When you have tenants staying in your rental property, there are many important things that need to be considered.

While some of these are for the success of the property management business, some of them are for the actual safety and wellbeing of the tenant.

The agreement, or, guarantee, that ensures that rental properties meet the needs for basic living purposes and safety standards is the implied warranty of habitability.

The implied warranty of habitability applies to residential leases and rental units, and is an extremely important term that all property manager should become familiar with.

In this guide, we will be explaining everything there is to know about the implied warranty of habitability, starting with its general definition and importance.

What Is The Implied Warranty Of Habitability

The implied warranty of habitability is an unstated guarantee that a rental unit meets the basic needs and necessities for a tenant to live there. This applies to the property even before it has a tenant and while the tenant is residing there as well.

Local housing codes generally outline the standards that every rental unit must meet in order for a tenant to be able to live there. However, apart from the local building codes, the general rule of thumb is that every rental property should include the following essential services:

  • Hot water/Running water
  • Electricity
  • Air conditioning
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Sewage disposal

…and much more.

All of these are examples of things that tenants pay rent in order to gain access to. So, if their rent money isn't getting them some of these essentials, what can they do?

In the next section, we will be discussing some of the things that a tenant can do when the landlord is breaching their implied warranty of habitability.

What If The Implied Warranty Of Habitability Is Breached?

When the implied warranty of habitability is breached, the landlord has a few legal options that they can take.

In this section, we will be going over some of the options that a tenant has in these situations.

Inform The Landlord

Since it is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the habitability of a living space, it is important that they are informed as soon as possible. This is applicable in the case of the property suffering damages while the tenant is living there.

In this case, the tenant should always inform the landlord or property manager and make sure that they have all of the details. This allows them to act on the damages in less time and restore the property to its habitable state.

However, if the landlord ignores the request, the tenant can move on to other legal actions.

Withholding Rent

If the landlord refuses to take care of the damages on the property and restore its habitability, the tenant may be able to withhold rent from the landlord. This means that the tenant can stop paying rent until the habitability of the property is restored.

However, before doing this, tenants should consult a landlord tenant attorney to make sure that they are right to do so. Since landlord-tenant laws can be tricky, it is difficult to know exactly what can and cannot be done.

In some cases, the tenant's options may even include being suing the landlord for a rent reduction

Do The Repairs Themselves

Depending on the specific state or local municipality, the tenant's rights may allow them to conduct the repairs themselves and deduct the amount they spend from the rent.

This option can potentially become even more expensive for the landlord as the tenant may choose to go with very costly, necessary repairs. This means that, if its the landlord's legal obligation to conduct the repairs, it's much better if they do so.

Terminate The Lease

In some extreme cases, the tenant may be legally able to terminate the lease without having to worry about any additional charges. This is due to some specific language that exists in the lease, which gives the tenant the ability to do this.

In this situation, it is extremely important to consult some sort of attorney to make sure that this can be done safely and without landlord retaliation. It is especially important to make sure that the lease is analyzed, as that is typically the deciding factor in many court decisions.

So, now that you know all about the landlord's responsibility when it comes to the implied warranty of habitability, you might be asking yourself: what is the tenant's responsibility?

In the next section, we will be going over some of the tenant's responsibilities for maintaining the property and the implied warranty of habitability.

Tenant's Responsibility

Sometimes, the landlord complies with the codes for the implied warranty of habitability, but the tenant doesn't. In this section, we will be going over some of the main responsibilities that tenants have for maintaining the warranty of habitability in rental properties.

Complying With The Lease Agreement

The main responsibility of the tenant is to comply with the lease agreement. This is important because the lease agreement contains language about many things, including:

  • Paying each month's rent
  • Maintaining the property
  • Removing garbage from property
  • Not abusing utilities

…and much more.

By doing everything listed in the lease agreement, the tenant is essentially helping maintain the warranty of habitability.

Accurate & Timely Reporting

Another responsibility of the tenant that is important for maintaining the warranty of habitability is accurate and timely reporting. This is extremely important because, the sooner the damages are reported, the faster they get resolved.

The best way to do this is to use the methods of contact provided by the landlord or by the property manager. By doing this, the tenant gives the property managers and landlords enough time to make sure that everything goes back to being within compliance in as little time as possible.

Access To The Property

One of the rules that is included in almost every lease agreement is that the tenant is not allowed to change the locks on the property unless given specific permission by the landlord.

This is because it is important that the landlord have access to the property in order to  conduct necessary repairs. However, it is within the legal rights of the tenant to enjoy a safe and private household, so it is important that arrangements be made.

Santiago Aday is a Summa Cum Laude graduate and has a background in software development. As the Marketing Automation Specialist at DoorLoop, Santi loves simplifying the complicated aspects of property management.