The tenant is ordinarily responsible for routine maintenance and upkeep of the premises. But if a tenant experiences conditions on the premises that are interfering with their quiet enjoyment of the premises, such as no heat in the winter or an infestation of vermin, they should provide written notice to the landlord of what the problem is and what they want to be done about it. If the landlord fails to remedy the problem within a reasonable amount of time following the written notice, the tenant can take the landlord to court. In order to do this, the tenant must file their rent in escrow with the General District Court within five days of when it is due and file a Tenant’s Assertion against the landlord. The tenant should never withhold the rent, as this is the surest way to get evicted. As long as the rent is being held by the court, the tenant will be protected from any claim for nonpayment.
At the court hearing, the tenant will have to prove the condition of the premises and show that the landlord has failed to take reasonable actions to fix it after written notice. The court can then decide to continue the case to allow the landlord time to fix it, while the tenant continues to pay rent to the court, the judge can return all or part of the money to the tenant, or the judge can terminate the lease and allow the tenant to move out if that is what they want to do.
In order to file a Tenant’s Assertion, the following requirements must be met:
- Written notice of the request for repair must be provided to the landlord.
- The landlord must have failed to take adequate action within a reasonable amount of time.
- Rent must be paid the court within 5 days of when it is due.
- The tenant must not have received more than three 5-day Pay or Quit notices within the past year for being late with the rent.