• Number of Charlotte renters don't know their rights

    By: Jason Stoogenke

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte's shortage of affordable housing is an issue the Channel 9 team has been investigating all year.

    We've found a number of people in Charlotte are considered under-housed, meaning they have housing, but it's sub-standard.


     

    Watch the video above as Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke found out there are a lot of renters who don’t know their rights.


    "I expect to be able to live in a safe environment for me and my son,” said Konisha Latta, who rents at the McAden Park Apartments in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood.  "My ceiling and roof have been leaking since July of this year."

    Landlords have to make sure your home is habitable. 

    If it's an emergency, such as dangerous wiring, no heat in winter, dirty water, toilets that don't work, the ceiling's caving in or an infestation of pests, the landlord has to address the problem within a "reasonable" period of time. 

    [LINK: Chapter 42 landlord and tenant agreement]

    The law doesn't spell out how long reasonable is. 

    However, if it seems unreasonable, tell Action 9, the Better Business Bureau, the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association or if you think there's a code violation, code enforcement.

    In the meantime, keep paying your rent so you preserve your legal rights, but demand a refund.

    If you qualify for free legal help, contact the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

    The North Carolina Attorney General gives the following advice:

    RENTING A HOME

    If you decide to rent a house or apartment, keep in mind that both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities under the law. By law, your landlord is required to keep your unit in good and safe working order and to follow relevant state and local codes.

    • To understand how to deal with landlord-tenant disputes, consider these tips:
    • When you discover that something needs to be fixed, ask to have it repaired. Let your landlord know about the problem immediately over the telephone or in person, but follow up with a written request and keep a copy of it for yourself.
    • If your landlord doesn’t respond in a reasonable amount of time, you may decide to pay to repair an emergency problem yourself. Be sure to keep copies of all receipts so that you can seek reimbursement from the landlord.
    • Don’t withhold rent to convince your landlord to make repairs. Instead, try to work out a cut in your rent. For example, the landlord may allow you to pay to fix a broken refrigerator and then subtract the cost from your next month's rent. The landlord may also agree to reduce your rent for a month during which you could not use one room because of a leaky roof.
    • If the landlord fails to fix something that puts your safety at risk or violates local codes, report it to local authorities. Local building, health, fire and safety inspectors can take action to ensure compliance with the codes.
    • If you and your landlord aren’t able to settle your disputes, you may want to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. While we cannot represent you in private legal matters and you may ultimately need to take your landlord to court to enforce the law, we may be able to assist you with your questions and help you to determine what your next steps might be.   
    • You can also file an action in small claims court. You can do the repair yourself and then sue to be reimbursed for the costs or sue to withhold future rent (“rent recoupment”) until you’ve recovered the costs. You can also sue before the problem is fixed and ask that the court allow you to withhold future rent to cover the costs (“rent abatement”). In either case, you may be able to recover damages for the cost of the repairs, the inconvenience and any damage to your personal property.
    • Even if you win in small claims court, the landlord will not be required to pay your attorney’s fees. For this reason, you might consider pleading your case in small claims court without a lawyer.
    • To make your case in small claims court, you’ll need to provide proof of the following: that you have a written or oral lease; that the landlord was required by law to fix the problem; that you gave written notice of the problem, if required; that the landlord failed to fix it within a reasonable time; that you paid to fix the problem or have an estimated cost to fix the problem; and that the problem reduced the rental value of the property.

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