12 On Your Side: Rental Repairs

By Diane Walker - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Who's to blame when a tenant moves into a house knowing it needs repairs, but then broken items don't get fixed? What 12 on Your Side found out could help you.

In this case the landlord, Ashland Councilwoman Terri Abri, says she rented the house "as is". The tenant says she was promised, all problems would be fixed.

"She shook hands on that, that she'll take care of any problems that I had," said tenant Dale Moser.

Two months into their year lease, Dale Moser, and husband, Larry reported their landlord, to Richmond Building Inspectors.

"The water heater ain't no good. So, I have to come down here, start the water heater up myself," said Larry Moser.

The city issued numerous violations. Serious enough to make the house unsafe, including a dangerously defective electrical system.

"This is his feeding pump, this is his suction machine, his breathing machine," Dale said.

All machines, Dale's grandson needs. Plug them up in his bedroom and the whole house loses power, that's why his bed is in the dining room.

"Whenever I call her, she's telling me she doesn't have any money," said Dale.

Property owner, Ashland Councilwoman Terri Abri, said the tenants accepted the house as is. Legally, there's no such thing.

"In Virginia you might be able to sell a house, as is, but you can not rent a house as is," said Martin Wegbreit of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. "The landlord has a duty to keep the house fit, habitable, and up to code, period, paragraph, end of story."

Contrary to popular belief, tenants can not repair and deduct from the rent.

To force the landlord to make repairs, tenants must pay the rent and stay current, give written notice to the landlord or notify building inspectors, like Dale did, and give the landlord reasonable time to correct problems says Central Virginia Legal Aid.

"Once they fall behind on the rent, they have no legally enforceable rights," said Wegbreit.

Virginia does not allow rent with holding. Virginia simply does not allow repair and deduct. If repairs still aren't made, set up a rent escrow account through general district court. A judge will decide who gets the rent payments.

Ashland Councilwoman Abri, declined to speak with us on camera, but she did go to the house, with an electrician. She's now working to comply with Richmond building codes.

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