Changes to the Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act helps to empower tenants to ensure they can have a safe and habitable home. Under the old law, tenants could only deduct up to $100 from their rent for repairs. Since few repairs cost as little as $100, tenants were forced to choose between poor living conditions or trying to find a new place to live. But now, if a landlord fails or refuses to make essential repairs, tenants can hire a professional and deduct the costs from their rent. This change marks a significant step forward in safeguarding tenant rights and fostering better landlord-tenant relationships.
Tenants' Right to Repairs
For far too long, tenants in Oklahoma have faced challenges in getting their landlords to address necessary repairs in their rental properties. From leaky roofs to broken heating systems, these issues can significantly impact the well-being of tenants and the overall quality of life. However, the new law applies only to conditions that put the tenant's health at risk. The covered repairs include electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation, air- conditioning, and other facilities and appliances the landlord must supply. Also, the repairs must be necessary to protect the tenant's health. For example, there is no risk to a tenant's health by not having air-conditioning in the middle of winter. But not having air-conditioning during July in Oklahoma could be a significant health risk. The purpose of the law is to protect tenants from unsafe or uninhabitable living conditions--not minor inconveniences.
How it Works
To exercise this right, tenants must first notify their landlord in writing about problem. The written notice must say that the tenant intends to have the repairs made at the landlord's expense if the conditions are not fixed within 14 days (or less in an emergency) If the landlord fails to take action, the tenant may proceed with the repairs. Tenants must hire a licensed professional to do the repairs. Afterward, the tenant must give the landlord an itemized statement with the repair costs. An example letter to a landlord is below.
Deducting from Rent
Once the repairs are completed, the tenant can deduct up to the amount of one month's rent. For example, if rent is $1,200 per month, the tenant can pay for repairs from their own pockets and reduce their next month's rent payment by the actual costs of the repairs up to $1,200. If the repairs cost $700, the tenant can only deduct $700 from their rent. The tenant will owe $500 for the next month's rent payment. This increased cap is a positive step towards protecting tenants from unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.
Send your letter by certified mail. When you do so, you will get a tracking code that you can look up on the United States Postal Service website https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_inputto find out when your landlord receives your letter.
Send your letter to the address provided in your lease agreement. The lease should state where the landlord wants notices to go.
If your landlord is a business and your lease does not give an address where notices should be sent, you should mail it to your landlord’s registered agent. You can find the registered agent’s address using the Oklahoma Secretary of State business entity search.
You should describe the maintenance problem in detail so your landlord can best address it.
Be polite. Your landlord is more likely to cooperate.
When to Hire an Attorney
While the new law empowers tenants to get necessary repairs, it may cause disputes between landlord and tenants. Some landlords might disagree about their responsibility to make repairs, deny the repairs are necessary or a health risk, or argue that repair costs are excessive. Those landlords might treat the rent deduction as non-payment and charge late fees or even try to evict the tenant. If this happens, the tenant should contact an attorney right away to talk about their options.
Martuch Law has attorneys experienced in dealing with landlord-tenant repair issues. Our firm offers services ranging from sending demand letters, negotiating and mediating, and representing tenants in court. We are one of the few law firms in Tulsa that offers unbundled legal services. Our clients get the benefits of having a knowledgeable attorney and only pay for what they need. Contact us to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help!