Living in an apartment or any rental home can be a nightmare when your home needs repairs and your landlord doesn’t respond. Most apartment complexes and buildings have at least one maintenance employee, but it can take weeks to get a response if he or she is overworked. Of course, during those weeks you still have a broken toilet or leaky faucet, and you might be getting frustrated. So can you deduct rent for repairs you make yourself?
There are two major problems with making repairs and deducting the cost from your rent. First, if you make a mistake or break something else, you’ll be responsible for those damages. This is quite a likely scenario if you attempt to fix your water heater and have never worked on one before in your entire life. The second problem is that most landlords have to sign off on repairs and the costs associated with them. This is to protect them from inflated maintenance costs.
For example, let’s say that your garbage disposal isn’t working, so you hire a plumber to come out and fix it. Not knowing how much it should cost, you choose the first name out of the phone book and your repair bill comes to $200. You submit that receipt to your landlord and deduct the cost from your rent, but your landlord sends you a letter saying you owe back rent. He says he could have had it fixed for $50, so he’s not paying the higher bill.
As with everything in life, there is a procedure you should follow to deduct rent for repairs you make yourself. If you fail to observe this protocol, you could find yourself out a significant amount of money, and on nasty terms with your landlord, which nobody wants. If you’ve got something in your apartment or rental home that needs fixed, make sure you do the following:
1. Request Repairs in Writing. Before you do the repairs yourself and deduct in from the rent, submit a request for repairs in writing to your landlord. You can either mail the letter or drop it by the office yourself, but make sure you include your name and unit number. Give the landlord 7-10 days to respond (unless it is an emergency). If the repairs aren’t done, move on to Step 2.
2. Submit Demand in Writing. Next, you’ll need to submit a demand for repairs in writing, but make sure you send it by certified mail. This allows you to prove that you sent the letter, and that it was received by your landlord. This is a necessary step before you deduct rent for repairs because you’re going to give your landlords a heads-up. Explain that if the repairs aren’t done by a certain date, you’ll be hiring someone else and deducting the cost from the rent.
3. Visit Your Landlord. One or two days before your deadline is up, visit or call your landlord and remind them of the letter you sent. Ask him or her to sign an affidavit allowing you to have the repairs done yourself, and to deduct the cost from your rent. If he won’t, you’ll have to go ahead with the repairs and take your chances.
4. Invite Your Landlord Over. Once the repairs have been completed, invite your landlord to come to your home and look at what was done. Provide him or her with copies of all receipts, and remind him again that you’ll be deducting that cost from the rent. If possible, get him to sign off on the repairs right then and there.