implied warranty of habitabilityHousing providers, like landlords and property managers, are responsible for providing their tenants with a safe and livable home. Most states refer to the exchange of rent for a safe, livable home between a landlord and tenant as the implied warranty of habitability.

Nolo’s legal team explains that the term implied warranty of habitability comes from local building codes and state statutes that specify minimum requirements for essential services such as heat, water, and plumbing.  Additionally, your state laws will define terms in which a tenant can withhold rent or attempt to fix an issue if the property does not meet the warranty standards.

Every landlord should check with their state laws about the exact ways in which they are expected to meet the implied warranty of habitability requirements. Some state statutes will specifically use the term “implied warranty of habitability” while others refer to the idea under landlord responsibilities and use terms like “fit for human habitation” or “fit for occupation by human beings”.  

For example, rental laws in Oregon require that landlords shall at all times maintain the unit in a habitable condition. According to  Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.320(1), Oregon recognizes the following conditions as uninhabitable if it severely lacks:

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection
  • Working plumbing facilities
  • Hot and cold water
  • A water supply that provides safe drinking water; hot and cold water; is connected to a sewage disposal system
  • Adequate heating facilities
  • Working electrical lighting, wiring, and equipment
  • Clean and sanitary conditions
  • Floors, walls, ceiling, stairways, and railing maintained in good repair
  • Safety from fire hazards
  • Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • Working locks

Oregon law further stipulates that if an Oregon landlord fails to provide essential services (water, heat, etc.) a tenant may withhold rent under Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.365.

Other states like California, provide an exact definition for implied warranty of habitability, “A rental unit must be fit to live in; that is, it must be habitable. In legal terms, “habitable” means that the rental unit is fit for occupation by human beings and that it substantially complies with state and local building and health codes that materially affect tenants’ health and safety. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1941)

While most states define specific requirements for their landlords to follow, other states do not define any implied warranty conditions for a landlord-tenant relationship.  For instance, in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Attorney General, a tenant who rents a residence takes it as is, and the landlord has no further obligation to maintain the premises.  The only obligation the landlord has is to meet city building codes.

An attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state will help you defer any ambiguity in the legal code when it comes to your duty as a housing provider.

If you are wondering what the implied warranty of habitability requirements are for your state, put together a list of the state habitability statutes and possible tenant remedies as defined by state landlord-tenant laws.

State Habitability Statutes & Law Reference Guide

According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, “ the implied warranty requires landlords to keep their property “habitable,” even if the lease does not specifically require them to make repairs. Furthermore, the warranty conditions a tenant’s duty to pay rent on the landlord’s duty to maintain a habitable living space. This makes it easier for tenants to get landlords to make repairs.”

This warranty is controversial. Supporters argue that it protects poor tenants from abusive landlords. Detractors argue that it drives up housing prices, encourages landlords to abandon old buildings, and turns landlords into public utilities, explains Cornell University.

What is Landlord Retaliation?

One thing that is common among most states is the prohibition of retaliation by a landlord if a tenant reports the property as uninhabitable. Examples of landlord retaliation could be ending a tenancy, refusing to renew a lease, raising the rent, decreasing essential items or services (like water or heat), or threatening or filing an eviction illegal if the tenant complains in good faith to a governmental enforcement agency about a violation of a building, housing, or health code that affects health or safety. Landlord retaliation is illegal.

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