My uncle recently inherited my grandmother's home in NC. He agreed to allow me to move in and pay rent for $250.00 per month which included the electric. I moved my furniture into the house on June but never actually moved into the home due to no running water and no air conditioning. Unfortunately, there were more issues than he thought. A new water pump was purchased to get the plumbing working however, the air conditioner was never fixed. The a/c issue is the only reason I haven't moved in yet. I was still asked to pay the rent for the month because of the fact that my furniture was there. I paid it, however I don't feel that I should be paying rent for a home that I can't move into due to the conditions of no A/C. I went to pick up a few things the other day and the thermostat was reading over 100 degrees!!!! What are my legal rights as a "tenant" and what can I do?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Unfortunately, the law is hazy on the rights to A/C and it is taken on a case by case basis. If you did not sign a lease, simply give notice to leave...7 days is sufficient and leave. If you did sign a lease, then you need to take further steps.
First, without knowing anything about the home and the area it is in, $250.00 a month is very cheap for rent, which is why I suspect you would like to stay there. The proper process to not have to pay rent is to file an action in small claims court for rent abatement. You argue that the home is not worth what you are paying because of defects and the court gives you a refund and orders a reduced rent until repairs are made. DO NOT withhold rent, it is not allowed in NC and there is no defense to you.
Now, the trick to a rent abatement action is to show what the home is worth. Since $250.00 is such a cheap price point, it is very difficult for a court to rule a home has no value...it has to practically be close to being condemned. So in your case if the water was turned back on in a reasonable time, the Court is somewhat unlikely to value the home much less for the AC issue, but that is only a guess on my part based on where you are and again, the area where the home is in. As for not moving in, Courts have found that using a home for storage gives it some value. So again, it is very difficult to get a $0.00 value for the home.