Can I sue my landlord for not fixing electrical problems that an electrician says is a fire hazard?

UPDATED: Mar 31, 2011

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Can I sue my landlord for not fixing electrical problems that an electrician says is a fire hazard?

We have been without heat in the house for about 5 days due to him dragging his feet.

Asked on March 31, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Maryland


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You have several possible options in this case.  By way of background, every residential lease includes an "implied warranty of habitability". Basically, this gives a tenant the right to live in a sanitary and safe (i.e. habitable) premises.  Providing heat is included in this warranty.

If your landlord refuses to perform repairs necessary to make your rental habitable (i.e. livable), as a tenant you can:    

  1. Withhold Rent - You can refuse to make any further rental payments until the repair is properly made.
  2. Repair and Deduct -  You can fix the problem and then charge your landlord for the cost of repair; or 
  3. Terminate the lease - You can choose to end your tenancy and vacate the premises.

However, before you attempt to pursue any of these remedies, consult with a landlord-tenant attorney or a tenant's rights organization.  If you fail to follow the proper procedures for attempting these self-help measures, you could be held liable for breach of your lease. 

Note:  Depending on your income, you could also ask Legal Aid for assistance or the state/county bar association.  A  local law school clinic might also be of help to you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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