After giving a proper notice and the conditions outlined above are met, you must wait seven days for the landlord to repair the prob- lem before you can hire a contractor to repair it. (Exception: You do not have to wait at all if the condition involves serious sewage prob- lems or flooding, and you may only have to wait several days if the condition involves lack of drinking water, heat, or air conditioning.)
Although the repair and deduct remedy can be used as often as necessary, the amount that can be deducted to repair any one condition CANNOT be greater than one month's rent or $500, whichever is greater. [A tenant of Section 8, government-owned or government-subsidized housing may repair and deduct up to the monthly fair market rent of the dwelling from future rental payments, or $500, whichever is greater.] Further, the total deductions in any one month cannot exceed one month's rent or $500, whichever is greater. The company or contractor you hire to make the repairs must be listed in the phone book or classified ads and must not have any personal or business connection with you. You cannot deduct for repairs made yourself, unless the landlord agrees (get the agreement in writing). In addition, all repairs made pursuant to this remedy must be made in compliance with appli- cable building codes, including a building permit when required. You cannot contract for labor or materials in excess of what you may deduct, and the landlord is not liable for those who furnish the labor or materials to remedy the condition. When deducting the cost of repairs from a rent payment, you must furnish the landlord, along with the payment of the balance of the rent, a copy of the repair bill and the receipt for its payment.
A landlord who is unable to obtain necessary parts or who cannot labor following a natural disaster has the right to delay a tenant from exercising the repair and deduct remedy by delivering to the tenant an Affidavit of Delay. This affidavit can delay repairs up to 30 days, but it must set forth the reasons for the delay, including dates, names, addresses, and telephone numbers of contractors, suppliers, and repairmen contacted by the owner. Affidavits must be made in good faith and the landlord must continue diligent efforts to repair the condition. A landlord can be severely penalized for wrongfully issuing Affidavits of Delay. Check with a lawyer or tenants association for more details.
(c) Filing Suit If you are successful in a suit in the matter of repairs, you can get a court order requiring the landlord to repair the condition, and you can also recover your actual damages (direct costs resulting from the landlord failing to repair), a reduction in rent in proportion to the reduced rental value effective from the first notice to repair until the condition is remedied, one month's rent plus $500, reasonable attorney's fees, and court costs. See "Warning."
Filing suit in a Justice of the Peace Court is cheaper and faster than doing so in County Court or District Court. You may easily