Unfinished Repairs, lease renewal

By FedUpinNY

Long story short: We’ve been renting a house for two years.  It’s in a desirable neighborhood and a good school district.  The condition of the property was well disguised when we first moved in, and has been steadily deteriorating.  My main issues — which have gone unaddressed for the 2 year tenancy — are: a leaking skylight with crumbling plaster and mold growth, a bathroom with tiles falling off, showing crumbling plaster behind it and sometimes leaking down over the front door.  The moisture problems caused a carpenter ant infestation, which we did hire an exterminator to deal with, and she did pay for.  The fireplace, which was advertised as usable, and verified as such by the landlord when I inquired about the property, was shown to be unsafe when we had it inspected and unusable.  Moreover, the inspector commented that the furnace flue was uncapped and could be dangerous if things fell into the flue and blocked the escape of C02.

There are many, many other “minor” repair issues we’ve chosen to ignore.

My question is this: the lease is due at the end of October.  We have two small children, one of whom just started school, and we really, really do not want to move.  However, we pay a lot of rent ($1250) and I feel it’s unfair for us to continue to pay this amount with the amount of neglect.  I want either the repairs fixed or the rent reduced considerably.  Do we have any recourse if she says, “No, if you don’t like it, move?”

Edited on: Thursday, September 4th, 2008 6:43 am

6 Responses to “Unfinished Repairs, lease renewal”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


September 4th, 2008 6:08 am

There are recourses you can try before being forced to live in a rental that isn’t quite up to par. The best solution would be to make a list of items that you feel need to be repaired, then look over the list and wrtie down 3 to 5 repairs that are the most important. Once you get your list down to a reasonable workable solution, you can then approach the landlord. However, if you go to the landlord with a long list of “Minor” problems, they may feel you are being too picky and choose to not renew your lease or raise the rent drastically to cover the repair costs. You will want to avoid coming off as “Needy” or “Demanding.”
Also, when you present the repairs to the landlord, you will want to explain how much you like living there, but that there are a few things you would really want fixed. Remain flexible and negotiable. Once an agreement is made have them listed as an addendum to the new lease agreement. (That way it is in writing and contract) The other alternative would be to file a landlord complaint with the RPA, if you do that an RPA Agent will work with you and your landlord until a fair agreement is reached.
Good Luck!


September 4th, 2008 6:13 am

Scott — that was awesome advice!
I just wanted to add this: Lease renewal time is the best time to make arrangements with your landlord. You actually have a bargaining chip!


September 4th, 2008 6:21 am

Thanks RentBLUE!
Well, let me say that my advice comes from being a landlord for many years… I do appreciate the comment, :)
Although, let me remind you that, yes, it is bargaining chip to hold the lease over your landlords head. BUT, right now the rentals are in demand, so I would be very careful in threatening to not renew… in this market the landlord should be able to quickly find a new renter. So don’t be confused with the economy, the current mortgage crisis has actually forced more people to rent, so the vacancy rate is way down. Which means there’s a high demand for rental space, so just be careful threatening not to renew. I would also suggest that you do some searches for rental properties in your area to see what the current rent prices are… you will probably be surprised to find that $1250 is a good deal.

Agent Henderson

September 4th, 2008 6:47 am

Problems with landlord repairs is the second most popular complaint received and mediated by the RPA, next to deposit problems. This should be something you can get resolved without the need for mediation, hopefully. Yes, the rental industry is in a weird spot. Some areas there are hardly any rentals available, but we have also seen areas that have a lot of vacancies of larger homes. (3 or more bedrooms) Follow the advice given here and you should be just fine. Keep the focus on maintaining a good relationship with the landlord. When presenting the repairs try using the sandwhich method. Good News | Bad News | Good News (That basically means you surround the negative stuff with positive.) In other words try something like this:
We really like it here, you guys do a great job with (?????) However, there are a few things I would like to discuss, (?????) I really appreciate your willingness to work with my situation. Then end by telling the landlord that you want to keep the property in good condition, and that you hope to stay for a long time. Trust me, this tone will go far!


September 4th, 2008 6:53 am

Good luck to you FedUpinNY!
The bottom line– you have right to rent a home that is nice. Do what you must to help the landlord make those repairs. If they refuse to make the repairs, state laws allow you to have the work done yourself, then you can deduct it from your rent. This is something you would need to ask an attorney or the RPA about. But like Agent Henderson and I were trying to make a point of, a little nice will get you far.


September 4th, 2008 6:31 am

Thank you for your advice. I had planned to express that we do want to stay, and I only wanted the serious things fixed, as well as things that we advertised as part of the house (working fireplace, second bathroom). We agreed to the rent thinking those things came with it.

Just for perspective, we are in one of the few areas of the country that has very low housing prices and didn’t experience as much of a bubble burst as the rest of the country. There are a lot of comparable rentals available now. This house sat vacant for most of the five years before we moved in; presumably, other prospective renters were not as easily duped as we were regarding the rent versus the actual condition of the property. (The landlord is not local.)


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