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Can I sue my Landlord for refusing to repair a faulty septic and leach system?

Greeley, CO |

My spouse & I told our Landlord (LL) about a septic that leaks and puts a bad smell in the house several times. Two years ago my spouse told the (LL) that this was getting out of control with the Leach Field being broken and needs repaired. He said "I would rather burn that house down than spend any money on a Leach or septic system. I was very sick at the time with CLL and Addison's, trying to manage the medical bills and so on, made it so we were not able to move and we felt stuck. Being self empl. in this economy hurt us and because I am disabled on SSD we have been struggleing. Our (LL) is now throwing us out for bringing up the Leach Field recently while attempting to negotiate our rent. I think methane gas's are making me sicker and the LL knew it would make me sick and didn't care

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

The failure of the landlord to fix this problem would likely allow you to to withhold a partial or the entire payment of rent and simply put the funds in a separate escrow account to show that you are acting in good faith. What you are describing is basically a "constructive eviction" by the landlord for breaching the implied warranty of habitability. Your normal options are to move out or offset the rent because you are not getting what you are paying for.

Your landlord can refuse to renegotiate the rent and not extend the lease if he feels that it is too problematic to continue to deal with you. That is his right. You need to mitigate your damages. Yes, you can "possibly" sue for the landlord exposing you to toxins that caused medical bills. However, not moving out of the residence and continuing to remain in there knowing of the toxins and methane gas will be used by the landlord's attorney against you and very well might not be viewed well by the judge.

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Posted

I only just learned of the toxins and the health hazards and for that matter the word methane when I did a search to find out about septic tanks and the reason's why the (LL) is so resistant to repair beside's cost. In my search was when all of the side effects came to light and they match to the verbiage the symptoms I have been having consistently and daily for the past 8 Months and getting worse. These symptoms did not match any of my known health issue's but when I read them in black and white just yesterday I was shocked. Our complaints as written in my notice to the (LL) were about the back up's smell in the house and the mess and odor right outside our bedroom window. In fact this is the second house we have rented from the same (LL) both are rural and Farming land. The prior house similar issue's and no leach field at all, when we complained about that smell and the human waste coming out of a pipe into a ditch that carried it into a big ditch behind other homes, the (LL) had the septic pumped when needed over there and told us that he was not required to have a leach field on the property because of zoning but that he did not want the neighbors to know about the waste going into a common ditch because they would not understand, and we were not experiencing odor's that bad in the house there, more outside.

Posted

Relying on the warranty of habitability will require you to show that you provided the landlord with the proper written notices pursuant to the statute. The usual remedy for such a violation is for you to terminate the lease and move out. It does not allow you to withhold rent - particularly if you are not using the rent to make repairs.

You might be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the landlord, but the fact that you have chosen to live with a condition that you knew was dangerous for two years will likely be fatal to your claim.

Your best course of action is to find a healthier place to live and move out as soon as you can.

You can reach Harkess & Salter LLC at (303) 531-5380 or info@Harkess-Salter.com. Stephen Harkess is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Stephen Harkess or Harkess & Salter LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.

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Asker

Posted

I only just learned of the toxins and the health hazards and for that matter the word methane when I did a search to find out about septic tanks and the reason's why the (LL) is so resistant to repair beside's cost. In my search was when all of the side effects came to light and they match to the verbiage the symptoms I have been having consistently and daily for the past 8 Months and getting worse. These symptoms did not match any of my known health issue's but when I read them in black and white just yesterday I was shocked. Our complaints as written in my notice to the (LL) were about the back up's smell in the house and the mess and odor right outside our bedroom window.

Stephen Clark Harkess

Stephen Clark Harkess

Posted

You state that the landlord knew that the issues were dangerous, but you did not know?? That is going to be hard to sell in Court. Nonetheless, it's clear that you need to move as soon as possible.

Asker

Posted

I agree, we are sending the (LL) a letter that we need to move based on the sickness I have been suffering because of the septic issue's. I have a PCP whom I have had for several years now, I have CLL and Addison's which lowers my Immune system. Since about September of 2011 I have been complaining about headaches and stomach problems, pain that is not manageable all the sudden, soar throats, coughs, runny nose and other symptoms and her and I laughed that I might end up on medical incredible because she has exhausted finding out what is causing all of this for me. Last year I had pneumonia and I have had loss of memory and other problems that we just did not know what was causing all of this, as I read about what these septic gas's are causing I am in tears. My husband has had symptoms not as bad as myself, and my granddaughter has been complaining about headaches and being really tired. If I had known about this we would have moved 2 years ago when money was not an issue for us, I can not say for sure the (LL) knew about this any more than I did, but the fact that he would not repair the septic and Leach field when I complained and my husband complained about the back up's in the toilet, flooding with human waste in the Basement, such a mess and a pain in the rear to deal with all the time. Not to mention the terrible odor that came with is all due to the fact that the real problem more than needing a new septic tank is the need for a new Leach field, and now I understand why his last tenants skipped out after living here for about the same time we did. To be honest I do believe the (LL) just wants someone to live in his property's, he has 2 of them with the same issue's and just pay your rent and don't complain. I guess the issue of knowing about the septic making us sick is just that I am already sick and kept trying to fit all these septic symptoms into my CLL or Addison's and they don't fit. My PCP even sent me back to the Oncologist 2 mo.s ago to see if my CLL was out of remission and I had a pet scan done and it is not my CLL. I don't know what to do at this point but let the (LL) know that this house and his ignorance is making us sick and give him written notice of our intent to move. I would have put up with the mess caused by the septic because we are good people and good tenants and because I am sick and was really not up to moving and we really don't currently have the funds to move, but knowing this new information I/we can not stay here even if he offered us to stay here for FREE> Thanks for all of your great and sound advice. I really do appreciate it very much. Sandie

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