Documenting the Problem

Produced by Susan Hegel
Reviewed May 2017

1. Notify Your Landlord

If something needs to be repaired after you move in, tell your landlord about the problem. If there is an emergency—for example, a burst water pipe—contact your landlord immediately.

Once a landlord has knowledge of conditions that violate the law, the law requires her to make repairs. Most tenants, and many landlords, do not know what the law requires. The law requires that your housing meet minimum conditions under the state Sanitary Code. The Housing Code Checklist (Booklet 2) summarizes the state Sanitary Code. Use it to evaluate the condition of your home.

In most cases, landlords make repairs after tenants notify them about problems. If your landlord refuses to make repairs see Options If Your Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs.

When you contact your landlord about making repairs, ask the landlord to let you know when a repair person will be coming to fix the problem. This is a good idea because one of the most common excuses landlords use when they don't make repairs is that a repair person could not get into a tenant's apartment. Make sure you know when the repair person is coming so that your landlord cannot use this excuse.

2. Put It in Writing

If you have notified your landlord about a problem and she refuses to make repairs within a reasonable time, you should send your landlord a written letter asking her again to make the repairs. Before you give her this letter, make a copy for yourself. It may not seem important now, but later, if you ever have to prove that your landlord had knowledge about the conditions in your apartment, you will be glad that you kept a copy. For a sample see Repair Letter (Form 9).

If your landlord does not respond to this letter, you should send an identical copy of the letter by certified mail. Request a return receipt so that you can prove that you sent your landlord notice and it was delivered.

If you have repeatedly notified the landlord about bad conditions, you can also send her a second, more formal demand letter which puts her on notice that if she does not respond, you may take further legal action. For a sample see Repair Demand Letter (Form 10).

3. Take Photographs or Videos

You should also take photographs or videos (with a cell phone or camera) of the bad conditions. Make sure the date and time of the photograph is indicated.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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