Habitability And Essential Services
Find out what you can do if your landlord has failed to maintain your rental property in a livable condition or failed to provide certain essential services (electricity and water, for example).
Your landlord must maintain your rental property in a habitable condition. "Habitable condition" generally means that the rental property is livable so that an average person could reside there in reasonable comfort.
Your landlord must also provide certain "essential items or services," unless your lease says differently. "Essential items or services" generally means that your rental property has heat, air-conditioning, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, a functioning door lock, and other essential items or services.
If you are having a problem with habitability or an essential item or service, you can follow the five steps below to give your landlord written notice of the problem and an opportunity to fix it. If your landlord fails to fix the problem, Nevada law gives you certain "remedies" (ways to enforce your rights).
Step 1: Is your problem "essential" or "nonessential"?
Step 2: Mail your landlord a written notice
Step 3: Wait to see whether your landlord repairs
Step 4: Enforce your rights if landlord fails to repair
Step 5: Watch to see what your landlord does
Is Your Problem "Essential" Or "Nonessential"
It is important to decide whether your problem is "essential" or "nonessential" because each has different timeframes and remedies.
You have an "essential" items or services problem if it involves such things as heat, air-conditioning, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, a functioning door lock, or another essential item or service, without which your rental property is not livable. (NRS 118A.380(1).)
TIP! If your landlord has intentionally turned off some essential service, perhaps as a way to force you out of the property, there is a different procedure you can use. Click to read about Illegal Lockouts and Service Terminations.
You have a "nonessential" habitability problem if it involves something that is not an "essential item or service" but still affects whether the rental property is habitable. A rental property is not habitable if it violates housing or health codes concerning health, safety, sanitation, or fitness, or if the property substantially lacks:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection of the roof and exterior walls, including windows and doors.
- Plumbing facilities that conformed to applicable law when installed and that are maintained in good working order.
- A water supply that can produce hot and cold running water, furnished with the appropriate fixtures and connected to an approved sewage disposal system and maintained in good working order.
- Adequate heating facilities.
- Electrical lighting, outlets, wiring, and electrical equipment.
- Adequate removal of garbage and an adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage in clean condition and good repair.
- Building, grounds, and all other areas under the landlord’s control that are clean, sanitary, and reasonably free from accumulation of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, insects, and vermin.
- Floors, walls, ceilings, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.
- Ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, maintained in good repair if supplied by the landlord.
FYI! You may have agreed in your lease to perform certain repairs, maintenance tasks, and minor remodeling. That's acceptable so long as the agreement was made in good faith and doesn't diminish the landlord's obligation to other tenants. (NRS 118A.290(2).) So read your lease carefully. You can't, for example, complain that there's trash on the property if you validly agreed to remove all trash and keep the property neat and clean.
Mail Your Landlord A Written Notice
If you have a problem with your rental property, you must give written notice of the problem to your landlord or manager. (NRS 118A.355(1), 118A.260.) Simply telling your landlord about the problem or submitting a work order is not enough. The written notice from you is your proof that you told your landlord about the problem and asked that it be repaired. If you do not give written notice, you might not be able to assert your rights under Nevada law.
Make sure you keep a copy of the written notice you send. Also make sure you mail the notice to your landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof of mailing.
The only time you may not have to give written notice is when the landlord has been cited for the problem by a code enforcement agency. (NRS 118A.355(4).) For information about code enforcement agencies in your area, click to visit Housing Resources.
If you decided in Step 1 that you have an "essential" items or services problem, you can download a sample letter to your landlord by clicking the link below:
SAMPLE LETTER FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES
CAUTION! If you want to withhold rent in the event your landlord fails to fix the essential items or services problem, you have to be current on your rent when you send your written notice. (NRS 118A.380(4).)
CAUTION! You can only repair the problem yourself if it will not cost more than one month's rent. And you can only repair and deduct up to the amount of one month's rent every twelve months. (NRS 118A.360.) You must also provide your landlord with an itemized statement of the repair. Your lease may specify a person or company who must perform the work needed to fix the problem. Check your lease before you call anyone to make repairs.
