What are essential services?
Examples of essential services are heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas and a functioning exterior door lock.
Other services may be considered essential if the landlord is required by the terms of the rental agreement to provide them, e.g., stove, refrigerator, or air conditioning.
What should you do when an essential service needs repair or is not otherwise provided?
If your landlord fails to provide essential services, Nevada law offers you three alternative courses of action. Your first option is to proceed under NRS 118A.355 to give the landlord a 14 day written notice to provide essential services or you may terminate the tenancy (see Section III entitled "Repairs and Deductions" for a detailed explanation of this option).
Both remaining alternatives ( NRS 118A.360 and NRS 118A.380 ) require that your landlord treat your lack of essential services as an emergency which must be repaired within 48 hours of written notice to the landlord. Written notice may be given either by the tenant (see sample letters at the end of this section) or by a government agency authorized to inspect for violations of buildings, housing or health codes. When calculating the term of the 48-hour notice, you must exclude Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.
What can you do if repairs are not made within 48 hours of written notice?
If repairs to essential services are not made or the landlord has not used his best efforts to remedy the problem you may either:
- Proceed under NRS 118A.360 to have the repairs done and deduct the costs from the next month's rent. You may only do this if the repair costs are less than one month's rent and only once during a 12 month period; or
- Proceed under NRS 118A.380 to either:
- Obtain the essential services and deduct the cost from the next month's rent (For example, if the plumbing does not work, you may purchase bottled water and deduct the cost of the purchased water from your rent.);
- Sue for actual damages including loss of use or reduction of the fair market value of the premises; or
- Withhold any rent that becomes due without incurring any late fees, charges for notice or any other charges until your landlord has attempted in good faith to restore the essential services (you may use this remedy only if you are current in your rent at the time you give written notice to the landlord); or
- Get comparable substitute housing during the period of the landlord's noncompliance or failure to comply. While you are renting this substitute housing you do not owe rent to your landlord and moreover may sue for the amount (if reasonable) that the rent charged for the substitute housing exceeds your normal rent.
Please Note: If the landlord purposely interrupts your receipt of essential services (such as purposely cutting off your water supply), in addition to actual damages, you may terminate the rental agreement immediately, vacate the premises, and demand the remainder of the month's rent and security deposit.
Must I pay my rent if the landlord restores my essential service?
Yes, the law allows you to withhold rent after written notice only until such time as the landlord either restores the essential service or makes a good-faith effort to do so. At that time if you do not pay any past due rent, the landlord could evict you for nonpayment of rent. The ability to withhold rent for lack of habitability was added to law by the 1999 Legislature. Its purpose was to provide an effective self-help remedy to get the landlord to restore essential services.
Can I obtain extra damages if my landlord interrupts essential services on purpose?
Yes, if the landlord willfully interrupts or causes or permits the interruption of essential services (for example, if the landlord purposely shuts off the electricity or fails to pay the electrical bill causing a shutoff by the utility company), a court can award up to $2,500.00 in addition to a tenant's actual damages. In determining how much, if any, additional amount to award, a court shall consider:
- Whether the landlord acted in good faith;
- The past course of conduct between the landlord and the tenant; and
- The degree of harm to the tenant caused by the interruption of services.