Lease determines repair responsibility

By: Benny Kass//September 12, 2013//

Lease determines repair responsibility

By: Benny Kass//September 12, 2013//

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DEAR BENNY: We are renting a condo in Chicago for two years while we are trying to sell our home out of state. There have been many items, especially with the older appliances, that have had to be fixed. We have done some of them, others a repairman has had to repair, and some result in a “you just have to live with it” comment from the management company. This also includes repairs to plumbing.
But what I am writing about is the sliding glass door to the patio. For some reason, suddenly we are unable to see out of one side of the slider. The management company again states, “You just have to live with it.” I don’t remember any place in the lease that says they won’t do reasonable repairs and “we have to live with it.”
What should we do? We still have 8 months on our lease to live here.  – Ellyn


DEAR ELLYN: You have to carefully review your lease. From my experience, most residential leases are one-sided in favor of the landlord. In fact, I often joke that if there is anything in the lease that protects the tenant, it is because the landlord’s attorney forgot to take it out.

The typical lease requires the tenant to make minor repairs, and the landlord will be responsible only for major system failures – such as the dishwasher stops working and cannot be repaired.

So, I am not sure exactly what the problem is with the sliding door? It does not sound like a major health or safety issue that would be the obligation of the landlord.

However, since this really bothers you, you might want to consult with a local attorney.

DEAR BENNY: Real estate activity is high in my area. I found a house that I would like to buy, but the seller’s broker told me that I cannot have any contingencies in the contract. Should I make an offer anyway? – Glenda


DEAR GLENDA:  There are three contingencies that I consider very important. (1) Financing. Unless you have all the cash needed to buy the house, you cannot take a chance on a lender being unwilling to make you a loan; (2) Appraisal. Nowadays, appraisers are very conservative, and if the value is too low, you will have to pay the difference with cash out of your own pocket; (3) Home Inspection Why would you take a chance on an older house without having it fully inspected by a professional, independent home inspector?

I know that sellers in a hot market prefer a clean contract, with no contingencies.  But unless you are a gambler willing – and able – to take chances, I cannot recommend entering into a contract without these three contingencies. A contingency means that if certain things do not occur, and you are within the time period spelled out in the real estate contract, you have the absolute right to cancel the contract, and get your deposit refunded.

Otherwise, if you find out that you cannot get a loan, you can lose the earnest money deposit. Or if you buy the house and find thousands of dollars of needed repairs (as happened to one of my clients), you will have no one to blame but yourself.


DEAR BENNY: My wife and I own two timeshares, one in Florida and the other in Virginia. We are in our 80s and cannot use these timeshares any longer.  It is impossible to sell these, and we have been approached by many, many companies offering to take these, by our paying thousands of dollars up front, and also advertising these with money up front. I have read that most of these are scams. How can we get out of our timeshares, as the maintenance fee increases each year and our income decreases. – James


DEAR JAMES: I wish I could give you a good answer. Of all of the many email questions I receive from readers, timeshare concerns such as your top the list. In general, I am reluctant to recommend walking away from any legitimate loan obligation. Not only is it illegal and unethical, but is can ruin your credit.

But, at your age, if all else fails, just stop paying the maintenance charges. First, however, talk with a local lawyer and have her review the legal documents. I cannot provide legal advice in this column, and don’t want you to rely on my recommendation without first knowing the consequences of your actions.

And before you stop making the payments, have you talked with the property managers of the time shares? I have heard of a few situations where the timeshare project was willing to take back the shares, at little or no cost.

As always, if readers have had success in unloading their timeshares, please let me know.


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