Before you take any other steps, you have to notify your landlord about the problem. If your landlord has not been given notice that a repair is required, then the landlord has absolutely no duty to fix it. I suggest making such a request in writing and keeping evidence of the letter for use later on if the issue is not resolved. If you give your landlord oral notice and they fails to make repairs, follow up with a letter in which you mention to date of the oral notice. Also remember that whenever you put something in writing, you are creating potential evidence. make sure your letter is polite, reasonable, professional, and something that you would actually want a judge to read. Don't forget to sign and date your letter.
When your Landlord has a Duty to make Repairs: "Habitability," Defined:
Your landlord has a duty to maintain the residence in a "habitable" condition. This includes properly working: (1) water-proofing & weather protection; (2) plumbing; (3) hot & cold running water; (4) appropriate fixtures for the water system; (5) safe drinking water; (6) sewage disposal; (7) adequate heating; (8) electrical lighting & wiring; (9) premises that are clean, sanitary and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin; (10) adequate trash receptacles; (11) floors, walls, ceilings, stairways & railings in good repair; (12) ventilation, air-conditioning, & other facilities maintained in good repair; (13) Safety from fire hazards, including a working smoke alarm or smoke detector; (14) working keys & locks for all entrance doors; & (15) a carbon monoxide alarm (IF the building contain a carbon monoxide source).
If the repair can be done for under $300, you can repair it yourself and then deduct the actual cost of the repair from your next month's rent (keep receipts!). If you are going to make your own repairs, you must give your landlord written notice of the specific repair you are going to make if your landlord does not take care of the problem. You also have to give your landlord at least 7 full days of notice after delivering this letter BEFORE you make the repairs. Also, if you choose to go this route, you need to hire a professional to fix the problem, so when I say "repair it yourself," I mean hire someone who specializes in such things, NOT literally "fix it yourself."
You could deliver a 30-day notice to your landlord for a breach of their duty to maintain the unit in habitable conditions, in which you tell the landlord that the agreement will terminate within 30-days if he or she doesn't fix the problem. If your landlord does fix the problem within the time specified in your notice, the lease will not terminate. If you have a week-to-week tenancy, the 30-day period is shortened to 7-days.
You could also stay there and either seek an injunction (essentially asking a court to force your landlord to fix the problem) and money damages for the reduced rental value and increased heating costs. I would suggest saving this option for in case everything else doesn't work. I would also suggest speaking with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney before taking any sort of legal action. In the time being, make sure to give your landlord written notice of the problem and to save a copy for evidence later on.
Option #4: Withholding Rent:
Be very careful when choosing this option. The following advice is quoted directly from the Oregon State Bar's website from a link titled, "Getting Repairs Made" (the link is also provided at the end of this guide): "In some cases, it is appropriate for the tenant to withhold rent payments to force the landlord to make repairs. While this idea seems simple, withholding rent requires the tenant to follow some very specific steps to protect his or her rights. Furthermore, taking this action almost guarantees that the noncompliant landlord will attempt to evict the tenant. Therefore, you should never take this step without talking to a lawyer first."
Option #5 (ONLY if the Landlord Fails to Provide an "Essential Service"):
If the landlord intentionally or negligently fails to supply an essential service, you may give written notice specifying the breach & that you may seek substitute services, diminution in rent damages, or substitute housing. After allowing a reasonable time & reasonable access under the circumstances to supply the essential service, you may: (1) Procure reasonable amounts of the essential service during the period of noncompliance & deduct your actual & reasonable cost from the rent; OR (2) Recover damages based upon the diminution in the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; OR (3) If the failure to supply an essential service makes the dwelling unit unsafe or unfit to occupy, you may procure substitute housing during the period of the landlord's noncompliance, in which case you are excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord's noncompliance. In addition, you may recover as damages the actual & reasonable amount that comparable substitute housing exceeds your rent.
Protection Against Retaliatory Eviction:
After you've made a legitimate complaint about the condition of the residence, your landlord cannot retaliate by evicting you or raising your rent. If he or she does so, I suggest immediately speaking with an attorney. The recovery for such "retaliatory eviction" is two month's rent under the Landlord Tenant Act.
Contact an Attorney:
If you want assistance, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation at my offices:
Orion J. Nessly, Attorney at Law, 4040 Douglas Way, Lake Oswego, Oregon 97035, Phone: (503) 635-7773, Fax: (503) 334-3614, Email: [email protected], Website: http://nesslylaw.com.
Low Income Assistance:
If you are a low-income client, I suggest contacting the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic or the Oregon State Bar's Modest Means Program. The number for the clinic is (503) 768-6500 and their website is: http://law.lclark.edu/clinics/legal_clinic/
The number for the modest means program is (503) 684-3763, or toll-free in Oregon at (800) 452-7636, and their website is: http://www.osbar.org/public/ris/ris.html#mm
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on their profile in addition to the information we collect from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do not.
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.