Her apartment is finally feeling like home. Lesa Chisolm proudly shows off her new locks, paint, and a new countertop.
“I won,” she said during the tour of her newly renovated North Charleston apartment.
When the I-Team first met Chisolm, she was in a fight with her landlord to get her apartment cleaned up.
The carpet in her living room had been replaced, but the old, dirty carpet was left in the hall and bedroom. The countertop was separating from the bathroom wall.
Frustrated after living with the problems for two months, Chisolm called the News 2 I-Team.
After our initial story aired, the complex fixed the issues.
Renter rights are protected by law
Viewers often write News 2 asking questions about their rights as tenants and how to get their landlord to fix problems in renal homes.
Under state law, landlords must provide running, hot water and heat. Electric, gas, plumbing, sanitation, and ventilation are also requirements in a rental unit. Air conditioning is only required if there is a system already in place when you move in. All appliances must be kept in working condition.
“Any utility provided by the landlord at the beginning of the lease has to be maintained. So if they provide a dishwasher, they have to keep the dishwasher working,” Michael Ward Harrington, Charleston Pro Bono staff attorney, explained.
Under the law, landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a "fit and habitable" condition, according to the law. Repairs must start within two weeks of the request. That request must be made through an old fashioned letter.
“Emails, text messages, phone calls, they don't cut it,” Harrington explained.
A judge can reduce your rent
If the landlord won’t make the repairs after asking, make sure to document the problems with pictures. You can take the printed pictures and a copy of the letter to court. A judge can reduce your rent.
Charleston Pro Bono can help with legal advice with a free consultation, paperwork preparation, or even represent you in court.
“If somebody waits too long to put in the application to get services, they may not be able to get into our office in time,” Alissa Collins Lietzow, Charleston Pro Bono Director, explained. “We encourage people, if you think there is a problem, come on in, sit down with an attorney and find out.”
Tenants can also file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, HUD, or even the local code enforcement office. The Charleston Trident Urban League will also help investigate and resolve rental problems.