Delaying repairs may cost landlords

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Q: The water heater at the rental we own broke and we had a hard time getting it replaced (we do all of the repairs ourselves). After a week, the problem was solved, but our tenants are demanding that we compensate them for expenses they incurred as a result of our tardy work. They're asking to be reimbursed for their stay at a motel, several days' worth of meals, and the added costs of transportation that resulted from living further away from work and school. It's quite a bill! We admit to being less than on the ball with the repair, but do we have to pay these expenses? --Martha and John A: Lack of hot water in a residential rental is a serious problem, and in every state but Arkansas, it's a violation of the warranty of habitability. Depending on the state, tenants have various remedies if they alert landlords of the problem but the landlord fails to act reasonably promptly. Remedies include repairing the problem and deducting the cost from the rent, withholding rent, ...