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The State of North Carolina offers protection to tenants subjected to substandard living conditions under the “Warranty of Habitability.” In short, tenants have the right to live in a home that is safe, livable, and sanitary. Anything short of these principles is in direct violation of a tenants’ rights. Discuss your case with a landlord-tenant law attorney in North Carolina for personal legal advice.
According to the North Carolina State’s Attorney General’s Office, a landlord’s duty of repair is clear: Rentals must be in “good repair,” clean, and free of waste, illegal materials, and pests. The landlord is also required to fulfill these repairs promptly. Protected repairs include:
- Structural, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems;
- Devices and appliances;
- Doorbells, intercoms, locks and security systems; and
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
These requirements also apply to community areas, such as swimming pools, landscaping, waste facilities, lobbies, laundromats, playgrounds, recreation areas, fitness gyms, and elevators.
Best Practices for Withholding Rent
When making a repair request, it is best practice to call the landlord immediately. It is also a good idea for tenants to follow-up in writing via email or a written letter delineating the circumstances and confirming a “repair by” date. This action protects the tenant from a landlord claiming they never received the initial request.
Assuming the landlord has failed to make the necessary repairs, renters could consider the following course of action:
- Call an inspector to the unit.
An inspector or code enforcement officer is a tenant’s first line of defense. Their visit provides a third-party record of the damage that occurred.
Upon the finding of a violation, the inspector will issue a Notice and Order of all repairs to the owner in addition to a deadline of completion. Again, many landlords will make the repairs after receiving this notice, while others will not.
- Deduct self-repairs or withhold rent.
If the landlord fails to repair the damages, a tenant has two choices — make the repairs him or herself and deduct the cost from future rent; or withhold rent until the landlord makes the repairs. Not everyone can afford the former, and not everyone can live with the latter. The appropriate resolution will depend upon the individual circumstances of the damage involved. Furthermore, a tenant should keep receipts for all repairs made as documentation in the event of a lawsuit.
- If all else fails, take the landlord to court.
Going to court is always the last resort when trying to solve a dispute. If all remedies and options have been exhausted, then it may be time to speak with a North Carolina landlord tenant attorney. An attorney will be able to help renters sort out the issues and prepare the best strategy for their particular situation.
Final Thoughts and Considerations
Cool heads often prevail in the face of adversity. For the best chance at a successful outcome, tenants should maintain well-organized files, put everything in writing, and follow procedures as defined by local laws and as recommended by a qualified experienced attorney.
If you are experiencing issues with your landlord, in the Mecklenburg County, Iredell County or Union County area, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828 or find additional resources here.
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