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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 10 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.


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