Nikita Sweeney signed a six month lease for a west Jackson rental house. Sweeney has receipts from three of the months she's rented. The mom of two said her landlord didn't give her the other receipts. Sweeney said she's paid rent on-time every month until this month. She didn't want to pay up now because she said her landlord hasn't fixed issues, like a leaky tub faucet and decaying kitchen. Through our investigation we questioned whether or not it's legal not to pay rent.
Sweeney showed us around her home. "This wall I guess I don't know if it's burnt, rotted out or what it is, but I got holes up there, I got lizards and snails coming out here," Sweeney told WLBT.
Landlord Anthony Williams defends his property.
"She didn't pay her rent on time and I came down here and fixed everything that she said she wanted fixed," said Williams.
Jackson attorney Damon Stevenson offered us his landlord/tenant legal advice.
"It's always important to know the terms of the contract, that the parties enter into because that's what's going to govern," said Stevenson.
Here's the state law when it comes to getting rental repairs, involving issues like plumbing or heating complete. You can give the landlord notice in writing of specific issues you want fixed. If repairs aren't done within 30 days of written notice you can fix it yourself.
Make sure you save the bills. Your landlord must reimburse you or deduct the cost of repairs you pay for from future rent. Also, keep in mind, expenses for repairs can't exceed your rent. Plus, in order for this law to apply, your rent must be current and tenants must fulfill their legal duties.
Some of those duties include keeping the unit clean, getting rid of garbage and not deliberately or negligently destroying the property.
If you're renting, here are some important things to keep in mind. Always put things you request in writing and make copies. Also, if you're told items will be fixed after you move in get that in the lease. Don't enter into a lease if you can't comfortably move in when you sign the agreement. Plus, research the landlord before you move.
Landlords have legal obligations and rights too. They're required by law to maintain their property. Maintenance includes plumbing, heating and cooling systems. Also, landlords always have the right to receive timely rent.
"You just can't say that if you don't fix the heat I'm not paying you," Stevenson told WLBT.
A City of Jackson ordinance also requires landlords to have rental properties inspected before a tenant moves in. The inspections are only required for rental homes and buildings with four apartments or less. The city inspected 2,600 properties from February 2011 to October 2012. Sweeney's rental property was inspected in October, months after her move-in.
When the city inspects, "we look at the electrical, the plumbing, the overall component of the building," said the City of Jackson's Deputy Director of Code Services, Kenneth Taylor.
If you live in Jackson and want a rental property inspection, call the City of Jackson's Building Permit Department at 601-960-1159. For rental property complaints call 311.
Also, keep in mind that writing a check is typically the best way to pay your rent because you have a record of payment. However, even if you pay your rent with a money order or cash you should receive a receipt.
Nikita Sweeney is looking for a new place to live with her children. Please contact our newsroom at 601-960-4426 if you're able to help her.
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