Conditions Making Units Uninhabitable

Conditions that Make a Rental Unit Legally Uninhabitable


There are many kinds of defects that could make a rental unit unlivable. The implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for the "occupation of human beings." In addition, the rental unit must "substantially comply" with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety.

A dwelling may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it substantially lacks any of the following:
  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
  • Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system.
  • Gas facilities in good working order.
  • Heating facilities in good working order.
  • An electric system, including lighting, wiring, and equipment, in good working order.
  • Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds, and appurtenances (for example, a garden or a detached garage), free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
  • Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
  • Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair.

Requirements for Rental Units


In addition to these requirements, each rental unit must have all of the following:
  • A working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower. The toilet and bathtub or shower must be in a room which is ventilated and allows privacy.
  • A kitchen with a sink that cannot be made of an absorbent material such as wood.
  • Natural lighting in every room through windows or skylights. Windows in each room must be able to open at least halfway for ventilation, unless a fan provides mechanical ventilation.
  • Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway. Stairs, hallways and exits must be kept litter-free. Storage areas, garages, and basements must be kept free of combustible materials.
  • Operable deadbolt locks on the main entry doors of rental units, and operable locking or security devices on windows.
  • Working smoke detectors in all units of multi-unit buildings, such as duplexes and apartment complexes. Apartment complexes also must have smoke detectors in common stairwells.

Violating the Implied Warranty of Habitability


The implied warranty of habitability is not violated merely because the rental unit is not in perfect, aesthetically pleasing condition. Nor is the implied warranty of habitability violated if there are minor housing code violations, which, standing alone, do not affect habitability. While it is the landlord's responsibility to install and maintain the inside wiring for one telephone jack, the landlord's failure to do so probably does not violate the implied warranty of habitability.