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Landlords have an implied obligation to keep rentals habitable

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Landlord-Tenant Law

There is often a lot of information contained in leases in New Jersey. Landlords generally state the term of the lease, the monthly rent obligation, responsibilities of the tenants, prohibited actions of tenants and also the landlord’s obligations to the tenants in exchange for the rent they receive for the space. There is one obligation of the landlord that is implied in every lease, whether it expressly states it in the lease or not.

That implied obligation is to keep the premises habitable. This means they have a duty to ensure there are no major defects that affect the renter’s enjoyment of the intended use of the property. This means that the heat must work properly, the water must work and other major appliances must be in working order. The landlord needs to make these types of repairs, as long as the defect was not caused by the tenants’ actions, in a reasonable amount of time.

Potential remedies when landlords breach the warranty of habitability

Not all landlords make the necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time though. If they do not, the tenant does have some options to remedy the situation.

  • The tenant can make the necessary repair themselves and deduct the amount it cost them to repair from their rent.
  • The tenant can break the lease and move out, if the needed repair causes the rental to be unsafe or unfit for its intended use.
  • The tenant can start a rent abatement action, which is an action to recover the rent they paid above the proper worth of the property with the unfixed defect
  • The tenant could withhold rent or a portion thereof based on the unfixed defect. They can use this as a defense if the tenant starts an eviction for unpaid rent.

It can be very frustrating for tenants in New Jersey when they have major defects that their landlords do not fix in a timely manner. Tenants do have potential remedies, but they can be complicated and need to be executed correctly. Experienced attorneys understand tenants’ rights and may be able to help protect them.