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Water in finished basement

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Water in finished basement

Postby PDan1 » Wed Jan 05, 2022 2:35 pm

Just rented a house in Portland, OR and set up a working studio in the finished basement. During heavy rainfall, water leaks in and covers the floor. Room is unusable. Now the landlord says it was not intended to be used as a studio. But the lease agreement doesn't mention anything about it, and during the house showing it was pointed out as useable space.Fixing the leak would require installation of drains around the exterior (major work).

Do I have any options? Some of the other unfinished basement spaces have been getting musty and moldy done to water ingress. Is free legal help available? Would it be a waste of time? Would hiring legal help be a waste of money? Any chance of reducing next month's rent by the amount of square footage lost?

Thanks in advance for any info.
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Re: Water in finished basement

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:06 pm

We're in NYC, so we really don't know tenant law in Oregon. Perhaps a local source could help with specifics. Look for Legal Aid or Legal Services. If you don't qualify financially, they might have lists of qualified attorneys in private practice.

Having said that, Intended or not, if the basement is finished and the expectation when you rented (does it say in the lease?) to be part of the living quarters, does it matter if you work there or watch TV there?

Our belief is that when you rent a space, it should be usable, unless it was specified in the lease as not usable. To that extent, the landlord should make whatever repairs are needed. It's also in his best interest as standing water can lead to all sorts of problems with vermin and mold. The mold can spread through the entire house. If you have any health issues, that can be a danger. And if you have kids, that can be even more of a health risk.

Options? You might get the local city to place violations (and this is where local tenant groups or tenant attorneys can tell you what Oregon law allows). You could withhold rent, but then the LL would take you to court. You could break the lease. But make sure to document everything with letters, emails, envelopes (for postmarks), many photos, videos, and record phone calls if Oregon is a one-party consent state - but apparently not, see https://recordinglaw.com/party-two-part ... ding-laws/ -- Even if it were, that does not mean any recordings would be admissible in court.

You could also seek experts on health and mold. Some of this may seem overkill, but if you decide to go to court, best to be prepared.

Also check to see of Oregon requires LLs to maintain the warranty of habitability (many states do). See if Oregon is a mitigation state (can the LL come after you if you break the lease) or if it requires LLs to seek to mitigate damages by looking for a new tenant.
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