T.R. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have rented a unit in a Co-op for 10 years and all the windows leak causing major damage over the years. In addition, the bathroom has had a leak since before I rented and still exists. Due to the leaks, I have never been able to paint or decorate, there is water stains, mold and rot and any attempts at repairs were just cutting out damage and replace with new wallboard. Hence every room looks like in state of repair with all the damaged areas gooped in spackle. Last band aid fix was done in 2009 after air conditioner caught fire because of all the water pouring into socket and wall from major window leak. Nobody ever came back to sand spackle and paint because leak wasn’t fixed. Landlord has hidden behind argument that exterior problems and internal plumbing are the board’s responsibility to fix. At the end of the day, I am a tenant not an owner. At some point isn’t my landlord responsible to make necessary repairs for me? Even if its the board’s responsibility? I would think he has to fix them and then sue the board for reimbursement. Why should I go without? What about mold and health issues? In addition, I repeatedly asked landlord to check electrical wiring for reverse polarity and other issues. All my electronics got fried despite surge protectors and sometimes half the place would have no power despite no blown fuses. I’ve been out a lot of money replacing TVs, computers, phones, etc. I finally had health department come and they found almost 30 violations, some criminal. Do I have any recourse?
Mister Condo replies:
T.R., while I realize that packing up and moving is never as simple as it sounds, I have to ask why you would continue to spend your hard-earned rent money on a unit that is in such obvious need of repair? Surely, there are other places where you could live that would not have all of these problems. I am not an attorney and you may be well advised to seek legal advice if you plan on continuing to lease this unit. Since it sounds like you are determined to stay put you will likely have to apply pressure to your landlord who in turn will likely have to apply pressure to the Board of the Co-op to get these issues addressed. I know of many successful co-ops in our state that would never allow for such problems to exist for so long as these problems are very likely going on in multiple units and causing a serious devaluation of the individual units within the co-op. As for the specifics of the repairs and who can do what is largely an issue for your landlord and the co-op to haggle over. It isn’t so much a question of who is going to pay as it is a question of who has jurisdiction and responsibility. As a general rule, from the walls in are the unit owner’s responsibility. Everything else may fall on the co-op to repair. As a renter, your relationship is strictly with the landlord. You should review your lease and speak with an attorney to see what remedies are available to you. Also, you should protect yourself and your belongings with renter’s insurance. That might help you mitigate any future losses of personal property caused by damage that you cannot control or predict. All the best!