About a year ago one of our clients was locked into a lease in a building that had seemed okay when they moved in, but which was in violation of many health and safety standards. Over the course of their tenancy, they discovered cockroach infestations, dead mice in the walls, and other dangerous scenarios.
The landlord ignored their calls and emails when they asked to break the lease. They finally agreed to let the client break the lease for a three month penalty, which was not realistic or feasible for the client.
They called us and we negotiated: a full release from the lease, but the landlord got to keep the security deposit. This saved the client a ton of money, prevented litigation, and got them what they most wanted: a way out of their terrible apartment.
Understanding Your Warranty of Habitability
The warranty of habitability must be included with all lease paperwork. It states that your apartment may not compromise your health. Even if your landlord fails to include paperwork which explicitly states that a warranty of habitability exists, under New York Law the warranty is considered to be implied if they offer a lease at all.
Landlords are required to handle pest problems, deal with faulty electrical wiring and fire hazards, deal with leaks and mold, and to ensure that you have hot water and heat. They’re also required to ensure that you have functioning toilets, sinks, smoke detectors, CO alarms, appliances, and working windows. They are also required to keep public areas in good repair.
Note you and your guests or roommates cannot come in, actively cause one of these conditions, and then claim a breach of warranty later. These need to be conditions that are present in the building and that the landlord is refusing to fix. In some cases you may need to pay for the repairs yourself.
What to Do If Your Landlord Won’t Respond to Maintenance Requests
In the normal course of things, something breaks, you put in a maintenance request, and the landlord sends someone to fix it.
When that doesn’t happen, you need to begin speaking to a lawyer right away. While yes, you can in many cases withhold rent or try to break your lease to deal with a breach of warranty, the truth is it’s always better to do it with an attorney by your side. Attempting to do it on your own could get you evicted.
An attorney can also help you settle many of these matters out of court, which helps. Many landlords blacklist tenants who have been to landlord-tenant court for any reason, even if (perhaps especially if) the landlord was at-fault.
Having problems with your landlord? Don’t panic. Reach out to our firm to get help today.
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Meet Mr. Richman
SCOTT B. RICHMAN, ESQ.
Mr. Richman is the Managing Member and Founder of Richman Law Firm PLLC. In his role as Managing Member, Mr. Richman oversees the day-to-day operations of the firm and handles the litigation of the most complex legal matters across a vast array of practice areas and disciplines.