Here are some tips for getting your landlord to make repairs, short of hauling out the big guns like rent withholding or repair-and-deduct.
Put Your Repair Request in Writing
Be as specific as possible regarding the problem, its effect on you, what you want done, and when. This will get your landlord’s attention better than a casual chat on the stairs. It will also be important proof that you gave your landlord “notice” of the problem, a step you must take in case you have to resort to a self-help remedy such as repair-and-deduct. Of course, if it’s an emergency, call first and then follow up in writing.
Use the Sample Request for Repairs Letter below as a model in writing yours.
Put the Landlord’s Promises in Writing, Too
If the landlord agrees on a requested repair, follow up with a letter confirming that promise. (This is called a letter of understanding.) If the landlord doesn’t write back, he has legally committed himself to your version of his promise. This may come in handy if he later reneges on the plan and you need to take self-help steps.
Emphasize the Dire Consequences
If the repair problem poses a safety threat, it won’t hurt to point that out to the landlord in your written request for repairs. For example, a broken lock will make it easy for a burglar to enter, and a loose carpet edge is an accident waiting to happen. Even lazy landlords will take care of business when they sense that a lawsuit may be on the horizon. The Sample Request for Repairs Letter, above, shows how a tenant might phrase such a request.
If it's a small problem now, but likely to get bigger, point this out. (The landlord reads: less expensive to deal with it now.)
Involve Other Tenants
If you’re not the only one living with a major problem—such as poor building-wide security or lack of heat—gather forces and present your request as a group. The specter of multiple tenants complaining to the building inspector or withholding rent often gets results.