Is your Kansas landlord not making repairs? Consider these 3 steps, attorney advises

By Lindsay Smith

Nearly 400,000 units across Kansas were rentals as of 2020, according to data from the University of Kansas, and renting continues to be the only option for many in Wichita as home sale prices continue to rise in the competitive market there.

Even if you don’t own the property you’re residing in, it’s important to know your rights.

Steve Minson, an attorney for Kansas Legal Services who specializes in landlord-tenant cases, said the No. 1 issue his office contends with is tenants having difficulties with landlords making repairs.

So, what do you do if the sink is leaking and your landlord won’t respond to your request? Here’s some expert advice on the matter, plus resources to help renters in need.

Three ways to get your landlord to make repairs

Minson said sometimes tenants withhold rent when the landlord won’t make necessary repairs, but advised that’s not a good idea.

“You don’t get to withhold rent,” Minson said. “They withhold rent and then they get a three-day notice to pay up or get out, and they say, ‘Well I’m not paying’ … and then they get an eviction.”

There are three better options to push your landlord into upholding their end of the rental agreement for repairs, according to Minson.

First, you could provide your landlord a 14/30-day notice, which has to be provided in writing.

This has to be given to the landlord within 30 days of the next rent payment due date, which provides the landlord a list of repair requests. If the repairs are not made, or there hasn’t been any action taken to make them, the tenant has the right to be released from their lease.

“Sometimes that’ll get the landlord to do it, they don’t want to lose the tenant so they’ll make the repair,” Minson said.

The second option is to take the landlord to small claims court.

“It’s a breach of the landlord’s obligations under the Kansas Landlord Tenant Act if the landlord doesn’t keep the appliances in good repair,” he said. “So you can sue the landlord, require a repairs … or you can sue the landlord at small claims court.”

The 2012 statute outlines a number of rental agreement requirements, but does not cover all issues, like mold, which is not named as a habitability problem, for example.

The third option is to call in housing inspectors, like officials with the city of Wichita.

“The city housing inspectors will be out, inspect the property and write the landlord up for any housing code violations and give them a limited amount of time to get those repairs made,” Minson said.

This can be a difficult course of action, the attorney noted. In some cases, landlords have been upset after such a call was made and tried to terminate the lease.

“And that’s illegal because if the tenant has complained to the city housing inspectors, the landlord doesn’t get to terminate the lease,” Minson said.

If these three steps fail to prompt your landlord into making the repairs required, it may be time to contact an attorney, like those with Kansas Legal Services.

Resources available for Kansas renters

Renters in Kansas have several options to apply for assistance if they are in need.

The Kansas Corporation Commission has an online page for renters in south-central Kansas to see what help they may qualify for. You can also visit the state of Kansas’ resource page.

Some programs available include help paying rent, like the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, and assistance paying for utilities through the federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, for example.

Lindsay Smith is a service journalism reporter for the Wichita Eagle. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Wichita State University’s student newspaper, The Sunflower, for two years. She graduated from WSU in December 2022 with a degree in journalism.

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Wichita Eagle