised to make all needed repairs, and signed on the dotted line. Perhaps you "skimmed" the lease more than read it, and aren't quite sure if the landlord promised to make repairs or not. You're not too worried about it until rats invade the kitchen or the basement begins to leak.

One way to avoid the problem in the first place is to thoroughly read the lease before signing it. If it's not to your liking, add anything that's important to you. It's as simple as making an addition to the bottom of the contract stating that the landlord is responsible for all repairs to his property. You are already paying his mortgage, allowing him to build equity in the property. There's no reason to make improvements to the home as well. Make sure that the landlord signs each change you have added.

If, however, you find yourself living in a rental property that the landlord claims to have no responsibility for repairing, there are a number of things you can do:

  1. Politely ask him to fix the problem. Remember the old adage about honey attracting more bees than vinegar does? There's a great deal of truth to that. Stay calm and explain your situation. It's possible that the landlord wrote the lease himself and simply omitted any mention of repairs. After all, he knows that you have no investment in repairing his home. If he hopes to retain property value, he's going to have to shell out for the work.
  2. If you get no response from your landlord within 24 hours, send him a certified letter outlining the problem and keep a copy of it for yourself. You can also email it, with the "sent" message acting as proof of notification.
  3. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lists tenant rights by state. Learn more about your rights and then follow-up until your landlord takes action.

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