In almost all states, an implied warranty of habitability in a residential lease requires the landlord to maintain a “habitable” environment for the lessee. A tenant’s obligation to pay rent is generally conditioned on the landlord maintaining a suitable living environment. If a tenant’s living conditions fall below this threshold, he may be able to withhold rent from the landlord. Given the centrality of this principle in the landlord-tenant relationship, it is important to understand what this warranty entails and how landlords can meet this standard.
In certain jurisdictions, complying with applicable state and local codes is sufficient to fulfill the obligation to maintain habitable conditions for tenants. In many states, the law mandates that landlords perform all necessary repairs to maintain the premises in a livable condition. Local laws often impose even stricter requirements on landlords to provide certain services to tenants. In other states, by contrast, the standard for habitability is not set by a particular housing code. Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the unit is adequate for human occupancy. This allows the judiciary to impose more exacting standards on landlords that go beyond the minimum requirements set forth in other statutory laws.
While the conditions that violate the implied warranty of habitability vary depending on the jurisdiction, there is some consensus regarding what the warranty entails. In general, failing to provide the tenants with the following will subject the landlord to consequences for violating the law: drinkable water, heat, electricity, hot water, smoke detectors, adequate plumbing, locks for the doors, a sanitary environment and a unit free of rodent infestations. Landlords, however, are not liable for repairing conditions that violate the warranty of habitability if these conditions were caused by the tenant’s family or guests. In addition, this warranty cannot be waived by tenants. Similarly, landlords cannot avoid these requirements by stating that the unit must be rented in “as is” condition. Any provision in a lease that attempts to circumvent the implied warranty of habitability is deemed invalid and unenforceable.
The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at http://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.