What to do if repairs to my rental are needed but I don’t have a lease agreement with my landlord?

UPDATED: Jan 1, 2011

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What to do if repairs to my rental are needed but I don’t have a lease agreement with my landlord?

I have lived in this property for close to 12 years. The outside roof developed a leak several months ago and I informed the landlord but no steps were taken to fix it. Now the leak has caused my ceiling in one corner of my apartment to collapse, which in turn as resulted in exposing the joyces and outside of the roof. Water has damaged the carpet and the dining room light fixture. Can I hold back rent until this condition is repaired?

Asked on January 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

First of all, if you don't have a lease then your are considered to be a month-to-month tenant.  Consequently, there is a legal landlord-tenant relationship and you have all of the rights of any other tenant. Specifically, youhave the right to the "warranty of habitability".  This is the right to live in a clean and safe premises.  Additionally, if you have to move out due to this situation, you have been "constructively evicted".  Accordingly, you can:

  • Repair and deduct - You can fix the problem and charge the landlord for reimbursement;
  • Withhold Rent - You can withhold any further rental payments until the heat is restored; or
  • Terminate your lease - You can choose to end your tenancy and move. 

You can also hold your landlord liable for reimbursement of any expenses incurred as a result of any move.  However, you need to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney before pursuing any of these self-help measures.  If you fail to follow the proper procedures for attempting any of the above remedies you could be held liable financially.  At this point either hire an lawyer or contact a tenants rights organization, Legal Aid, 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 AttorneyPages.com 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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