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Tenant's warranty of habitability: What exactly is that?

A warranty of habitability is assuredly a good thing for any New York City tenant with a lease. In nutshell terms, it is a protective legal tool safeguarding renters against landlord's failure to maintain an apartment in a habitable condition.

Some tenants might believe that, in the absence of specific lease terms spelling out that a warranty of habitability exists, there is no such protection against a landlord acting in a way that renders an apartment unsafe or flatly unlivable.

They should know that such a fear is unfounded; as noted in a New York City Bar overview of the warranty, it "is implied in your lease even if your lease does actually say this."

We alluded to and briefly discussed the warranty in our May 27 blog entry. It is broadly protective, and a tenant should derive considerable comfort from its widely encompassing nature and dictates.

Among other things, a lessee can invoke his or her warranty of habitability in matters including the following:

  • Irregular supply of heat and hot water
  • Unrectified insect infestation
  • Fire, water or electrical damage
  • Plumbing and related sanitation issues
  • Improperly working appliances
  • Criminal activity that is not being addressed

A lessee might understandably be hesitant about squaring off with a landlord and/or boldly asserting lease rights. Renters with habitability-related issues might reasonably want to consult with a seasoned landlord/tenant attorney who can advocate on their behalf with a landlord who is acting unreasonably.

Many remedies potentially exist for a landlord's breach of the warranty of habitability. A proven lawyer can discuss them with an aggrieved renter and help ensure that a landlord lawfully carries out his or her duties under a lease.