Your tenant rights when it comes to fixing burst pipes

Your tenant rights when it comes to fixing burst pipes

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The cold snap is bursting pipes all over Central Virginia, catching many of you off guard.

NBC12 viewers are flooding us with emails and calls - especially renters who can't seem to get the problems fixed. The law is pretty clear here: landlords have to provide not only water, but hot water! But a simple phone call to complain about a burst or frozen pipe may not cut it.

Water dripping from the ceiling and cabinets inside of Lotoya Jones' rental home - all her problems stem from a busted water pipe.

"All a sudden, I just heard something. .'shhhhhhh!'" said Jones.

Hear that sound, and you know you've got a major issue.

Viewers have called and messaged NBC12 with complains.

One person said she has had "no water in her apartment since before Christmas because of a pipe problem."

Another wrote she "had no water for over a week. Every morning I look to see if someone is working on the pipes but nope - no one yet."

"[Landlords are] legally supposed to provide fit and habitable housing and following building and housing codes," said Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society in Richmond.

"If something needs fixing, give notice by every means possible: phone call, letter, fax if you have a fax number and email if you have an email address," said Wegbreit.

He says a certified letter is your best bet.

"Sign it, date it, keep a copy and just say three things: what's the problem, what you want done about it, by what date," said Wegbreit.

The certified letter helps to prove you notified the landlord in case you end up in court. By law, you also have to give your landlord a reasonable time to fix the problem but the law does not specify a specific period of time. The Number of day is a flexible case-by-case measure. For ordinary repairs and maintenance, 21-30 days is usually considered reasonable. For more serious conditions, the notice period can be as short as 3-5 days, depending on what is considered reasonable.

The worst thing you can do is withhold your rent. If you do this, you will have no legal standing in a courtroom in Virginia. A judge will always side with the landlord in that case. Keep your rent payment current while you work to get the problems fixed.

Here are more suggestions from the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society: https://www.valegalaid.org/resource/getting-repairs

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