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represent yourself in a Justice of the Peace Court. However, by filing in a Justice of the Peace Court, you will be limited in some impor- tant respects. First, the total amount you recover cannot exceed $10,000, plus court costs. Second, the Justice of the Peace cannot order your landlord to repair the condition, as described above. Third, either party can appeal the case to the County Court for a new trial and, thus, not be bound by the judgment of the Justice of the Peace Court. One advantage to filing suit in County Court or District Court is that you can get a court order to make the landlord repair or remedy the condition that endangers your health or safety. However, filing suit in these courts will probably require the expertise of a lawyer, the costs will be higher, and it make take the court longer to get to your case.

Exception for Major Damage Special rules apply if the unsafe condition results from an insured casualty loss such as fire, smoke, hail, explosion, or similar cause. Under those circumstances, the landlord is not required to start repairs until her insurance company pays her. She still has a reasonable time after receiving the insurance proceeds to complete the repairs. However, as long as you or your guests were not responsible for the damage and the premises are practically unusable for residential purposes, you (or your landlord) may terminate the lease at any time prior to the completion of the repairs by giving written notice, and you will be entitled to a pro rata refund of any rent paid in advance and your security deposit. Alternatively, you may be entitled to a reduction in rent proportionate to the extent the premises are unusable (unless the lease states otherwise). If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord regarding a rent reduction, you can file a suit seeking such a rent reduction in either County Court or District Court.

Retaliation for Requesting Repairs or Exercising our Rights as a enant Your landlord is restricted for six months from retaliating against you because you gave her a repair notice, complained to a city code enforce- ment agenc , public utilit , or civic or nonprofit agenc , or exercised a right or remedy granted to you by lease, municipal ordinance, or state or federal law. Illegal retaliation occurs when the landlord, in retaliation for your requesting repairs, complaining to a city inspector, or asserting a right you have under your lease or another law, wrongfully terminates the lease, files for eviction, deprives you of the use of the premises, decreases your services, increases your rent, or engages in activity that materially interferes with your rights under the lease. There are several exceptions. For instance, your landlord can increase the rent if the lease has a provision for an increase in the rent due to higher utility taxes or insurance costs. The landlord may also increase the rent or reduce services if it is part of a pattern of rent increases or service reductions for the whole complex. Furthermore, the landlord can still terminate the lease and evict you if you fail to pay your rent, intentionally cause property damage to the premises, threaten the personal safety of the landlord or the landlord's employees, or break a promise you made in your lease.


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