There are few things more uncomfortable, or more dangerous, than the loss of heat during the winter months. If the gas boiler in your building stops working, most states require your landlord to replace it as soon as possible. If your landlord doesn't replace the boiler within a reasonable amount of time, you can usually take legal action to force the landlord to live up to his responsibilities.
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State and Local Laws
Most states, and some cities, have laws that require landlords to keep their rental units "habitable" by ensuring that tenants have access to adequate amounts of heat and hot water. If a landlord fails to provide these services, the landlord can be cited for failing to keep her property up to code. The landlord's tenants may also be able to take legal action against the landlord, including suing for damages or withholding rent.
If a tenant lives in a state that does not require a landlord to provide a habitable dwelling, he should check his lease or rental agreement to see if it requires a landlord to make repairs. In some cases, a rental agreement does require a landlord to make repairs, provide utilities, or maintain building systems.
Landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state, so it is important for a tenant to know the law before taking specific action against the landlord. Tenants should always contact the landlord about any problems. If the landlord doesn't make necessary repairs, the tenant may have one of several options, including reporting the landlord to the local housing department, moving into a hotel until the gas boiler is fixed and deducting the bill from the rent, withholding rent until the boiler is fixed, terminating the lease, or going to court to ask a judge to appoint someone to hold the rent in escrow until the boiler is fixed. Tenants should never withhold rent until they know what is legal in their state or city. Tenant unions and Legal Aid Societies can usually help tenants understand their rights in such situations.
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- Metropolitan Council on Housing: HEAT & HOT WATER
- Arizona State Legislature: Wrongful failure to supply heat, air conditioning, cooling, water, hot water or essential services
- Nolo: What are a landlord's maintenance responsibilities? Do tenants have responsibilities?
- Nolo: If a landlord doesn't make required repairs, what are the consequences?