I figured I should ask this as it's kind of a specific case. Basically my mom and dad moved into a place probably 15 years ago, and for years my dad did all the repairs/snow removal/landscaping/general maintenance etc., Usually free of charge or with the landlords paying for parts, because he liked doing DIY stuff and didn't mind.

However my parents have been divorced for two years now, and my mom still lives in the property where the landlords got so comfortable not paying for anything that she waited 11 months for her oven to be fixed and 6 months for her refrigerator until I finally just paid to fix it.

Now she got oil for her heat(she's been using electric ones for a while) and because the landlords have neglected yearly maintenance on the boiler the gaskets are in multiple pieces and it was completely full of 10+ pounds of God know what. I cleaned it but her landlord swears the rope gasket(in 4 pieces) and the regular cracked and crumbling gasket are both fine when it is clearly letting smoke out of the opening. At this point I'm ready to just pay a friend that does HVAC to replace the seals but I'm not doing it on mine or my mother's dime. To be clear, the last time the boiler was actually serviced with 2007, the first year they lived there, since then they have failed to schedule any yearly tune-up, cleaning, etc.

It's clear the landlords have neglected regular maintenance or repairs, so at what point am I allowed to simply fix it and deduct the cost from the rent(as landlordology says is an option)?

  • What jurisdiction?
    – eggyal
    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:54
  • Sorry, this is in Pennsylvania, Montgomery county specifically.
    – Martin J
    Feb 12, 2018 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


This will depend on your jurisdiction and, as always, this shouldn't be substituted for or counted as legal advice...

You can only do the "repair and deduct" thing for something a landlord has a legal duty to do himself. This would either be laid out in the lease under landlord's duties or something similar, or the thing you're fixing has to make the living place uninhabitable without being fixed. So, document the smoke thing with photos or something before you do this. The warrant of habitability is a huge topic that can vary greatly between jurisdictions.

First, you'd write a letter to the landlord to describe what's wrong, what repair is needed, and how much it might cost. Give a reasonable deadline. State that if nothing is done by the deadline, the repair will be made and deducted from rent.

So, check the terms of the lease. Document the smoke. Send that letter. Keep in mind this should come from her, not you.

Finally, again depending on and varying greatly between jurisdictions, the tenant may file an action with the district court (sometimes called a petition in action of rent escrow") and pay the court the monthly rent until the repair is made or the hearing is held in the court. Typically, this is reserved for the most dangerous conditions that threaten peoples' lives, health, and/or safety.

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