Can the landlord be obligated to fix the electrical wiring in the apartment?

Full Question:

My landlord has been ignoring my repeated request to fix the electrical wiring in the apartment. The voltage fluctuations due to the low-quality work have caused severe damages to my personal electrical appliances. How can deal with this menace per the tenancy laws in Virginia?
12/28/2016   |   Category: Landlord Tenant   |   State: Virginia   |   #28942


The tenancy laws in Virginia obligates a landlord to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to maintain a dwelling in fit and habitable condition.Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.13 enumerates the duties vested upon the landlord in Virginia which reads:

“A. The landlord shall:
   1. Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
   2. Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
   3. Keep all common areas shared by two or more dwelling units of the premises in a clean and structurally safe condition;
   4. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him;
   5. Maintain the premises in such a condition as to prevent the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold, and to promptly respond to any notices from a tenant as provided in subdivision A 10 of § 55-248.16. Where there is visible evidence of mold, the landlord shall promptly remediate the mold conditions in accordance with the requirements of subsection E of § 8.01-226.12 and reinspect the dwelling unit to confirm that there is no longer visible evidence of mold in the dwelling unit. The landlord shall make available to the tenant copies of any available written information related to the remediation of mold;
   6. Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences, in common areas, for the collection, storage, and removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste incidental to the occupancy of two or more dwelling units and arrange for the removal of same;
   7. Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable air conditioning if provided and heat in season except where the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat, air conditioning or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant or supplied by a direct public utility connection; and
   8. Maintain any carbon monoxide alarm that has been installed by the landlord in a dwelling unit.
B. The landlord shall perform the duties imposed by subsection A in accordance with law; however, the landlord shall only be liable for the tenant's actual damages proximately caused by the landlord's failure to exercise ordinary care.
C. If the duty imposed by subdivision 1 of subsection A is greater than any duty imposed by any other subdivision of that subsection, the landlord's duty shall be determined by reference to subdivision 1 of subsection A.
D. The landlord and tenant may agree in writing that the tenant perform the landlord's duties specified in subdivisions 3, 6, and 7 of subsection A and also specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations and remodeling, but only if the transaction is entered into in good faith and not for the purpose of evading the obligations of the landlord, and if the agreement does not diminish or affect the obligation of the landlord to other tenants in the premises.”

A landlord may be liable for the tenant’s actual damages caused by the landlord’s failure to perform these responsibilities. A tenant must notify the landlord in writing of any violation. A landlord’s failure to take action within 30 days is considered an unreasonable delay. Emergencies such as lack of heat or water justify more immediate action.

§ 55-248.23 enumerates the remedies that a tenant has in such situation, which is applicable in the case at hand, as electricity is a basic necessity that has to be provided by the landlord without interruption. § 55-248.23 reads:

“A. If contrary to the rental agreement or provisions of this chapter the landlord willfully or negligently fails to supply heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or other essential service, the tenant must serve a written notice on the landlord specifying the breach, if acting under this section and, in such event, and after a reasonable time allowed the landlord to correct such breach, may:
   1. Recover damages based upon the diminution in the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; or
   2. Procure reasonable substitute housing during the period of the landlord's noncompliance, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord's noncompliance, as determined by the court.
B. If the tenant proceeds under this section, he shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees; however, he may not proceed under § 55-248.21 as to that breach. The rights of the tenant under this section shall not arise until he has given written notice to the landlord; however, no rights arise if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of his family or other person on the premises with his consent.”