We’ve all been in your shoes. There is something wrong with your apartment- the sink is clogged up, the dishwasher won’t work, the toilet runs, there is mold. We’ve requested a repair and the landlord either doesn’t fix it or tells you there’s nothing wrong with it. You threaten to not pay your rent, what else can you do?
Well, there’s a formal process you can go through called a Tenant’s Assertion if there are problems with your apartment. However, prior to filing in the Court for a Tenant’s Assertion, the law in Virginia states you must send written notice to the landlord stating your problem and the landlord has to refuse to remedy the situation, or, after 30 days, the landlord has not contacted you, fixed the problem, or responded to you.
Once you file your Tenant’s Assertion with the Court, you can request that your rent be paid into an escrow account. You must state in your Assertion how the landlord has breached the lease or that the lack of action by your landlord has caused a fire hazard, health hazard, or safety concerns.
When you actually go to Court for the trial, you will have to prove to the Judge that there is a fire hazard, safety concern or health hazard. So, let’s look at the example of your dishwasher being broken. If your lease states that the landlord is liable to fix all appliances, and the landlord does not fix the appliance, you can file for a breach of the lease. However, there is no health or safety hazard, you can wash your dishes yourself. Further, you would have to prove that the dishwasher doesn’t work, with photos, video, an expert report, etc. This may be more effort than you want to take to get the dishwasher repaired.
Now, say you live in an apartment and you feel there is mold in the apartment. You called your landlord and sent a letter, but he is claiming there is no mold. You can absolutely file a Tenant’s Assertion that there is mold, it’s a health hazard. You’ve met the first ground. The landlord then has the right to come to court and dispute there is mold. You, as the plaintiff in this matter, have the burden of proof that there is mold, and it is the type of mold that presents a health and safety hazard. Usually this takes an expert, which can be costly. You can ask the court to reimburse you the cost of the expert, if you prevail at court.
You cannot withhold paying rent to the landlord until you have filed the Tenant’s Assertion and then you have to pay rent into the Court’s escrow account. This is not a reason to not pay rent. If you just stop paying rent, the landlord will bring you to court for breach of the lease.
If you’re ready going through the Tenant’s Assertion process, contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our real estate attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get the most out of your case.