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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 118113
Experience:  Attorney with over 24 years experience.
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6/13/15 - sewage back up on lower level of apartment due to

Customer Question

6/13/15 - sewage back up on lower level of apartment due to a clog in the exterior main drain shared by duplex. Myself, my 12 year old daughter, and small dog leave immediately after giving access to a plumber who snakes the outside drain. Two days later management company has a carpet cleaning company come move everything out of the contaminated room into the remaining clean bedroom. Carpet and pad are peeled back but left. 6 days later another carpet company comes to remove the sewage soaked pad and carpet and replace. My renters insurance agent comes to visit. We both send emails explaining the space is uninhabitable and needs to have the attention of a licensed restoration company. Another week passes and finally I discover (when I stopped in to water my plants) a restoration company demos the apartment. My insurance will pay for property damage that occurred on the day of event. The carpet company contaminated items but also destroyed my queen sized bed trying to move it without taking it apart - actually ripped the sideboards from the headboard. Yes - there are pictures of everything.
June 18 - I email the management company asking for an update on expectations for repairs. I am not living there and will expect rent back. They say that they can "process this request" but I should be able to sleep upstairs on my couch. I point out that my nice room sized rug from the sewage effected bedroom had been dragged upstairs and left in the bath tub. The air was not safe to breathe. Even if I could safely sleep in that environment, the rent we agreed upon included 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Certainly some reason should be applied.
July 2 - I email the management company stating that I know that they would be looking for July rent but wanted to remind them that I was still homeless. I no longer had renters insurance helping pay for me to stay somewhere and was staying with friends anxiously waiting to return to my apartment. Is there an update on rebuilding? What kind of time frame are we looking at and what is the status on returning my June rent paid? The contract I signed does not allow for nonpayment of rent even in the case of uninhabitable space at the fault of the owner. The only option is to vacate. I was offered release from my lease. I was told I could pay rent or leave. My rent would become late at 8am on July 4th. I wrote a letter accepting release of the lease and expecting my full deposit returned, rent back for June, and reimbursement for items damaged by their contractors. I drove up and hand delivered the letter to the rent box at 9pm July 3rd. I also sent a copy by certified mail to the attention of the manager assigned to the address. I received threatening late rent notices with fees applied. I answered each saying that I had put a letter in the rent box and please review. No response.
July 9 - Finally got a phone call from a senior manager regarding my letter. He said the owner had agreed to pay all of that. He had just been to visit the property and saw that I had nearly removed all of my things. There appeared to be no maintenance issues and, if I did a decent job just vacuuming and mopping, I would receive my full deposit returned as well. He says to finish up by Sunday night or Monday morning and all would be good.
July 12 - I'm out and cleaned. I send an email with a picture of where I left the key.
I also received a letter stating that landscaping was done on 7/22 that would be charged to my account in the amount of $75. I wrote an email explaining that I had not resided at the property since June 13th and to please apply that charge to the current tenant or the owner if still unoccupied. No response.
Finally today - Sept 9 - Just 3 days prior to the 60 day cut off on deposit return I find that I have been repaid for June rent and my deposit. They have held back $75 for the landscaping done over a month after I left. They also had the carpets cleaned for $178 (interesting since only one room of carpet was left and full downstairs demo crew back and forth would be the reason for cleaning that) and $80 to have the house cleaned (also likely needed after demo and rebuild was complete).
What should I do? Mediation? Lawsuit? Take my $1000 check and be glad I'm still alive. By the way, we have spent the entire summer homeless and living out of a suitcase. I had just taken a job requiring me to work from home. I am a single mother and a full time student at Front Range Community College. I barely scraped a loan together and will hopefully close on a house on Sept 22nd.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

The landlord is in breach of the lease and you are entitled to demand payment to stay elsewhere or reduction in rent for the premises not being habitable. If the landlord is not making repairs and is wanting you to release yourself from the lease, this is also a constructive illegal eviction, since they seem to be purposely not making repairs to force you to leave. The landlord is liable to you for damages here, which would be all costs of moving and for damages you incurred and I would not suggest mediation based on his conduct, I would suggest a lawsuit and also suing for not just breach of lease, but unlawful constructive eviction and seeking punitive damages for their intentional and malicious conduct in refusing to make repairs in a reasonable time and then trying to get you to move.

I would suggest that you go to the local legal aid office if you cannot afford an attorney and get their assistance to sue this slum lord company for damages that they caused you to incur.