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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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- State of MD/Baltimore City - Renting House with 2 bathrooms

Resolved Question:

- State of MD/Baltimore City
- Renting House with 2 bathrooms (one in basement with shower, the other upstairs with shower/tub)
- I'm a tenant on lease
- We've never missed a payment
- Not currently sure what the rental agreement allows for, in terms of repairs

At the beginning of April 2013, maintenance personnel (that our rental management sent) had come to shut off the water to the bathroom in the basement due to leakage (which apparently came about through normal wear and tear)

So, the sink and the shower in the basement haven't been in use ever since; rental management appears to be aware of this, and I personally had called the office, on the 30th of April, to inquire when someone will come to return and finish the job — at that time, the rep told me someone would come by the next week
I had called one more time, that Tuesday, to confirm if someone was finally scheduled to show up — "this week," I was told

I've been since told, by the person who'd be considered the head of the household, that due to varying inspections for the other properties which the landlord "maintains," the few maintenance personnel that he DOES have, are all tied up everywhere else

Okay
Fine

The household-head was apparently told that we'd finally have our repairs done.
THIS week.

It's Friday.
9:09 p.m.
As of this writing.

So. . .it approaches 6 weeks that I couldn't shower in the basement bathroom (as I prefer doing; and pretty much use exclusively), although it is true that there is another bathroom in which I can bathe; BUT, the water pressure for the bathing facilities in the that bathroom is kinda miserable..accordingly, on the 30th, I had also mentioned to the manager this other shortcoming — to which she replied, she'd have someone look into it

(I'm not blaming her, per se, for the lack of staffing {or whatever the issue is}, as she is only the messenger — not the Originator of Problem)


I am now considering doing a repair-and-deduct; I am going to send off a certified letter tomorrow morning, and will be calling the office on Monday to make one more inquiry on when/if someone's gonna look into the two problems which I've mentioned above
Is there anything else I should know? (Maybe you wish to have a copy of the .txt file of my letter of intent)
Are there some other things any of you should know?
Am I in a position to reduce a future rent payment, in recompense for the 6 weeks (or longer, depending on when the plumber may work her or his magic) that we've suffered through this inconvenience?

(It's bad enough that I had to suffer through a winter of inadequate hot water, and a few cold showers, due to our water heater's not being sufficient for the 4 of us in here!
Now, I can't even shower where I want??)
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

Because Maryland has various landlord-tenant ordinances in different cities and counties, can you please tell me in which city the property is located?

Thanks in advance.

Note: This question was inadvertantly placed in the California Employment Law category. I apologize for the delay, but I just happen to practice both employment and landlord-tenant law, so I decided to try to assist.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The property is in Baltimore City.


...We also happen to be part of the Section 8 programme (for whatever that information may be worth to you).

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
It seems to me that your first move should be to call city Code Enforcement and report the plumbing problem. The city inspector will come out and verify that the plumbing is faulty and give the landlord a warning that unless it's fixed within 30 days, that a misdemeanor citation will issue, and then the landlord will have to explain why the propertt wasn't fixed to the judge, and there will be a fine, etc.

I think that you will have more luck with this approach, than with any other -- assuming that the inspector believes that the defective plumbing is serious enough to warrant a citation.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

So, no repair-and-deducting for me?


 


(It has already been almost 6 weeks, and I am pretty sure an inspector wouldn't be retroactive in their consideration of these events...)


 


Because, I really don't want to wait any longer than I have to, to get both bathrooms up to snuff...

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
There is no "repair and deduct" remedy under MD landlord-tenant law. The law permits a tenant to petition the court to order the landlord to make repairs, while the tenant pays rent into the court. This won't get your problem resolved any faster than will a code enforcement complaint.

If you prefer to use the rent escrow process, then there is an excellent discussion of the process available at this link.

Here is the rent escrow petition form
. For further info from the District Court, see this link.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I don't mean to drag this out.. ..but it so happens, the only reason I happen to know about that remedy at all is, one of my friends (who also lives in Baltimore City) has told me he's done this a few times (being sure to provide a copy of the invoice to his landlord in doing so), with success.


 


Granted, the proceedings might have been "informal" in nature, but the landlord never apparently retaliated.....

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
You're not dragging anything out, and I appreciate your need for clarity.

I'm simply reciting the law as it exists. Informal procedures are not enforceable in court, so I would be misrepresenting the law to tell you that a repair and deduct remedy is directly supported by Maryland law, when it is not.

The law permits you to refuse to pay rent and then challenge the landlord to try to evict you. Once the landlord sues, then the court would make orders either to reduce your rent by the amount of the repairs, or order the landlord to make repairs and require you to pay the rent into the court during the interim, while the court awaits the landlord's compliance with the court's orders.

However, none of this is a strict repair and deduct remedy. since there is no such remedy under Maryland law. And, if you let the landlord sue first, there is always the possibility that you will lose the lawsuit and be evicted. So, while your informal process may succeed, it has risks.

It's your choice, of course. But, since my goal on this website is to inform customers about what the law is and is not (in contrast to other websites, where uninformed laypersons and persons pretend to be licensed lawyers), I feel obliged to explain that your remedy is not exactly what you may believe it to be.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

(I'll be having a little chat with my friend about the risk he's been taking, in that case.)


 


I appreciate your patience, socra.


Thank you.


 


 


I'm also pretty sure that, as we tenants who faithfully pay our landlord our portion of the rent every month, we should definitely be entitled to having our water for the sink and the shower at all times (especially if we tenants did nothing directly to disrupt our service); but the water pressure issue (which technically exists for both bathing facilities, but is certainly more pronounced for the upstair's one) and what I consider an inadequate hot water (during the winter months) may just be "personal problems" that our landlord wouldn't be on the hook for.


 


I hope that's not true...

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
I'm sure that you could prevail over the landlord for a reduction in past rent, based upon the diminution in value caused by the landlord's failure to provide an adequate water supply. Whether or not the issue rises to the level of a "serious" heanth and safety issue, as required by statute, is up to the judge.

You could sue the landlord separately for that diminution in value. But, the best way to get the evidence for that lawsuit, is to get code enforcement to cite or warn the landlord. Once you have that, you have the "high ground."

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Okay.


 


So, my first step should be to contact a code enforcer/inspector (like, maybe, the ones who are making the landlord's maintenance personnel run around his other properties while neglecting ours?), and have them document the lack of water (which is a definite issue), and also determine if he or she can do anything about ameliorating the winter-time hot water supply and water pressure at the landlord's expense.


 


That much should be easy, if I am allowed to bring an inspector in, myself.


 


 


I won't be able to formally "repair and deduct," and I shouldn't attempt to bring someone in myself to expedite these fixes I desire; but a judge may decide to grant us some form of financial relief, in consideration of what the code inspector presents?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.

You've summarized things pretty well, in my opinion.

 

Hope this helps.

socrateaser, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 34816
Experience: Retired (mostly)
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