Whenever a problem arises with a residence, the first step should always be to notify the landlord and give them an opportunity to address the problem themselves. Unfortunately, landlords may not always keep maintenance as a top priority.
Depending upon the immediacy of the problem, there may be several options available. If the leaking pipe presents a problem with habitability, the tenant has the option of giving the landlord a “three-day notice” letter demanding that the landlord fix the problem within the next five days. If this option is utilized, it is a good practice to mail the letter through certified mail so that there is proof that the landlord actually received the letter. Another option is to have the landlord sign a copy of the letter if it is hand-delivered, that way the landlord cannot later claim he never received it. The effect of the Three-Day Notice is that it gives the landlord five days to fix the problem. If the problem is not fixed within the three-day time frame, the tenant then has the legal right to terminate the lease and move out of the residence without paying any fees for breaking the lease.
If the leaking pipe does not present a problem with habitability, but does present a problem with a part of the residence the landlord is responsible for maintaining in the lease, the tenant then can follow the same notice option outlined above, but instead of only three days, the landlord has ten days to fix the problem. If, ten days after receiving the Ten Day Notice, the landlord has not yet fixed the problem, the tenant again has the option to terminate the lease and move out of the residence without any additional fees and costs.
The final option remaining is for the tenant to pay for the repairs himself and then to deduct the cost of repairs from the next months rent. Under this option, the tenant must still provide notice to the landlord of the problem and then give the landlord the required either three or ten-day timeframe in which the landlord can attempt to fix the problem himself. If the tenant chooses this option, the cost of repairs must be reasonable. Because of the subjective nature of the term “reasonable,” this option can often cause disputes between the landlord and the tenant as to how much is actually reasonable for the repairs. Therefore, if the tenant utilizes this option, it is a good practice to consult with the landlord first and see if the landlord will agree in writing to a specific cost of repair prior to paying for the repairs out of pocket.
See the Utah Fit Premises Act to learn more.