When an infestation occurs is a landlord responsible for eradicating the problem?

If not, does one just move out due to breach of contract to provide a sanitary, habitable place. Can landlord be sued if one be is ill from allergy to pests? He does no pest and vermin control before or after a tenant moves in.

Asked on August 14, 2013 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If  you have not already done so, you need to send your landlord a letter, detailing the problem and asking them formally to fix this problem (mail it return receipt requested and keep a copy for your records). If your landlord continues to refuse to make an adequate repair, you have several options here.   

First, you can make the "repair" yourself (i.e. exterminate) and take the amount that it costs you out of the next month's rent. This is called "repair and deduct". You should get written estimates before making repairs and write the landlord that you plan to exterminate.

Second, you can refuse to pay rent until he fixes the problem. This is called "rent withholding".  Rent withholding is a serious step to take with potentially harsh ramifications so it is only appropriate if there are bad health and/or safety problems involved.

Third, it is your right as a tenant to have a livable, safe and sanitary apartment.  Accordingly, there is something known as the "warranty of habitability" implied in every residential lease. Basically, if conditions put a tenant's health and welfare at risk, then this warranty has been breached and you may terminate your lease early. If you decide to go this route, you need to contact your Town’s Building Inspector (also called a Code Enforcement Inspector), the Fire Marshall or the County’s Department of Health to look at the problem. 

Just make sure to keep all letters and any other evidence. If your landlord tries to evict you or sue you for any remaining rent due under your lease, you will need to present this in court.

Note: Before you attempt any of the above, you should consult with an attorney experienced in landlord-tenant matters. 

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, a landlord is indeed responsible for an infestation of rodents or bugs that would render an apartment uninhabitable.  In New York you would go to court and start what is known as an HR proceeding and ask the court to help if the landord is not correcting the matter.  You would pay your rent in to court and ask for an abatement (reduction) in the rent.  Good luck.


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