More Information on Landlord's Maintenance Obligations

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***PLEASE READ BEFORE USING THIS DOCUMENT***

The following document ONLY applies to jurisdictions in Kentucky that have enacted the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act. These jurisdictions are: Barbourville, Bellevue, Bromley, Covington, Dayton, Florence, Lexington-Fayette County, Georgetown, Louisville-Jefferson County, Ludlow, Melbourne, Newport, Oldham County, Pulaski County, Shelbyville, Silver Grove, Southgate, Taylor Mill and Woodlawn.

If you do NOT live in one of these jurisdictions, please do not rely on this document for legal advice.

Further, this information only applies to residential leases. It does not apply to: commercial units, properties under contract for sale, hotels or motels, or people who are employed by the landlord.


Maintenance Neglect

In many rental agreements the landlord makes all repairs. Landlords will usually not protest if you make your own repairs; however, it may be a good idea to write this in the lease and/or to ask the landlord's permission before making a repair. If you make a repair on your own and something larger gets damaged, then the landlord can make you pay for it. If the landlord makes the repair, all materials and labor are at cost to the landlord.

One of the most common problems with landlords is that they neglect important repairs that need to be made to keep an apartment pleasant and habitable. Be sure to COMMUNICATE with your landlord and be sensitive if s/he is in a situation that prevents him/her from being prompt. Landlords can also take advantage of tenants that are too nice. Remember that your landlord is making a profit from your money and as a result you deserve adequate repairs. Try to make a balanced judgment of the situation based on the following advice for:

Non-Emergency Repairs
(e.g. dripping faucets, cracked ceilings, holes)

If you suspect your landlord is being neglectful of your repair needs, try pursuing the following steps to get the repair(s) made. These steps are for repairs that do not urgently need to be fixed:

  • CALL the landlord about any repairs that you feel need to be made. Do not be unreasonable with your requests. It is unfair to expect the landlord to repair every little crack in the wall.

  • Try to get VERBAL COMMITMENTS from the landlord about WHEN the repair(s) will be made and mark them on your calendar. Take notice when these promises are not met. It would also be a good idea to keep a RECORD of all the phone calls, verbal commitments, and broken promises made.

  • Give the landlord SUFFICIENT TIME to return any of your phone calls and/or to make the repair(s). Most landlords do like to keep their tenants happy. Other landlords simply don't care and will ignore you. Try to distinguish the kind of person you are dealing with based on his/her willingness to communicate with you and cooperate with your requests.

  • If your landlord does not keep his/her promises, is ignoring your phone calls, and/or is obviously neglecting her/his duty to make repairs, then the first thing to do is to WRITE A LETTER. You may use this letter as a sample.

  • If your landlord still does not respond to your letter, or s/he responds and does not make the promised repair, CALL him/her again and explain that you are going to call a Code Inspector to the apartment to look over the property. Also, SEND him/her a letter stating the same information, SIGN and DATE the letter (keep a copy). Give the landlord one more chance to respond to each of these attempts at communication. Make sure that your landlord received your letter(s)- you can do this by sending it via certified mail. If s/he did not get the written notice(s), then s/he is not legally notified.

  • If the landlord remains negligent, you should call the Code Inspector. WARNING: CALLING A CODE INSPECTOR ON YOUR LANDLORD IS AN EXTREME ACTION! IF YOU CALL THE INSPECTOR, YOU WILL BE BRINGING THE CITY GOVERNMENT INTO THE SITUATION. YOU SHOULD ONLY USE THIS OPTION AS A LAST RESORT!!

  • If you must call a Code Inspector, it is important that you keep a RECORD of everything that happens after that - times, dates, name of inspector, promises of inspector, actions of landlord, all of your efforts, etc. This step-by-step documentation can serve to protect you if you are faced with some type of Retaliation by your landlord in the future.

  • If you are driven to extremes with your landlord, and you feel that you need to call a Code Inspector, you may want to get advice from Tenant Services first. Tenant Services can mediate between you and the landlord - they can call the landlord for you and discuss the legal repercussions of calling a Code Inspector. This may be enough pressure to get the landlord to make repairs without calling a Code Inspector.

Emergency Repairs
(e.g. clogged toilet, leaking gas, things that need to be fixed NOW)

Sometimes a repair in the apartment is very urgent and needs to be fixed that day or within the next couple of days. Most likely, if it is an emergency situation then it is also a threat to your health and/or safety. In this situation, you should:

  1. Call the landlord immediately. Be sure to let him/her know of the urgency of the situation and ask that s/he correct the problem that same day.
  2. If the landlord does not respond to your first call, call again later the same day or again the next day (depending on the urgency of the situation).
  3. If the landlord still does not respond to your calls, follow this advice on how to withhold rent for repairs, and see this sample letter.

The most common problem when taking this form of action is that if the landlord challenges your action in court, you must prove that you gave the landlord 14 days written notice. So, KEEP COPIES!



Reviewed August 2009