How Tenants May Deal with Challenging Landlords

Recently we discussed the case of the challenging tenant and gave discussed how landlords can deal with this type of situation. The flipside of course, is the less than desirable landlord. Although challenging landlords may be fewer than challenging tenants, dealing with the former is no easier than dealing with the latter. In fact, overly demanding landlords can sometimes be even more of a nuisance than tenants, mainly because landlords come into the situation with a substantial level of power. Most tenants simply do not have the resources necessary to properly and smoothly handle an irrational landlord. Hopefully, this article can provide a good starting point for tenants in this way. 

Acquire the Service & Deduct Cost

What does a “challenging landlord” look like? In many cases, irresponsibility on the part of landlords manifests in the form of failing to provide essential services, such as heat, electricity, hot water, basic safety, and so forth. If a landlord does behave irresponsibly in this way, many tenants panic and assume that they have no options. However, the truth is that tenants have several options to rectify this type of behavior. One way to rectify things is to simply acquire whatever essential service is lacking and then deduct the cost from future rent. If, for instance, the landlord fails to repair a broken toilet, and the repair costs $500, a tenant can simply pay for the repair and then deduct $500 from next month’s rent payment. Notice and opportunity to fix the problem must be given before a tenant may use this remedy, but if the problem is not fixed within a reasonable amount of time, this is a viable option.

Arrange for Substitute Housing in the Case of Nonperformance

Depending on the situation, there may be cases in which a tenant cannot simply acquire the necessary service independently. In such cases, tenants may provide written notice of the deficiency to the landlord so that the urgency of the matter is understood. If the landlord fails to rectify the situation, tenants may be allowed to obtain alternative housing until the problem is fixed. This is an extreme remedy and one that is only justified where the rented dwelling is temporarily uninhabitable. Obviously, tenants are not required to pay rent for days spent in alternative housing.

Terminate Lease & Sue for Monetary Relief

There may also be cases in which a landlord purposely withholds essential services from tenants. In these situations, tenants have the ability to terminate the lease altogether, and even file a lawsuit against the landlord to recover damages of up to two months of rent. If the tenant incurs specific damages as a result of the willful failure to supply the service, the tenant can sue and recover up to twice the actual damages sustained. The maximum amount which can be recovered is the greater of these 2 amounts. For reference, these remedies derive from Section 47a-13 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Terminate the Lease for Other Repairs

Aside from essential services, tenants can also terminate the lease and then procure other housing if landlords fail to make other repairs and perform maintenance. However, in the case of a “non-essential” repair or maintenance task, the procedure is a bit different. First, the tenant needs to provide the landlord with a 15 day notice which indicates which type of repair or maintenance needs to take place. If the repair or maintenance doesn’t occur within the 15 day period, then the tenant is legally allowed to terminate the lease, withhold all future rent and obtain alternative housing arrangements. 

If the landlord complies and makes the repair within the 15 day period, but then fails to perform the same repair or maintenance task within the next 6 months, the tenant can then provide a 14 day “termination notice” to the landlord. This means that the tenant can simply terminate the lease after the 14 day period, regardless of whether the repair is made or not. 

Contact the Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

Dealing with an irresponsible landlord is no picnic. In fact, as mentioned, in many cases it can be even more troubling than dealing with a challenging tenant. But, if this situation does arise, it is always best to consult with an attorney experienced in housing law before taking action to ensure you understand the law and your options. For more information, call Apex Law Firm today at 860-900-0900.