Tenant has right to timely repairs
Question: My water heater is broken. I only get lukewarm water, and my utility bills are too high. I've asked my landlord several times to fix it. I've been without hot water for too long, and I need to get it fixed. What can I do? Can I make him fix it?
Answer: According to Mike Callahan, Legal Aid housing attorney, you first need to give your landlord a request -- orally or in writing -- to fix your malfunctioning water heater. If your landlord doesn't begin repairs within three days (or provide a date he will begin repairs if he can't begin within three days), you can perform the repairs yourself and deduct up to $500 from your rent. However, before you deduct the amount from your rent, you must provide your landlord with the receipts. This remedy, however, isn't available when you caused the damage yourself. There are different rules for different situations, so it's best to call Legal Aid's intake line for advice on your particular situation.
Q: I moved from one apartment to another more than a month ago, and I haven't heard anything from my former landlord about my security deposit. What can I do?
A: From Mike: Landlords are required to notify tenants within 14 days of vacating a rental whether they plan to keep the deposit (or part of it) and provide receipts for the deductions, or return the entire deposit (or the part they're not keeping).
If your landlord fails to contact you within 14 days, you can take him to small-claims court. Even if your landlord returns the deposit but you dispute any deductions taken, you can still take him to small-claims court. Neither you nor your landlord is allowed to bring lawyers to small-claims court when the dispute is over a security deposit.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.