What is the landlord’s financial responsibility for food spoilage when the refrigerator is inoperable?

UPDATED: Dec 20, 2011

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What is the landlord’s financial responsibility for food spoilage when the refrigerator is inoperable?

I contacted my landlord to inform them my fridge was broken. Then 4 days later the repairman came out and ordered the part, which is back ordered. As of today, over a week later, my fridge is still inoperable. My food is spoiled and my children and I are forced to eat out for our meals. Can I purchase a fridge and deduct it from the rent? Are there any other options available to me as a renter? My renter’s insurance will not cover the loss.

Asked on December 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Assuming the refrigerator was something provided by the landlord with the apartment (i.e. not one you provided), the land is responsible for its maintenance and for the consequences of it breaking. However, the problem is, to recover money for spoiled food, eating out, etc., you'd have to sue the landlord, which is likely not worth it. You probably cannot buy a new refrigerator and deduct the cost from the rent; that remedy is reserved for conditions affecting habitability, and a broken refrigerator, while very inconvenient, does not render the apartment uninhabitable or unfit to live in. You could, in addition to suing for the money, potentially take the landord to court for an order requiring him to fix the refrigerator.

Note however that the landlord is only liable to the extent he is at fault. If the landlord called for a repair in good order, but the problem is that it is difficult to get the right part or get this refrigerator fixed, you may not be able to hold the landlord liable--he is doing what he could, and is not responsible for difficulties beyond his control.

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