• David Manes

Landlord won’t turn on the heat? Use the warranty of habitability.

There is a legal rule called the implied warranty of habitability that can provide relief to tenants who are having difficulties with their landlord. Sometimes the relationship between a landlord and tenant can break down and the landlord may not be keeping up with his duties. Perhaps he hasn’t paid your water bill, the heat won’t come on in the apartment, or there is flooding in the basement. When these things occur, a tenant can oftentimes feel confused, even powerless about what to do next. Fortunately, the law provides protections for tenants in such situations.

What is the implied warranty of habitability?

It is a warranty, recognized by the law that requires the landlord to keep his properties fit for someone to live in.

When can I use the warranty of habitability to help me?

There are many problems a tenant may run into that trigger the protections of the warranty of habitability. Some examples are no heat in the wintertime, no running water on the property and problems with plumbing that can lead to flooding or water damage.

What kind of remedies does the implied warrant of habitability provide?

Depending on your local laws, it allows for at least four different solutions to your problems:

Move out and end the lease

You may be able to move out of the affected property and end the lease. You don’t have to do this to get the protections of the implied warranty, but this option may be available to you if you wish to exercise it.

Repair and deduct

You may be able to make the necessary repairs to fix the property and then deduct the cost of your repairs from the monthly rent.

Reduce the rent

You may have the option to withhold your rent until a court can decide how much money should be paid to the landlord. If this is the case, the withheld money must be placed into an escrow account.

Remain in possession and sue for damages

This option is widely available. It allows you to stay in your property, continue to pay the rent and then you can sue the landlord in court. If you win your lawsuit you will receive a sum of money that the court deems appropriate for your loss.

Conclusion

Alhough the warranty of habitability exists throughout the country, the exact rules and remedies can vary depending on the state and local laws. Thus it is important to check with a local attorney in order to understand how the warranty functions where you live. But remember, if you are in a situation where the landlord is not living up to his end of the bargain, there may be relief available, so do not hesitate to take action.

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