Do Landlords Have To Fix Toilets?

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State law generally requires landlords to fix broken toilets and fix them quickly, depending on the type of problem. Any flooding, clogging, or sanitation issue that may cause health issues or property damage to the tenant generally requires urgent care. State law doesn’t address less severe issues (e.g., a toilet with very low water pressure), but local laws often include detailed rules surrounding the provision of working toilets.

Requirement to Provide Working Toilets

Working toilets are almost universally considered a necessity for apartments. Check the state “implied warranty of habitability” and local laws. Where required, landlords are typically required to fix toilets without cost to the tenant.

Tenant-Caused Problem

Flushing toys or other objects down the toilet may cause the toilet to break. The tenant is usually required to fix any issues that they caused.

Housing Code Violations

Local laws often include detailed rules about how a landlord must maintain an apartment. Where a landlord is in significant violation of housing codes, or where the apartment has become unsafe, tenants can report the issue to housing authorities. This may result in an inspector visiting the apartment and then generating a report. Depending on the jurisdiction, the report may go to the landlord, the city, or to housing court. Failure to fix the problem may result in fines, court orders to fix the problem, reductions in rent, or other remedies. Often, the threat of reporting violations will push landlords to fix issues quickly. Tenants that suffer harsh conditions, can’t afford a lawyer, and don’t wish to move to a different apartment may consider this option of reporting the landlord. Sometimes, tenants will be required to report a housing code violation before taking a landlord to landlord-tenant court.

Deduct and Repair

About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before repairing, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least thoroughly read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding

About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease

If the landlord has broken a promise in the lease, the tenant is free to break their end of the agreement too. The tenant can move out and is entitled to get their deposit back. Alternatively, the tenant can go to court and seek a reduction in rent or a court order requiring the landlord to fix the problem. In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable differs heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues). In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

Requirement to Provide Working Toilets


Working toilets are almost universally considered a necessity for apartments. Check the state “implied warranty of habitability” and local laws. Where required, landlords are typically required to fix toilets without cost to the tenant.

Tenant-Caused Problem


Flushing toys or other objects down the toilet may cause the toilet to break. The tenant is usually required to fix any issues that they caused.

Housing Code Violations


Local laws often include detailed rules about how a landlord must maintain an apartment. Where a landlord is in significant violation of housing codes, or where the apartment has become unsafe, tenants can report the issue to housing authorities. This may result in an inspector visiting the apartment and then generating a report. Depending on the jurisdiction, the report may go to the landlord, the city, or to housing court. Failure to fix the problem may result in fines, court orders to fix the problem, reductions in rent, or other remedies. Often, the threat of reporting violations will push landlords to fix issues quickly.

Tenants that suffer harsh conditions, can’t afford a lawyer, and don’t wish to move to a different apartment may consider this option of reporting the landlord. Sometimes, tenants will be required to report a housing code violation before taking a landlord to landlord-tenant court.

Deduct and Repair


About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before repairing, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least thoroughly read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding


About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease


If the landlord has broken a promise in the lease, the tenant is free to break their end of the agreement too. The tenant can move out and is entitled to get their deposit back. Alternatively, the tenant can go to court and seek a reduction in rent or a court order requiring the landlord to fix the problem.

In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable differs heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues).

In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Toilet

about 2 years ago
0
votes

My landlord won't fix my broken toilet. Claims that I broke it because I flushed my tampons down. First, I didn't. Second, none of his business. Third, he needs to fix the damn thing. I've been using my bathroom at work everyday.
Renter in Charlotte, NC, USA
Toilet
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