A Landlord’s Responsibility to Tenants
In landlord-tenant situations, there’s a tendency to focus on the obligations of the tenant to the property owner—the duty to pay rent, the duty not to damage the premises, and the duty not to use the premises for illegal purposes, among other obligations. But landlords have legal duties, too. One of the most important is what is known under the law as the “implied warranty of habitability.
The Implied Warranty of Habitability
For hundreds of years, the doctrine of caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) applied to residential and commercial leases. That meant that a tenant took the premises as delivered. Such an agreement was typically, but not always, based on a pre-lease inspection. The assumption was that the tenant would be responsible for all repairs required to the premises. That rule no longer applies.
The parties to a lease can still agree that the premises are taken “as is.” Absent such a provision, all lease agreements carry an “implied warranty of habitability.” Because the warranty is implied, there’s no requirement that it be in writing, or that it be orally discussed and agreed upon by the parties.
In essence, an implied warranty of habitability mandates that landlords provide tenants with a safe and livable leasehold. In today’s world, that is typically interpreted to mean that the premises must have:
- A functional roof that protects the tenant from rain and snow
- Heating and cooling systems appropriate to the location and climate
- Access to hot and cold water
- Structurally sound walls and floors, so that there’s no danger of collapse
- Windows and doors that can provide adequate security and protection from the elements
In addition, the leasehold must be free from mold and other substances that pose a health hazard.
There are typically a number of remedies, should you encounter a situation where the leasehold is not habitable:
- You can refuse to pay rent
- You can make necessary and reasonable repairs yourself and withhold the cost from yourrent
- You may be able to terminate the lease early without liability for future rents
Contact the Cintron Firm
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintronhas worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or (201) 535-0323 to set up an appointment.