Warranty of Habitability | Should leased premises be fit for purpose?

Warranty of Habitability(US)

An implied condition of a tenancy of residential property that the landlord will ensure that the premises are fit for habitation at the start of the lease and are maintained as such throughout the term. A requirement that the premises are “free from any latent defect or conditions rendering the premises uninhabitable for residential purposes; and … will remain reasonably fit for residential purposes during the entire term, a promise which carries with it an implied duty to repair”, Old Town Development Co. v. Langford, 349 NE.2d 744, 764 (Ind App 1976). (See also pp. 753-64 for ‘Historical Development of Implied Warranty of Habitability’) (Boston Housing Authority v. Hemingway, 363 Mass 184, 293 NE.2d 831, 843-5 (1973). Jablonski v Clemons, 64 Mass App Ct 744, 747, 803 NE.2d 730, 733 (2004)—the court has wide discretion in determining whether the conditions in any given rental unit amount to a material breach of the implied warranty of habitability; Pugh v. Holmes, 384 A.2d 1234 (Pa Super 1978)).

Warranty of habitability at common law

Warranty of habitability at common lawThere is no common law implied covenant that a tenancy of residential property is fit for habitation (Smith v Marrable (1843) 11 M & W 5, 152 Eng Rep 693; Sarson v Roberts [1895] 2 QB 395 (CA); Franklin v. Brown, 118 NY 110, 23 NE 126 (1889); Posnanski v. Hood, 46 Wis.2d 172, 174 NW.2d 528 (1970); Anno: 40 ALR3d 646: Lease—Implied Warranty—Fitness, § 3 ‘Doctrine of caveat emptor as precluding implied warranty’). However, there may be an implied term that arises as a result of the nature of the letting. If the tenant is unable to use the premises because of a severe impediment, such as vermin infestation, or is unable to enjoy the property as intended, that may amount to constructive eviction, or that may constitute a breach of the landlord’s covenant for quiet enjoyment. Also, many jurisdictions have accepted, or imposed statutes to the effect, that there is an implied warranty of habitability (IWH) in a lease of residential property (Javins v. First Nat’l Realty Corp., 428 F.2d 1071 (DC Cir. 1970), cert. den. 400 US 925, 91 S Ct 186, 27 L Ed.2d 1168 (1974)—detailed discussion of traditional common law and modern view on implied warranty of habitability … [More]

In many jurisdictions, no distinction is made in respect of the warranty between a latent or a patent defect, especially where the landlord’s obligation is ongoing throughout the term of the lease (Boston Housing Authority v. Hemingway, supra at 199, at 843).

See also fit for human habitation(Eng), fit for the purpose, habitable, implied warranty, set-off, tenantable repair.

Bibliographical Warranty of Habitability references:

The American Law Institute. Restatement Second, Property (Landlord and Tenant) (St. Paul, MN: 1977), §§ 5.1, 5.55.
J.E. Cribbet et al. Cases and Materials on Property (8th ed. Westbury, NY: 2002) Ch. 26 Ch. 1 Implied Covenants of Habitability.
W.B. Stoebuck & D.A. Whitman. The Law of Real Property (3rd ed. St. Paul, MN: 2000), § 6.38 Implied Warranty of Habitability.
M.R. Friedman. Friedman on Leases (5th ed. New York: Loose-leaf), § 27.402.
2 Powell on Real Property (Albany, NY: 1997- ), § 233.
J.W. Singer. Property Law, Rules, Policies and Practices (4th ed. Frederick, MD: 2006), § 8.4. Tenant.s Right to Habitable Property.

See also Uniform Codes and Model Acts: Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

Note: 

Fit for habitation and related terms are all defined and explained in detail in the Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms, Third Edition.
Warranty of Habitability is explained in more detail in Real Estate Defined.

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