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Landlord must make repairsWe’ve all been there: the perfect day ruined by a burst pipe, broken door hinge, or other damages to your apartment. Most likely, the first thing you do when your apartment or house needs repairs is call your landlord, and discuss when and how repairs can be made. But following that phone call, one of two things can happen. Either your landlord can be responsive, and fix your apartment or contract a maintenance worker ASAP. Or, as is often the case, your landlord may ignore your requests, leaving damages unrepaired and your day ruined.

If your landlord wont make repairs please get in contact today

If your landlord doesn’t assist you in repairing your apartment, what options do you have? How can you pressure your landlord to maintain your renter’s contract by maintaining your living space, and if they aren’t cooperative, what can you really do? Here are are five options for what you can do if your landlord refuses to make repairs.

1. Withhold Rent

One of the most effective tools you have as a renter in Massachusetts is your ability to withhold rent from your landlord, though there are some factors you should take into serious consideration if you decide to go this route. By withholding rent, you have a powerful bargaining chip in negotiating with your landlord, as they will be sure to take you seriously if their finances are on the line.


However, you have to consider how your landlord will react. Does your landlord have a temper, and are they likely to get aggressive if you withhold rent payments? Are they prone to taking you to court, or otherwise attacking you for your withholding? If so, you may want to threaten to withhold rent without actually doing so, or keep this option as a last resort.


If you decide that withholding rent is the best course of action to get your apartment repaired, there are a few things you have to keep in mind. Are there defective conditions in your apartment? Do these conditions endanger or impair anyone living in the house? Does the landlord know about the defective conditions? Were the conditions caused by someone other than you? Can your landlord make repairs without you having to move out? If you answer yes to all of these above questions, then you have the right to withhold rent from your landlord.


In order to withhold rent, you must write your landlord informing him what conditions exists, that these conditions have not been repaired, and you will be withholding rent until the conditions are fixed.

2. Make Repairs Yourself, and Deduct Costs from your Rent

If you are willing and able to do so, there are situations in which you can make repairs on your apartment or house yourself, and deduct the costs of your repairs from your rent. By taking responsibility of doing repairs yourself, you can be sure they will get done quickly, but you also make yourself liable if they aren’t done right.


If you have violations that impair or endanger your health or safety, and you have given your landlord 14 days written notice to make the repairs themself and given them access to your home to do so, then you may have the right to make repairs yourself. Just as long as you didn’t cause the damages directly yourself.


If all of those conditions are met, and you feel able to do so, feel free to make repairs on your own. Once you have done so, you may deduct the costs of the repairs up to a total of four months rent worth of deductions. However, be warned that your landlord has the right to take you to court if they think you have deduced too much for your repairs. So, if you decide to go this route, make sure that you rigorously document all of your costs and be willing to defend them.


As in the option to withhold rent, you must inform your landlord that you will be deducting the cost of repairs from rent. This must be done in writing so that your landlord cannot latter say he was not informed.

3. Organize your Fellow Renters

One of the most frustrating things about trying to get your landlord to make repairs is that you can feel powerless, and like your landlord has no reasons to listen to you since they have all of the leverage. But chances are, if your apartment or house needs repairs, other tenants that rent from the same landlord may have had issues with repairs in the past. So, in order to amplify your voice and have more leverage in discussions with your landlord, you can try to organize your fellow renters.


Start by informally discussing with your neighbors any qualms you have with your landlord’s slow response to your repair requests, and see if others have had similar issues. If they have discuss the possibilities of drafting a formal letter to your landlord, and gathering signatures from all of the affected tenants who have had issues. If your landlord still refuses to make repairs or acknowledge your efforts, organizing tenants now will help you later if you decide to take your landlord to court.


Once you have organized, you have a lot more options at your disposal, and can even request that a judge appoint a temporary landlord until you have made progress in convincing your current one to be more responsive. No matter what route you decide to take, organizing your community is a good place to start, as it will make it clear to your landlord and anyone else that needs to get involved that it isn’t a personal problem, but rather an more wide spread issue.

4. Take your Conflict to Court

If your landlord refuses to make repairs after other efforts, you can take them to court for their negligence. While it depends on the discretion of the court, the judge that presides over your case can order your landlord to make repairs immediately, order your landlord to pay you damages for harm suffered, appoint a specialized professional called a receiver to manage and fix up your property, and ultimately even fine or jail your landlord for their violations.


Once you decide that taking your landlord to court is the best option for you, you have one of four types of complaints you can file.


  1. A tenant petition is a fairly safe way to see your needs met, and consists of simply asking the judge to direct your landlord to make repairs.
  2. An emergency injunction a more serious filing, and can result in a judge ordering your landlord to do something immediately, or even can lead to a temporary restraining order against your landlord if the judge thinks it is necessary.
  3. A criminal complaint holds your landlord more responsible for violating housing code and failing to complete repairs, but may take several weeks or more to make it through the courts.
  4. Finally, a civil lawsuit can be filed if your landlord refuses to make repairs, and can result in a judge ordering your landlord to award you more extensive damages.



  1. Break your Lease

Finally, if you have no other options, you can always choose to break your lease and find a new housing situation. if your landlord has not followed housing or sanitary code guidelines in keeping your housing repaired well, than you have the legal right to leave your housing and exit any existing leasing agreement. You can even get your full security deposit back, as long as you are on the right side of the law and your landlord has been negligent. Of course, your landlord may not think that you are leaving fairly, and may sue you for rent or damages, so consider this option as a last resort unless you are in an extremely dangerous or unhealthy situation.


The Bottom Line:

You have quite a few options to pursue if your landlord doesn’t make repairs to your apartment or house as they should. All of the above are valid routes to pursue, and can lead to improved living situations for you one way or another. But while taking one of these routes, you should be aware that things can go against you in court. So, in order to protect yourself, the best thing you can do is have a good lawyer in your corner as housing disputes come up.


Doubleday Law is an experienced Massachusetts law firm, that knows the ins and outs of housing law that will pertain to your case and situation. With a good firm like Doubleday Law on your side, you can take your landlord to court more confidently, and make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row when you file a complaint. You can consult in a good lawyer’s expertise to determine if you have a case in the first place, and make sure that no matter what, you don’t come out of any conflict worse off than when you started. So, if your landlord isn’t repairing your apartment as they should, please get in touch today.


Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Author Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday practices law in Cambridge and Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts. He works in the areas of Real Estate, Personal Injury, and Consumer Protection Law. When not practicing law, Arthur enjoys sailing, hanging out with friends on the beach, and waking his dog "Ridiculous."

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