Under North Carolina law, there are certain things that the Landlord legally must be responsible for. For example, the Landlord must:
"Maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied by him provided that notification of needed repairs is made to the landlord in writing by the tenant except in emergency situations."
This essentially means that the Landlord has to make sure that all of the electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning is working. This is what is known as a non-delegable duty. A non-delegable duty is one that the Landlord is responsible for no matter what, even if the Landlord adds a section to the lease saying otherwise.
So, what are you to do when something that the Landlord is responsible for breaks, but the Landlord, despite your complaints, refuses to fix it? One of the most common things people think they can do is pay to have the problem fixed themselves and then simply withhold that amount from their next rent payments. That is not allowed.
North Carolina law specifically states that “[t]he tenant may not unilaterally withhold rent prior to a judicial determination of a right to do so.” What this means is that, unless you have a written agreement with your landlord or an order from the Court stating that you may withhold a certain dollar amount from your rent, you should not do so. Not paying the full rent, as described in your lease, is grounds for you to be evicted.
If you are having issues with your landlord, whether it be with them not repairing things that need to be repaired, or something else, it is very important that you document all of your communications with the landlord, in writing. While phone calls are generally easier, if you have a problem in the future, relying on a phone call will quickly turn into a “he said she said” argument.
It is also important that as a tenant you keep paying your rent. If you stop paying your rent, or start discounting your rent, your landlord may well decide to evict you. In order to stop paying rent, or to pay a discounted amount of rent, you need an agreement, in writing, from your landlord, or a court order.
If you are having difficulty obtaining the agreement or court order, the attorneys at Jesson & Rains, LLP may be able to help.