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Ask an Expert: How can we get the landlord to fix our windows?

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Q. I moved into a market-rate apartment more than 2 years ago.  When I saw the apartment, the windows worked fine.  By spring, three of them had broken and they won't stay open. We've asked the super to fix them repeatedly but to no avail.

Is this the kind of thing we can demand be fixed? If they continue to put it off, can we fix it ourselves and withhold rent? If they don't get fixed, can the management company withhold our security deposit over it?

A.  According real estate lawyer Cory Weiss, you are entitled under the Warranty of Habitability (which requires that your apartment be livable) to have your windows fixed.  

"Request the repair in writing," Weiss advises. "If it's ignored, get a repair estimate and send it to the landlord."

If your landlord still won't act, pay for the repair yourself is and deduct it from the rent.  Just remember to document everything and retain proof of mailings. 

Your landlord might refuse to deduct the amount from the rent and take you to housing court. Whether you win or lose there, you may find it hard to rent an apartment in the future, as landlords tend to turn down tenants with housing court histories.

As far as your security deposit, says Weiss, "there's not much a tenant can do to stop a landlord from applying the security deposit as the landlord deems appropriate."  Your option in that case would be to take your former landlord to small claims court.


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