Landlords, Know Your Tenants’ Rights: The Implied Warranty of Habitability

So, you’re a landlord? Can you, therefore, fully control your tenant and subject the tenant to your whims regarding the maintenance of the rental property? Not exactly. Even though the tenant has rented a living space and generally must follow the terms of the lease agreement, those commitments do not mean that the tenant does not have additional implied rights under Virginia law. In Virginia, tenants are entitled to a safe and livable home, regardless of how much rent they pay or where the property is located.

The Implied Warranty of Habitability

In Virginia, a landlord must provide the tenant a safe and livable dwelling. However, don’t get too worried, because this doesn’t exactly entitle the tenant to five-star accommodations. In this context, safe and livable means a landlord is required to maintain the rental unit in good repair and habitable conditions by providing the most basic and important items.

The legal term for the tenant’s right to livable housing is the “implied warranty of habitability.” In other words, whether stated explicitly or not in the lease agreement, the law imposes an obligation on the landlord to provide the tenant with a livable home.

So how do you know if you have fulfilled your obligations to the tenant under the implied warranty of habitability? The relevant statute establishes the landlord’s obligation to

  • Keep the building in compliance with health and safety codes;
  • Keep common areas safe and clean;
  • Maintain in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, sanitary, and other facilities and appliances provided by the landlord for the tenant’s use;
  • Prevent the growth of mold;
  • Provide trash receptacles;
  • Provide running water, including hot water; and
  • Provide heat, as required by the seasons.

SeeVa. Code Ann. § 55-248-13 (repealed and reenacted at Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1220, effective October 1, 2019).

When Can a Tenant Make a Complaint?

As a landlord, the specific applications of the implied warranty of habitability might not always be obvious. As an initial inquiry, you might consider whether the issue the tenant is facing is one that would cause a reasonable occupant to be concerned for his health and safety, as opposed to merely feeling uncomfortable or inconvenienced. A previous blog post explains the tenant’s assertion process, under which a tenant can pay their rent into the court’s escrow funds, as opposed to paying the landlord, if the landlord fails to make necessary repairs after being given reasonable notice of the need to do so.

Facing a Dissatisfied Tenant? Call Keithley Law, PLLC Today

Contact the landlord-tenant dispute attorneys at Keithley Law, PLLC if you have a tenant dissatisfied with the condition of a rental unit. Our experienced and knowledgeable legal team can assess the dispute, evaluate potential approaches to resolving the issue, and help you make nuanced determinations related to the implied warranty of habitability.

Call Keithley Law, PLLC at (703) 454-5147 to arrange a paid initial consultation.

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