Your rental apartment doesn’t have to be a palace. But it does need to meet certain minimum requirements under law for being habitable.
What are these requirements and what are they called?
Implied Warranty of Habitability
Implied into almost all residential leases is a warranty by the landlord that the rental property will be habitable. This promise, called the “implied warranty of habitability,” requires a landlord to maintain the property in a “livable” condition. In other words, the property must substantially comply with all applicable building codes and the landlord must make all necessary repairs for anything that doesn’t comply.
The implied warranty of habitability does not require that the landlord keep the property in perfect or superior condition. Nor does it mean that the landlord has to comply with all health and safety codes “to the letter.” But it does mean that the rental property has to be fit to live in. It must have all the required basics that make a property livable, like properly working plumbing, heating, gas and electric and cannot have things like mold, broken windows or locks, etc. It would also require a landlord to make necessary repairs for these types of items.
Breaches of the Implied Warranty of Habitability
So what happens if the landlord does not live up to his implied promise? What if there are serious health or safety code or other building code violations that go un-fixed?
Well, there are a number of things that go into the answer to these questions, however, briefly, to be in breach, the landlord must have notice of the defective conditions yet refuse to, or fail to repair them. Also, to constitute a breach of the warranty, the defective condition cannot be one that was caused or created by the tenant.
If the situation is severe and lasts long enough, the tenant can withhold part of the rent, representing the diminution in the area of the rental property that is not habitable. In some cases, the tenant can move out because of the unlivable conditions and may be able to seek reimbursement for any rent paid as overpayment due to the violations.
If you are a tenant or a landlord, it is important to know both your rights and what your obligations are.
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