Business Law

RESIDENTIAL HOUSE LEASE

The following question is based on the Residential House Lease found in the Contracts Module.

Essay

Bob, the landlord, refuses to fix a small gap in a windowsill in the basement window that was there prior to the current tenant.  Lucia, the current tenant, has just discovered the gap after a heavy rain. The consequence is that black mold has been forming in the basement for quite some time.  Lucia still has significant time remaining on her lease.  Lucia has notified Bob in writing by email of the mold and leak issue but has received no response.  She is concerned about the premises becoming unsafe to live in. It has been 14 days since she emailed him her notification.

What are all of Lucia’s options if Bob declines to do the repairs?

Please discuss all remedies Lucia may seek.

Answer:

Lucia has several options available if Bob declines to do the repairs:

  1. Request Repair Again: Lucia can send another written request to Bob, specifically outlining the seriousness of the issue and emphasizing the potential health hazards associated with black mold. She should keep a record of all communication, including emails and any responses received.
  2. Request for Rent Reduction: Lucia can request a reduction in rent due to the uninhabitable conditions caused by the mold and leak issue. This reduction should reflect the diminished value of the rental property as a result of the landlord’s failure to maintain it in a habitable condition.
  3. Repair and Deduct: Depending on local landlord-tenant laws, Lucia may have the option to hire a professional to fix the problem herself and deduct the cost from her rent. However, she should ensure she follows all legal procedures and notify Bob of her intentions before proceeding.
  4. Withhold Rent: If the mold issue poses a serious health risk or renders the property uninhabitable, Lucia may have the right to withhold rent until the repairs are made. Again, she should check local laws to ensure she follows proper procedures and document the condition of the property thoroughly.
  5. Terminate Lease: In extreme cases where the landlord fails to address serious health or safety hazards, Lucia may have grounds to terminate the lease early without penalty. However, she should seek legal advice and ensure she follows all necessary steps to terminate the lease properly to avoid potential legal repercussions.
  6. Legal Action: As a last resort, Lucia may choose to pursue legal action against Bob for breach of the implied warranty of habitability or for failure to maintain the property in a safe and sanitary condition. This could involve seeking damages for any harm caused by the mold, as well as any expenses incurred due to Bob’s negligence.

In any case, Lucia should document the mold issue thoroughly, including photographs, receipts for any expenses incurred, and copies of all communication with Bob regarding the repairs. It’s also advisable for her to consult with a local tenant rights organization or attorney to understand her rights and options fully.

 

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