Tenant’s Rights: What is the Implied Warranty of Habitability?

Renting residential property can have great perks for a tenant. Typically, you’re not responsible for home maintenance and costs of repairs. If something happens, like an appliance stops working, the toilet backs up, or some other repair is needed, all you have to do is call your landlord.

In fact, once a landlord has received notice of an “imminently dangerous condition”, the landlord is required to repair the condition within a reasonable time, based upon the severity of the condition. Imminently dangerous conditions include, but are not limited to:

– unsafe wiring;

– unsafe flooring or steps;

– unsafe ceilings or roofs;

– unsafe chimneys or flues;

– lack of potable water;

– lack of operable locks on all doors leading to the outside;

– broken windows or lack of operable locks on all windows on the ground level;

– lack of operable heating facilities capable of heating living areas to 65 degrees Fahrenheit when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside from November 1 through March 31. (NOTE, however, a landlord is NOT required to provide air conditioning in North Carolina);

– lack of an operable toilet;

– lack of an operable bathtub or shower;

– rat infestation as a result of defects in the structure; and

– excessive standing water, sewage or flooding problems caused by plumbing leaks or inadequate drainage that contribute to mosquito infestation or mold.

North Carolina law also requires that a landlord comply with applicable building codes, provide operable smoke alarms and at least one operable carbon monoxide alarm per rental unit per level, keep all common areas of the premises in a safe condition, and maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances suppled or required, provided that the landlord is notified, in writing, by the tenant that repairs need to be made (except in emergencies).

But what happens when your landlord refuses to make repairs at the property?

If you believe that your rental residence is not habitable or that your landlord isn’t meeting its obligations, you cannot simply stop paying rent until the landlord fixes the issues to your satisfaction. Refusing to pay your rent could result in your landlord terminating your lease and seeking to evict you from the premises, which can have negative implications for your ability to find new housing.  Instead, you must go through the court system to seek rent abatement or reduced monthly rent due to the landlord’s failure to comply with its obligations. You may also be able to get out of your lease obligations and move to a new location without penalty. If you believe that your landlord has breached the implied warranty of habitability, contact the attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black for assistance.