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We discovered that our electricity and gas is paying

Customer Question
for the common area washer...
We discovered that our electricity and gas is paying for the common area washer (water heater for washer), dryer, common lighting, exterior lighting, garage doors and lights for a 3 unit building consisting of two 4 bedroom and one 3 bedroom beach houses. We discussed this with the owner, who admitted that we were correct, but only offered only a $10 monthly credit for the past 8 1/2 months (and he charges $50 per month to use the washer/dryer via coin operated mechanisms). The two other units became vacant in April and our utility bill dropped by $55 a month. Considering that we had definitive proof of our assertions, we withheld $55 per month times 8, but paid the rent on time May 1st. THERE WERE ALSO SEVERAL ITEMS IN DISREPAIR FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. The owner finally repaired the items when we withheld the utility overages. HE CASHED THE RENT CHECK of $3,800 (WITH $450 WITHHELD), but is threatening to evict us if we don't pay the $450 in dispute. The owner says we can terminate the lease if we don't like his decision. And he is demanding late fees because of the withholding. We paid the June rent on time, but deducted $55 and showed the owner the published costs for washers, dryers and water heaters at $81 per month ($40.50 per household). The owner is still refusing to discount the rent for the use of our electricity and gas. Do we have any recourse other than moving out. And do we have to pay the late fees since we paid timely while several items were in disrepair for several months and the utility issue was never addressed to any reasonable satisfaction?
Submitted: 3 years ago.Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Answered in 1 hour by:
6/4/2015
Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 3 years ago
CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 10,244
Experience: I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing both landlords and tenants in residential and commercial property disputes.
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Unfortunately, you do not have a right to withhold rent over a dispute like this (your landlord could have given you a notice to "pay or quit" and then moved to an eviction instead of working with you to resolve the dispute and given you the option to terminate the lease).The proper mechanism to resolve these disputes for tenants is to file a small claims action for breach of contract against the landlord. I don't know if it is worth it to you to remain in the unit or not, that is a decision you will need to make based on your situation, but I would advise making sure that any resolution you come to is in writing to ensure that there is no dispute over it later.
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Customer reply replied 3 years ago
We also had non-functioning dead bolts on the two front entry doors from March 6, 2015 until we withheld the $450, then they fixed the locks finally on 5/8/15. We couldn't lock our doors for two months. Is there nothing the owner must do to compensate us?
Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 3 years ago
Not retroactively. You have a lot of issues that happened in the past that you could have sued your landlord over, or perhaps even taken "uninhabitability" remedies against - but currently your landlord has remedied these issues and the problem is your failure to pay rent through rent withholding.
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