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Ask Barrister Your Own Question
Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33703
Experience:  15 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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I have been renting same apartment years. Currently

Customer Question

I have been renting same apartment for five years. Currently on third owner. When they took over I spoke to the president of the company as the prior owners had neglected some major issues such as an overgrown tree that damaging roof and causing water damage to my ceiling. I was emailed several times that the tree had been cut down, but as I could see it, and I had to tell them each time it wasn't. The tree finally removed on 4/23 but have no idea what condition roof is in and have asked them to have it inspected by township. No reply to that...they just want to paint over water damage. Also, for past two years, my central air never worked properly and previous management "solved" issue by putting small, noisy window unit in bedroom. New management promised to fix HVAC system. In February (when it was 17 degrees) they trashed apartment sledge hammering a new unit in which didn't work because they forget to remove shipping panel (in other words, no air was able to get to unit). When weather turned warm at end of April, I turned on AC and hot air came out. I notified management on 5/1. For the past 25 days, at least three HVAC companies, countless techs and days and days spent waiting for people to show up to fix AC have resulted in an AC unit that blow hot air. Additionally, I have PTSD. I notified president of company of this and asked for one accommodation - to be notified before anyone enters apartment. Techs (without appointment or notification) have just shown up, come in an out of apartment 12 times a day...up to 9 at night. People (maintenance, contractors) have been in my apartment at least 20 times in past month and almost 40 in past year - not to fix anything but do inspections or fail completely to repair anything. Also, when new management came in all I got was a piece of paper with check boxes to indicate how long I planned to extend my least - gave me six days to decide or they would increae my rent to the highest level. I returned the box with a check mark for another year - no signature. I never received anything else from them. My previous lease ran out 1/6/2015. I do not have a current signed lease so I don't even know what that means or what my rights are or what kind of contract I have with this company. Office staff (all two of them) never give you a straight answer or even answer phone. Property Manager not on site and have had to practically hire private detective to find out who owns company. I'm in hell. My health, physically and mentally have been abused; I have lost time from work as has my husband. I know this can't be legal, but I can afford lawyers and am in no shape to just move, not do I have the money to do so, nor should I have to. Any advice on what to do would be greatly appreciated. I live in Elkins Park, PA.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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Did your A/C work when you initially started renting?
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The last time you actually renewed your lease with the old landlord was the central A/C working?
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If not, why did you renew if it still hadn't been repaired?
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What is it that you would like to have happen here?
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes, the AC worked when I moved in.
I never renewed my lease, only indicated that I would be willing to do so and as it was January, I didn't think to check my previously working AC .
I want my AC repaired. I want either my rent for the month they took from my life back or a reduction in rent. I want the roof inspected and the damages repaired.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, PA law states that a property has to be "habitable" in order for the landlord to have fulfilled his end of the deal in a residential tenancy. This was determined under Pugh v. Holmes, 405 A.2d 897 (1979, where the Court asserted that the modern tenancy was subject to an implied warranty of habitability. In order to constitute a breach of the warranty, the defect must be of a nature and kind that will prevent the use of the dwelling for its intended purpose, to provide a residence fit for habitation. At a minimum, this means that the premises must be safe and sanitary. However, the court doesn't consider A/C to be a "habitability" issue like some states do so as to justify a tenant withholding rent if it doesn't work.
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So you couldn't "repair and deduct" or withhold rent until they made repairs.
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However, you could sue them in small claims court under a breach of contract claim because you rented a property that included a working air conditioner and that is what you are paying for. You could ask the judge to award you damages based on the diminished value of the property during the A/C months when it would be used, but is unavailable, and for a future reduction in rent until they do make repairs.
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So the judge can decide what the property is worth without A/C and then order the landlord to pay you damages based on this reduction in value for any past use and reduce your rent going forward until they make repairs.
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As for the roof, if you are still having a leak or have concerns about mold, you can contact the local Code Enforcement or Housing Inspector and request an inspection. If they find violations, they can cite the owner and force them to make repairs or face fines for every day they are in noncompliance past a set date.
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As an aside, in addition to being an attorney, I have also been a landlord for over 26 years...
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
While this property management company cannot (or will not) find someone to repair the HVAC system, I'm sure they have whole staffs of lawyers that would rip me to shreds in court, cost me thousands of dollars, lie about everything and all I'd end up up with is no place to live and no money to move. So, I guess it's good to be a landlord.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
"" I'm sure they have whole staffs of lawyers that would rip me to shreds in court, cost me thousands of dollars, lie about everything and all I'd end up up with is no place to live and no money to move.""
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Not really, because you can file this case yourself in small claims court and don't need an attorney. Filing fees are typically under $100 and recoverable if you win. They are the ones who would have to spend thousands on an attorney if they are incorporated, not you. So this gives them an incentive to settle with you rather than paying an attorney to defend them and potentially lose in the end, having to pay their attorney as well as your damages.
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So typically once a tenant files suit, the landlord will try to settle with them to get them to dismiss the case.
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If they then tried to evict you based on you exercising your legal rights, that is considered illegal retaliation and would give you yet another ground to sue them for punitive damages to set an example and deter future similar conduct.
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If you were to file suit in small claims court for the statutory maximum of $10K, then that will give them plenty of reason to try to settle and will give you leverage to get them to fix the A/C and retroactively compensate you for your months without its use..
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And as a landlord myself for over 26 years, I can tell you it is a pain because one repair like this, which could cost a few thousand for a new outside unit if the compressor is dead, will eat up any money for an entire year's profit if not longer..
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thanks
Barrister

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