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Know your rights when dealing with your landlord

Posted: 8:27 AM, Jul 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-19 03:31:35-04
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LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — People have disputes with their landlord about all sorts of things. This one might take the cake.

Cats in his wall -- some alive, some dead!

Contact 13's Tricia Kean takes a look at what you should and should not do if you and your landlord don't see eye to eye.

Cats in his bedroom wall:

Dewey Williams couldn't believe his ears. Scritching, scratching and meowing.

He had cats in his bedroom wall.

His landlord wasn't buying it.

"For the first six months they thought I was crazy," says Williams.

But one day the owner heard the cats for himself while making another repair, so he called someone right away.

"They immediately came out, cut a hole in the wall and snatched the cats out. A litter of about five or six," says Williams.

But months later Williams says it happened again. This time it was worse.

The cats were using the space in the wall as a liter box.

Then came the stench. Unbearable!

Video shows Williams reaching into a hole in his bedroom wall to figure out what he was smelling.

It's a dead cat:

"Oh! It's a dead cat," says Williams.

He says that's when he decided to leave.

"My house stinks so bad I go stay at a hotel room. When I stay in a hotel room that means I don't have your rent money. Because I'm on a fixed income," says Williams.

He started deducting his hotel expenses from his rent. Eventually the owner caught on and evicted him.

So what went wrong?

Williams had a legitimate complaint. In some cases tenants can withhold rent.

But Williams missed a very important step.

Put it in writing:

"The very first thing every tenant should do is put it in writing," says Lauren Pena, Directing Attorney for the Civil Law Self Help Center at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas.

She points out, you can't withhold rent without alerting the owner first.

"Identify exactly what the issue is. Put it in writing to the property manager, the landlord and date stamp it," says Pena.

"I didn't do it in writing. I didn't do it in writing honestly," says Williams.

Essential or nonessential problem:

If you're having an issue with a rental, figure out whether the problem is essential or nonessential.

Essential services include items like: air conditioning, running water and electricity.

After you issue something in writing, your landlord has 48 hours to fix the problem before you can withhold rent.

Nonessential problems are anything else that may affect living conditions by violating health or sanitation codes, or affect your safety.

A landlord has 14 days to fix these issues.

In Williams' case, Pena says it's hard to prove he really had no choice but to find temporary housing at a hotel.

For this situation, like the cats, I don't know that would be available to this tenant," says Pena.

The burden of proof falls on you, the tenant.

Even if you're facing an essential or nonessential service issue, your landlord could still try evicting you.

Click here for more information on tenants rights.