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Can I take the costs to repair the power in my home out of the rent?

Syracuse, NY |

This past Friday (7/20) I called my landlord once I reached my home when I realized that some of the lights in the house weren't working. This is my 2nd year living in the house (my housemates and I are on a lease) and this is the 2nd time that the power has stopped working in a few of the rooms. The first time, my landlord sent his handyman to come fix the problem and everything was fine. A year later the same thing happens. Anyway, he says that he will be at my house on Saturday. He never came. I called him again on answer. I called him AGAIN on Monday...still no answer. My housemates have called him as well. I have no AC and the temperatures have been scorching lately. Can I call a handyman to come repair the problem and take the costs out of the rent for the month?

Attorney Answers 2


Dear can I take the costs to repair the power in my home out of the rent?

Perhaps I might offer an answer.

First check your lease. If the lease allows you to step into the landlord's shoes to make a repair to maintain the rented premises in a condition fit for habitation, where the landlord failed to make the repair after given proper notice to do so, then your lease will govern the conditions when you may be allowed to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent.

If your lease does not have that form of provision, then you must understand that New York state has no law which allows a tenant to do so-called "repair and deduct."

Over many years, a host of proposed legislation sought to deal with a tenant's emergency need to make repairs when the landlord evaded the lawful obligation to repair, and provide "repair and deduct" as a legal defense for a tenant sued for rent nonpayment. Every remedy proposed in the New York legislature withered on the vine in the toxic atmosphere where expansion of tenants rights comes to die (the Upstate controlled New York Senate.)

See for example the current version of a statute proposed by downstate senators (all from NYC) that would allow for "repair and deduct" in certain circumstances. This proposed statute barely expands tenant rights but still is too strong for the majority members of the Senate: You will note that there is no simple plain language method for making this great leap forward in New York State.

To get around this statutory obstacle ( New York Courts are loathe to all "self-help" remedies by both tenants and by landlords on the notion that if everyone helped themselves, what is the point of law?) you may imagine that the statutory warranty of habitability may offer some hope to recover your out-of-pocket expense when or if the landlord sues you for the portion of unpaid rent. The warranty of habitability (New York Real Property Law section 235-b) mandates that all residential leases whether oral or written contain an implied warranty of habitability.

§ 235-b. Warranty of habitability.
1. In every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential premises the landlord or lessor shall be deemed to covenant and warrant that the premises so leased or
rented and all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants or residents are fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be
dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety. ***
3. In determining the amount of damages sustained by a tenant as a result of a breach of the warranty set forth in the section, the court;
(a) need not require any expert testimony; ***"

Expert testimony is not required on a trial to determine the monetary value of the breach of the warranty of habitability. A tenant could logically argue that a true measure of the damages suffered by the tenant as a result of the breach of the warranty of habitability is the actual cost to the tenant for making the repair not made by the landlord. In any such case, a lot will depend on your ability to prove the existence of the actual defective condition, the giving of proper notice to the landlord to correct the condition, the failure of the landlord to make the repair after a reasonable time transpires from notice, and the actual emergency need for the tenant to make the repair and the true cost of the repair. You would likely require records and testimony from the electrician if you tried to prove this in court. A tenant may assert the breach of the warranty of habitability as a defense ( for an abatement in rent) and as a counterclaim, for actual monetary damages.
Read more about a landlord and tenant case in Syracuse, NY at:

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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Counsel gave a terrific answer to your question. So, rather than repeat his excellent overview, I will try to add a little detail so that when you are in court you will additional evidence to strengthen your case.
1 - Get two written estimates for the repair and present them to the landlord-tenant court. In other words, when you call your own handyman to make the repair, make sure he charges you a fair price. You will not be able to hire a 'buddy' of yours, charge an exorbitant rate for the repair, and then take that out of the hide of the owner. The landlord-tenant court will only reduce your rent by the 'fair market price' of the repair.
2 - To what does the landlord attribute the power outage? In other words, is there a consistency, a regularity or some sort of pattern to the power loss? Keep a log of the date, time and circumstances every time there is a power loss. The owner may accuse you and the other tenants of overloading the circuits, excessive power use, etc. You will want to defeat this defense, and demonstrate to the judge that the power loss is due to an aspect of inhabitability. So keep a log to show that, when the power went out, your power consumption in the apartment was not excessive.

All the best to you, and good luck.

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