Most apartment tenants have a horror story or two: busted pipes, leaks, mold, infestation, horrible neighbors, etc.–and many of these apartment tenants probably did nothing about these horror stories, believing that their only remedy was moving out. Historically this was the case, but today tenants have a variety of rights to ensure that they live in peace and comfort.Implied in every lease is an implied warranty of habitability, which requires that the apartment be maintained in a livable condition by the landlord. Working pipes, plumbing, heat, removal of insects and rodents, and keeping the premises within the housing code are the some of the basic requirements of this warranty.
If a breach of the implied warranty of habitability arises and the landlord fails to remedy the problem within a reasonable time, the tenant has several remedies. The tenant may (1) move out and terminate the lease, (2) repair the problem and deduct that cost from the rent, (3) reduce the rent by the damage done, or (4) sue for damages. If the tenant does not wish to take advantage of these remedies, he or she should document all of the damage to ensure that the security deposit is not reduced due to the landlord’s negligence.
Additionally, If the tenant entered into a nice, clean apartment with relatively high rent, only to see the place fall into disrepair, the tenant can sue to have rent reduced by the lowered property value of the premises.
Tenants may not own their apartment, but they do own the possessory right to that apartment: they are entitled to exclusive possession of their entire apartment for the term of the lease. Unless the law of the city provides otherwise, even landlords are not allowed to enter a leased apartment without permission. If the landlord does so he or she is committing a trespass.
Further, Landlords cannot evict tenants without good cause. Good cause generally requires nonpayment of rent for no reason, illegal activities, or severe damage to the building. Historically a landlord could personally enter into your apartment and evict tenants, but today only police are allowed to evict tenants, and they need a court order to do so.
Every city has different rules regarding landlord-tenant relations. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney to determine your rights and remedies before taking action against your landlord.
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