Renting a Home
If you decide to rent a house or apartment, keep in mind that both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities under the law. By law, your landlord is required to keep your unit in good and safe working order and to follow relevant state and local codes. However, your landlord doesn’t have to fix the problem until you tell him about it in writing.
To understand how to deal with landlord-tenant disputes, consider these tips:
- When you discover that something needs to be fixed, ask to have it repaired. Let your landlord know about the problem immediately over the telephone or in person, but follow up with a written request and keep a copy of it for yourself.
Don’t withhold rent to convince your landlord to make repairs. Instead, try to work out a cut in your rent. For example, the landlord may allow you to pay to fix a broken refrigerator and then subtract the cost from your next month's rent. Or, the landlord may agree to reduce your rent for a month during which you could not use one room because of a leaky roof.
If the landlord fails to fix something that puts your safety at risk or violates local codes, report it to local authorities. Local building, health, fire and safety inspectors can take action to ensure compliance with the codes.
If you and your landlord aren’t able to settle your disputes, you may want to file a complaint
with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
You can also file an action in small claims court
. You can do the repair yourself and then sue to be reimbursed for the costs or sue to withhold future rent (“rent recoupment”) until you’ve recovered the costs. You can also sue before the problem is fixed and ask that the court allow you to withhold future rent to cover the costs (“rent abatement”). In either case, you may be able to recover damages for the cost of the repairs, the inconvenience and any damage to your personal property.
To make your case in small claims court, you’ll need to provide proof of the following: that you have a written or oral lease; that the landlord was required by law to fix the problem; that you gave written notice of the problem, if required; that the landlord failed to fix it within a reasonable time; that you paid to fix the problem or have an estimated cost to fix the problem; and that the problem reduced the rental value of the property.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about landlord/tenant issues contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.