Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bail Yourself Out part 1

Your landlord won't fix stuff in your apartment

It's July, and the air-conditioner still doesn't work. Or it's January, and the hot water barely trickles out of the showerhead. Your landlord? He's not answering the phone. You really don't want to move, but do you have any choice?

It depends.

"You should be careful to clearly read how the lease is drawn up," said Jack May, principal broker and realtor at May Team Realtors.

"In some cases, the tenant is only responsible for things like plumbing issues. In other cases, the landlord is responsible for everything. The landlord can't turn off lights or electricity, or do stupid stuff like change the locks on you. If something like that happened, the tenant needs to talk to an attorney if the landlord isn't living up to expectations."

May advises people in this situation to search Google for "KRS 383.595," which is the Kentucky statute that lists the rights of both renters and landlords.

According to Soha Saiyed, a housing law attorney with the Legal Aid Society, you need to send the landlord a written notice specifying the problems that need to be repaired.

"This notice should specify the acts and omissions constituting the maintenance issues," Saiyed said. "The tenant must give the landlord 14 days to remedy the problems. If the landlord has made no attempts at repair, the lease is terminated on the 30th day after the notice was received."

In some cases, you may be able to get some help from the government.

"Whenever a tenant feels as if there are significant conditions affecting health and safety, they should contact the (city) department of codes and regulations," Saiyed said. "They will send an inspector out to review the code violations and cite the property owner, if applicable."

For example, the Louisville housing code requires landlords to maintain adequate lighting in public hallways and stairwells in their buildings.

Going to court is an option that many might assume is out of the hands of the average renter. Though such action would cost a tenant time and money, May reminds that, "It's time and money for the landlord, too."

Make sure that every complaint is documented. "Even if a tenant thinks a verbal agreement with the landlord has been made, written notice will carry far more weight in court," Saiyed advised.

c. 2009 Velocity Weekly

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