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How Tenant Law Helps Ensure Your Apartment is Habitable

In Pennsylvania, it is important for both landlords and renters to know tenant law. Landlord/tenant laws govern the relationship between a renter and a property owner and impose many obligations on both parties. For example, tenants have the obligation to pay rent and to follow the terms of the lease. Landlords have a duty to do many different things, but one of the most important obligations of a landlord is to provide a habitable environment. 

If a landlord fails to provide an apartment or rental unit that a tenant can actually live in, the tenant has rights including the right to withhold rent or the right to deduct from the rent to pay for the cost of repairs. Both landlords and tenants should seek legal help if a dispute arises related to problems with the habitability of the apartment, as there could be significant amounts of money at stake. A Conshohocken PA, tenant law attorney at Curley & Rothman, LLC can provide representation in these types of cases. Our attorneys know the laws in PA inside and out and we work hard to help ensure our clients are treated fairly when it comes to rental properties.

Tenant Law Promises Tenants a Habitable Space

A Penn State Article on renters' rights and responsibilities explains how the law has changed over time to give tenants the right to a habitable space. Prior to 1978, the common law rule of let the tenant beware applied within the state of PA. Under this common law rule, when a tenant took possession of a rental property, the tenant also took responsibility for it. This meant the tenant had to take care of repairs unless the terms of the lease specifically made provisions for the landlord to handle repairs.

The court, however, determined that tenants had a right to have a place to live that was actually habitable and not in need of major repairs. The court held that every oral or written lease for the rental of residential property contains an implied warranty of habitability. Essentially, this means that regardless of what the lease says, there is an unwritten rule or provision in every lease which guarantees the tenant is being rented a space that a tenant could actually live in. Landlords cannot escape this implied warranty, even if the apartment is rented “as is,” and tenants cannot waive the right to a habitable home.

Under the implied warranty of habitability, landlords are required to repair and remedy serious defects which make living in a rental unit uninhabitable. These defects which a landlord may be required to remedy could include:

  • A lack of potable water
  • A lack of heat to the apartment
  • Insect or rodent infestations
  • Roof leaks
  • Faulty wiring
  • Serious structural damage
  • Violations of the housing code.

Landlords are not required to make repairs for damage caused by the tenants, even if the tenant's damage has made the apartment uninhabitable.

Tenants must also follow certain steps to ensure landlords are obliged to make repairs. For example, tenants have to provide notice of the defects to their landlords. It is best if this notice is in writing and the tenant keeps copies and proof of notice in case a disagreement subsequently arises about whether the landlord was given the opportunity to make repairs.

When a landlord has been provided with notice of problems rendering the rental uninhabitable, the landlord must react in a timely manner to initiate the repair process. If a landlord fails in making the repairs that have been requested and that affect the habitability of the space, the tenant has options.

A tenant may withhold rent from a landlord who is not making repairs to a property which are deemed necessary for the space to be habitable. A tenant may also contract with a professional to perform the repairs and may deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent. The cost of repairs must be reasonable in light of the defects or problems and the tenant must have provided the landlord with a chance to repair the property first.

How Conshohocken Tenant Law Attorneys Can Help You

If you are in a situation where there are concerns about the habitability of the apartment you either are renting or are the owner of, you need to understand how PA tenant law applies to you.

Curley & Rothman, LLC can provide guidance, advice, and legal representation to tenants and landlords. Give us a call at 610-834-8819 or contact us today to schedule your consultation and learn more about how we can help with your case.

Real EstateScott Rothman