We have lived in our apartment for almost 8 years. Since we have lived here we have many ceiling leaks in my childrens room causing damage to ceiling fan. In the kitchen it leaks also in our cupboards and has ruined food we have to throw away, but now we have a container in there to prevent loss of food and make us lose out on space. The only thing the landlord does is repair the roof by tarring it. The roof is made out of what apprears to be aluminum or metal. After he tars it is fine for about 2 or 3 rains and then it leaks again. We lost use of the ceiling fan and the landlord replace with a regular light in the bedroom. What can we do if anything to get the roof replaced as tarring doesn't work? What can we do for damaged property? Finally what can be done about the ceiling?
There are a number of ways that you could go about persuading your landlord to take action:
1) The provisions of your lease may address the issues. Examine the provisions of your lease agreement for any clauses that impose obligations on the landlord for maintenance of the apartment. There is likely nothing directly on point regarding the roof, but there may be a provision to the effect of “Landlord shall keep the premises in reasonable repair, etc.” There may or may not be anything there but it does not hurt to look.
2) Report or threaten to report the state of disrepair to the local inspecting agency. Generally, each municipality (or county depending on where you live) will have a housing code and compliance inspector to enforce it. Your local housing code will specify the minimum requirements that the apartment must adhere to. If the roof is leaking as badly and as often as you say, it is likely in violation of some part of this code. Reporting to the local enforcement agency may prompt an inspection and potential civil fine or an order to repair the roof. This could mean civil penalties and bad press for the landlord. Check your housing code or consult a local attorney for the applicable requirements and any rights you may have regarding violations of the housing code by landlords.
3) The Housing Law of Michigan, MCL 125.401 et seq., provides a private cause of action for “occupants” when they notify the owner/lessor/landlord that certain defective conditions exist. If the landlord fails to correct the conditions, then the occupant may file a lawsuit to recover “actual damages,” which would be damage to property and any resultant personal injuries. And, in my opinion (though there is no law on point), an occupant may be able to obtain an abatement in rent corresponding to the decreased enjoyment of the property. Furthermore, if the condition is serious enough, you may be able to obtain “injunctive relief,” which is essentially a court order compelling the landlord to fix the condition.
4) As far as compensation for damage to your property, in addition to the cause of action in (3) above, there would likely be a breach of contract or negligence cause of action, or both. But depending on whether the property damaged was valuable—or whether you or your family was physical injured—this may or may not be worth your time.
5) As far as getting the ceiling repaired, unless it amounts to a housing code violation or is specifically addressed in your lease, there is likely nothing you can do to compel them to fix it. If there is a mold problem, or if the ceiling is caving in, then see (1)-(3) above. But if it is just cosmetic, then you may just have to live with it.
Note: this list is not exclusive. There may be other remedies you could pursue. You should check with a local attorney for the practice in your area.
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