ADVICE FOR RENTERS REPAIRS In the Idaho Legislature passed a

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					ADVICE FOR RENTERS: REPAIRS
In 1977, the Idaho Legislature passed a law which gives tenants a method of forcing landlords to make repairs. This pamphlet describes the law and gives some hints on how to use the law. We recommend you go through the following steps if you have previously notified the landlord of the need for repairs and they have not been made: Step 1. Make a list of the items or defects you want repaired. This list is just for your own use. Be specific in describing the defect or repair that is needed. Step 2. Put a check mark beside those items on your list covered by the Idaho law. The Idaho law (called Idaho Code Section 6-320) gives tenants a right to sue a landlord for the following: “(1) Failure to provide reasonable water-proofing and weather protection of the premises; (2) Failure to maintain in good working order electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, cooling, or sanitary facilities supplied by the landlord; (3) Maintaining the premises in a manner hazardous to the health and safety of the tenant; (4) Failure to return a security deposit as and when required by law (see Security Deposit pamphlet); (5) Breach of any term or provision of the lease or rental agreement materially affecting the health and safety of the tenant, whether explicitly or implicitly a part thereof. (6) Failure to install approved smoke detectors in each dwelling unit, to include mobile homes, under the landlord’s control. Upon commencement of a rental agreement, the landlord shall verify that smoke detectors have been installed and are in good working order in the dwelling unit. The tenant shall maintain the smoke detectors in good working order during the tenant’s rental period.” See Idaho Code Section 6-320 for more information. For example, if your furnace or plumbing does not work, that would be a violation of number 2. If air blows through cracks in the window frame, that would be a violation of number 1. So, you would put a check mark beside those items on your list. The defect does not have to be the landlord's fault. If your plumbing started leaking, even though the landlord did not cause the leak, you can still force the landlord to repair it. Keep in mind that if the defects are not covered by numbers 1 and 2, then the defects must be hazardous to health and safety to allow you to sue. For example, if the landlord promised to paint your bedroom, but has not done it, that does not affect your health or safety, so you would not be able to use Idaho Code Section 6-320 to force him/ her to paint it.
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Also, defects which are your fault (or the fault of your family or guests) probably are not covered by this law. Let's say you accidentally locked yourself out of your apartment and got in by breaking the lock on the front door. Now your front door does not lock. Sure, that is hazardous to your safety, but suing your landlord to fix it may not be very wise, because your landlord could argue that s/he would not have to fix it if you had not broken it. In the lease/rental agreement you and your landlord may have agreed to have the tenant undertake certain repair obligations; thus, if you agreed to perform repairs, you may not sue your landlord for the repairs you agreed to do unless your landlord caused the damage. If you are in doubt about whether you caused the damage, leave the defect on your list and go to Step 3. Step 3. Write a letter to your landlord, listing all the defects from your list which have check marks beside them. The letter should say something like this: (Date) Dear Landlord: I demand that you repair the following defects in my apartment at 1003 Elm Street within three days after you receive this letter: a. bathroom sink leaks onto floor; b. the house is infested with cockroaches, which were here when I moved in; c. two of the burners on the stove do not work. If you do not repair these within three days, I will be allowed to sue you for damages or to force you to make repairs. If I must sue you, the judge is permitted to make you pay three times the damages I have proved, and you may have to pay my attorney's fees and court costs. Sincerely, Tina Tenant Your letter must contain the defects you marked with a check in your list, and you must demand that the landlord begin fixing the defects. Remember to sign it and address it to your landlord. The letter above is just a sample. Be sure you keep a copy of your letter! Step 4. Deliver the letter to your landlord. You can deliver the letter in either of two ways: ! You can deliver it personally to your landlord or to your landlord's agent, or if you cannot find him/her at their usual place of business, you can leave the letter with an employee of the landlord at the landlord's usual place of business. This is the quickest way of delivering the letter. If you choose this method, have a friend or relative go with you as a witness, so the witness could testify
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in court that the landlord received the letter. ! Or, you can send the letter "certified mail, return receipt requested" to your landlord. You will receive a postcard showing when the landlord received the letter. If you choose this method of delivering the letter, use the postcard in court to prove when the letter was received. But remember - it will take longer for your landlord to receive your letter by mail than if you and a witness deliver it personally. Step 5. Give your landlord time and opportunity to make the repairs. Your landlord has three days (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, or the day you received it) from the day s/he got your letter to make the repairs. Our experience indicates that once the landlord gets the letter, s/he will usually make the repairs. Of course, you should make sure s/he has some way of coming inside to make the repairs. You should cooperate fully with the landlord to let him/her make the repairs. The landlord might want to negotiate with you. Perhaps s/he cannot get the problems all fixed within three days, and wants a little extra time to finish. If you both agree on something other than what you demanded in your letter, then that new agreement will be binding on you both. It is a good idea to put any new agreement in writing and have your landlord sign it. You should keep the signed copy. Step 6. Sue the landlord. If the repairs are not made within three days after the landlord receives your letter, you have the right to sue. There are two ways to sue: ! In Magistrate Court. An attorney will probably have to represent you in this court. If you cannot afford an attorney, contact the Court Assistance Office for pro se forms to represent yourself. Magistrate Court can order the landlord to make repairs, and could schedule a trial within about two weeks if you are not trying to get damages. ! In Small Claims Court. You can sue for damages in this court and you cannot have an attorney. Often, when the landlord learns s/he is being sued in Small Claims Court, s/he will make the repairs. Be aware that suing your landlord can seriously undermine the landlord-tenant relationship. Also, the duty to pay rent is independent, and the tenant must continue to pay rent. However, in the following situation, if the landlord or the landlord’s assignee fails to install working smoke detectors, the tenant may send written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the landlord or the landlord’s assignee that if working smoke detectors are not installed within 72 hours of receipt of the letter, the tenant may install smoke detectors and deduct the cost from the tenant’s next months’ rent. The rest of this section tells you how to sue for damages in Small Claims Court. If you have access to the Internet, the Interactive Court Forms Project has forms available for filing claims in Small Claims Court. Their website is: www.courtselfhelp.idaho.gov.
