The Rent Board has the authority to adjust a tenant’s rent based on a lack of repairs and/or maintenance. However, the Rent Board cannot require the landlord to make repairs or to perform maintenance work. Only a City inspector can require the landlord to make repairs. In order to get repairs made by the landlord, we recommend using the following procedure:
1. Write a letter to the landlord and list the problems you want fixed. Thirty days is considered reasonable for most repair work, although one or two days may be considered reasonable if the problem is critical, such as lack of heat during cold periods or a sewage back up.
2. If the landlord fails to respond to your request or does not perform the repairs, then write a second letter and state that as a last resort, you may call a City inspector to file a complaint and that you may also file a petition with the Rent Board for a rent adjustment if the items are not repaired by a date that you think is reasonable.
3. Be sure to document your efforts to get the repairs done; keep copies of all letters you send and keep a log of all phone calls and what was said.
4. If the problem is not resolved within a reasonable time, then you should contact the Department of Building Inspection or the Department of Public Health to request an inspection. The contact information for both of these City agencies can be found on the referral listing on our website. You may also file a tenant petition for a rent reduction based on a substantial decrease in housing services. In addition, if the inspector determines that the defective condition constitutes a code violation, you may ask the Rent Board to defer a proposed rent increase until the repair is made by filing a tenant petition for failure to repair and maintain housing services. Such a claim must be filed within 60 days of receiving a notice of proposed rent increase.
Please note that the Rent Ordinance does not authorize a tenant to withhold rent when a landlord fails to make repairs, nor does it permit a tenant to make needed repairs and deduct the cost from the rent. These matters are covered exclusively by state law. Tenants and landlords should seek the advice of an attorney before exercising the right to withhold rent or attempting an eviction based on non-payment of rent due to rent withholding.
Tags: Topic 260; Topic 261