CAUTION! If you withhold your rent, you must deposit all the rent due with the court. (NRS 118A.355(5).) Should you receive an eviction notice for nonpayment, you will need to file an answer/affidavit with the court and give all your rent to the court clerk. If you don't deposit your rent with the court, you don't have a defense to a nonpayment eviction! (NRS 118A.355(5).)
Wait To See Whether Your Landlord Repairs
If you decided in Step 1 that you have an "essential" items or services problem, you must give your landlord forty-eight hours (not counting weekends and holidays) to fix the problem or to use his or her best efforts to fix the problem. (NRS 118A.380(1).)
If you decided in Step 1 that you have a "nonessential" habitability problem, you must give your landlord fourteen days (including weekends) to fix the problem or use his or her best efforts to fix the problem. (NRS 118A.355(1).)
Enforce Your Rights If Landlord Fails To Repair
If your landlord fails to fix the problem (or use his or her best efforts to fix the problem) within the time periods discussed in Step 3 above, you can enforce your rights under Nevada law by taking the following actions:
If you decided in Step 1 that you have an "essential" items or services problem, you can:
- Obtain your own essential services and deduct the actual cost from the rent;
- Obtain other housing (with rent stopping at the rental property that lacks essential services) until the problem is fixed;
- Sue the landlord for money if the problem is not fixed; or
- Withhold your rent until the landlord has attempted in good faith to restore the essential services, without incurring late fees or other charges. (For "essential" items or services problems, a tenant is not required to deposit the rent with the court as is required for "nonessential" habitability issues.)
CAUTION! Remember that you don't have the right to withhold rent unless you were current on your rent when you gave your landlord written notice of the essential items or services problem. (NRS 118A.380(4).) Remember too that you can't take any of the actions listed above if the problem was caused deliberately or negligently by you, a member of your household, or someone on the premises with your consent. (NRS 118A.380(5).)
If you decided in Step 1 that you have a "nonessential" habitability problem, you can:
- Terminate your lease and move out (NRS 118A.355(1)(a));
- Sue your landlord for money, for a court order requiring the repairs, or for other relief (NRS 118A.355(1)(b)-(c));
- Pay for repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent (but only up to a maximum amount equal to one month's rent within a twelve-month period, and only after providing the landlord with an itemized statement) (NRS 118A.360); or
- Withhold rent (and pay it into the court's escrow account) (NRS 118A.355(1)(d)).
CAUTION! You can't take any of the actions listed above if the habitability problem was caused deliberately or negligently by you, a member of your household, or someone on the premises with your consent. You also can't take those actions if the landlord was unable to fix the problem because you refused to allow access to the rental property. (NRS 118A.380(5).)
Watch To See What Your Landlord Does
In response to you taking one or more of the actions listed in Step 4 above, your landlord will probably either (1) fix the problem or (2) give you an eviction notice if the landlord disagrees with your right to withhold rent, obtain services elsewhere, and the like.
If your landlord tries to evict you, your landlord will serve you with some type of eviction notice. (Click to read Types of Eviction Notices.) You must file an answer/affidavit with the court in response to any eviction notice you receive so that you can assert your habitability or essential-items-or-services defense. In other words, you need to tell the judge in your affidavit/answer that you are validly exercising your rights under Nevada law because your landlord failed to supply some essential item or service or failed to maintain your rental property in a habitable condition after you gave the required written notice. (Click to read Responding to an Eviction Notice.)
If you have complained about a habitability problem, a violation of Nevada's landlord-tenant laws, or some other housing or health code violation, your landlord cannot:
- Raise your rent,
- Decrease essential services,
- Refuse to renew your lease, or
- Evict you.
(NRS 118A.510(1).) This is known as "retaliation," and it is a defense you can raise in an eviction case when you file your answer/affidavit with the court. (NRS 118A.510(2).) It could also be grounds for you to sue your landlord in small claims court for money damage you suffer and statutory damages up to $2,500. (NRS 118A.510(2); 118A.390.)
FYI! Keep in mind that your landlord's actions may not qualify as retaliation if you or someone in your household caused the habitability problem, if your tenancy was terminated for cause, if the repairs necessary to bring your unit in compliance with health or building codes can only be made if your unit is vacant, or if the increase in rent applies to all tenants. (NRS 188A.510(3).)