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Step 7. File suit for damages in Small Claims Court. To begin a lawsuit in Small Claims Court, you must go to your local county court clerk's office and fill out two forms. You will have to give information such as your name and address and your landlord's name and address. Also, you will be asked to state the nature of your claim, the amount owed to you, and when the amount became due. We recommend you state something like the following: My landlord owes me damages of $____ for his failure to make repairs to my apartment at (address) despite my demand letter to him which he received (date) . Also, I request he pay my filing fees and that the damages be tripled pursuant to Idaho Code Section 6-317. These damages became due three days after he received my demand letter, pursuant to Idaho Code Section 6-320. Damages are claimed for the landlord's violation of Idaho Code Section 6-320, and for breach of warranty of habitability. The damages are calculated as follows: actual damages: $______ loss of value: $______ resulting damages: $______ (The "warranty of habitability" is a promise by a landlord to maintain a rental unit so that the tenant is not injured. Even if your lease does not include the "warranty of habitability" the court will treat it as a part of your lease if you have properly notified the landlord of the problems.) How do you calculate the damages? First, start by calculating how much it would cost to have the repairs made. You might ask a plumber or electrician to give you an estimate and you should attach copies of those estimates to your Small Claims Court forms. These are called "actual damages." Bring the original estimates to court. Next, you should estimate the "loss of value" - how much the value of your apartment has been reduced because of the lack of repairs. This requires some guesswork, but be prepared to explain your calculations to the judge. If your front door has had no lock for two months, and you feel that this defect is worth $25 per month, you should claim $50 for "loss of value" of your apartment. We recommend you list all of the loss of value from the time that the repair was first needed until the date you filed the suit. Finally, you should list "resulting damages" (also called "consequential damages"), which are other damages you suffered because of the defect. For example, if your landlord failed to repair a hole in the roof, and as a result some of your furniture was damaged, add that amount of damage. Or, if the landlord failed to fix the heater during the winter, and your children became ill, list their medical expenses and an amount of money for the pain they suffered. Step 8. Go to the Small Claims Court trial. You will be notified of the date, time, and place for the trial. You must be prepared to explain why you are suing, and how you calculated your damages. You should bring all written
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documents and letters with you; repairman's estimates, medical bills if you suffered injuries, and the copy of the demand letter you delivered to your landlord. Also, you will be given an opportunity to present witnesses who can explain what the defects were and how serious they were. It is very important to take witnesses with you or to take photographs of the defects. We recommend you bring witnesses and photographs. If the judge finds that the landlord violated the law maliciously or intentionally, the judge might award you three times the damages you actually prove.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW
If your landlord threatens to evict you because you have demanded that s/he make repairs, see an attorney at once. It is illegal for him/her to evict you solely for exercising your legal rights described in this pamphlet. However, there is no guarantee that you will not eventually be evicted if you demand repairs to be made. In Idaho there is no law allowing a tenant to make repairs themselves and then deduct the expenses from the next rent payment. If you did this, your landlord might try to evict you for not paying the full rent. It is safer to follow the steps discussed in this pamphlet. You might want to call your city or county building inspectors to have them inspect the defects in your apartment or house. If you have a sanitation or insect problem, call the health department. They can help encourage your landlord to make repairs and could be witnesses in court. Sometimes the inspectors will find defects that are so serious that they will condemn the house, and you would not be permitted to live there any longer. If you are afraid this may happen, call an attorney for advice before calling the inspectors. When a landlord or a tenant sues under the landlord/tenant laws in Idaho, the winner can generally get an award of attorney's fees for having to bring or defend the action unless you sue in Small Claims Court. The advice in this pamphlet is very general. There might be special factors in your case, or you might have questions after reading this pamphlet. We urge you to consult an attorney about repair problems, especially if you have suffered very large losses or somebody has been injured. If you cannot afford an attorney, contact the Idaho Legal Aid office nearest you.

Idaho Legal Aid Area Offices
310 N. 5th St., Boise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1104 Blaine St., Caldwell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 Sherman Ave., Suite 303, Coeur d'Alene 482 Constitution Way, Suite 101, Idaho Falls 633 Main, Lewiston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 S. Arthur, Pocatello . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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345-0106 454-2591 667-9559 524-3660 743-1556 233-0079

475 Polk St., Twin Falls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Idaho Senior Legal Hotline . . . . . . . Idaho Senior Legal Hotline (Spanish-speaking) . . . . . . . . . . Domestic Violence Legal Advice Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TTY (Deaf & Hard of Hearing) . . . . . Fair Housing Legal Advice Line . . . . Email fair housing questions only to: fairhousing@idaholegalaid.org

734-7024

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-866-345-0106 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-866-954-2591 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-877-500-2980 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-800-245-7573 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-866-345-0106

www.idaholegalaid.org Revised 9/08

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