Maintaining habitability is one of your legal responsibilities to your tenants. If your tenant is accusing you of renting out an uninhabitable property, you should consider talking to a lawyer immediately about how you can best respond.
We can help you understand your obligations to your tenants, or support you in a habitability dispute. You are not monetarily responsible for everything that can break down inside of an apartment, but ignoring the repairs you are responsible for can create some serious problems, including time in court.
Your Duty to Habitability
As a landlord, you have many responsibilities to your tenants, but that doesn’t mean you should see them all as burdens. Many of the things you’re required to do when you own a rental property also help you maintain the value and appeal of the unit. If you aren’t performing your duty of repair and maintenance, you may be putting both yourself and the property at risk.
Tenants in New Jersey have the right to safe and sanitary housing, and all residential leases created in the state carry an “implied warranty of habitability”. That means it must be kept in shape for residential use, and that landlords are obligated to repair vital facilities such as the water, plumbing or roof. The law allows for tenants to seek many remedies if they cannot get assistance from the landlord. Those remedies are just a few of the ways keeping a property in poor condition could come back to bite you.
The Consequences Ignoring Your Responsibilities
If you break the lease by allowing the unit to fall below habitable condition, your tenants can do plenty in response, including handling the repairs themselves and then deducting the same amount from their rent. Using certain remedies, they can also walk away from your leases without penalty, and even demand the security deposit back. Meanwhile, the damage in the unit will still need to be addressed before someone new moves in.
It can certainly get worse. Broken facilities can quickly lead to unsafe conditions, and that can lead to a serious or even fatal incident in your rental unit. Landlords who have created the conditions for fires or disease outbreaks can expect a lot more than tenants walking away from the leases. New Jersey apartment owners have faced class-action lawsuits with payouts in the millions because the conditions at their rental properties endangered their tenants.
Keeping your property in residential shape is important, because if the conditions of your property are poor, or if the duty of repair and maintenance has been ignored, it can be far more difficult for a lawyer to help you pursue unpaid rent or stop tenants from breaking their leases. Keeping your property in excellent condition is simply prudent.
Resolving Habitability Disputes
Talk to our attorneys to learn more about how we can help you manage habitability disputes. We’re here to answer any questions you have, and to help you understand your options.