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but only if such a lease provision is specific and clear, underlined or bolded, and the conditions were not caused by the negligence of the landlord. Similarly, a landlord and tenant may agree in a lease that it is the duty of the tenant to pay for the repair damages caused by leaving windows and doors open and from sewage backups if a toy or other improper item is found in the line that exclusively leads to the tenant's unit and is the cause of the backup, but only if such a lease provision is specific and clear and is underlined or bolded in a written lease, and the conditions were not caused by the landlord.

A landlord must provide you with a home that is free from health and safety risks, regardless of what is in the lease. Other than those exceptions listed above, a landlord may not modify her duties under the law to repair a condition that materially affects your physical health and safety. If a landlord intentionally tries to change this duty orally or in your lease, you may have a claim against her for actual damages, one month's rent plus $2,000, and reasonable attorney's fees. The law presumes the landlord acted without knowledge, so give your landlord a written notice (and keep a copy) if they are violating the law and ask them to change the lease. If the landlord refuses, you may have a stronger claim against the landlord.

Procedure for Obtaining Repairs Tenants with problems requiring landlord repairs should take the following steps in order to use the remedies provided by state law (your lease may provide you with more rights):

1. Always Give Notice You must give notice of the problem to the person to whom you pay rent. Phoning is usually the fastest way, but you should also give the notice in writing and keep a copy for yourself as proof. Be sure to date the notice. Many leases require that all requests for repair be in writing. If you mail your rent payments, you can mail the notice to the same address. Sending the notice by certified mail provides the best proof that it has been received. In fact, if you send your first notice requesting repairs by certified mail, return receipt requested, then you are not required to send a second written notice in order to pursue your rights and remedies under state law.

2. Pay Your Rent The landlord is not obligated to make repairs required by state law unless you are current on your rent. You must perform your obligation to pay rent or you cannot force the landlord to per- form her obligation to repair. Your rent must be current at the time you give the first notice; otherwise, that notice may not have any legal effect.

3. Give your Landlord a Reasonable Time to Make the Repairs Your landlord has a "reasonable time" to fix the problem after receiv- ing your initial notice. The length of time considered reasonable will depend on the circumstances, although the law presumes that


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