Lesson 6 - What if a renter wants to hire a professional to fix the issue?
If a landlord does not respond on time the renter may want to take matters into their own hands. Renters can get the issue fixed by a professional without the landlord’s involvement and deduct the cost of fixing the issue from their normal rent. There is a specific timeline renters must follow to get the issue fixed without the landlord.
Be Careful! There are specific steps renters must follow before doing this and certain renters cannot use this option. If a renter lives in subsidized housing, they CANNOT use this option to get an issue fixed. Subsidized housing includes:
- Section 8 Vouchers (a.k.a. Housing Choice Voucher) or similar vouchers that help pay rent
- Public housing
- Low-Income Housing
- Units built with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)
- Units built with Affordable Housing Tax Credits
- Units built, bought, or rehabilitated through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program
- Units built, bought, or rehabilitated through other government programs
If a renter is not 100% sure that they live in subsidized housing, we strongly recommended you talk with a lawyer. If you have questions about how this applies to your situation or if you need additional help, please contact the Colorado Poverty Law Project.
Renters should make sure they have already told their landlord about the issue in writing. Review how to write a first letter in Lesson 3. Once a landlord receives this first letter from their renter about a breach in the Warranty of Habitability law, they are required to:
- 1.Respond to the renter within 24 hours
- Include a plan for resolving the issue
- An estimate of when the work will start
- An estimate of when the work will be finished
- 2.Start fixing the issue within 96 hours (or 24 hours if it’s an emergency issue)
- 3.Finish fixing the issue quickly and without unnecessary delay
If a landlord is not responding on time, renters need to send a second letter to their landlord, giving them one last opportunity to fix the issue themselves. Before a renter can get the issue fixed without the landlord, they must tell the landlord their plan by sending them a letter with an attached cost estimate by a professional. This second letter should include:
- The date that the renter will send the letter
- The date that the renter sent the first letter, telling their landlord about the issue
- Renter’s name
- Renter’s address and unit number
- Landlord or property manager’s name
- Landlord’s address
- Detailed description of the issue
- Say that the renter wants to subtract the cost of repair from their next rent payment
- Copy of an estimate for fixing the issue by a professional (the renter can not be related to the professional)
- Renter’s signature
- Date of signature
Landlords can require in the lease that renters communicate with them in a specific way. They may ask renters to use a website, online “portal”, email, or text message.
- 1.If a lease says renters must communicate in a specific way, you should use that method.
- 2.If the landlord does not specify in the lease, you should communicate the way you have in the past.
Once a landlord receives this second letter from their renter, they can allow the renter to hire a professional and deduct the cost from their rental payment. If the landlord does not want to allow the renter to get the issue fixed and deduct rent, the landlord is required to:
- Get their own estimate from a professional within 4 business days (the landlord cannot be related to the professional)
- Send a copy of the estimate to the renter
- Tell the renter that the landlord will hire their own professional to fix the issue
- Start fixing the issue as soon as possible
If the landlord does NOT get their own estimate or start fixing the issue, after 10 days the renter can:
- Get the issue fixed by their choice of professional (the renter cannot be related to the professional)
- Replace a broken appliance with an equivalent one instead of having it fixed
- Deduct the cost of fixing the issue from their rental payments until it is paid off