What are a tenant’s rights if they had to vacate the premises due to mold and safety code violations?

my daughter is renting a single family dwelling that has been leaking water for 5 weeks now. There has been little or no attempt by the landlord to repair and now it has visual mold growing inside the house. The water is also leaking through the electrical panel. She has sent the landlord a certified letter again explaining the problem and also she has moved out and wants the lease terminated. He said she is still responsible for the rent. What rights does she have?

Asked on September 27, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability, which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  Mold is a health and safety issue which constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  A water leak going through the electrical panel is a health and safety issue and breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following remedies:  the tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

Another option is for the tenant to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

Your daughter notified the landlord of the water leak and the mold and the landlord failed to make the repairs within a reasonable time.  Your daughter moved out due to the breach of the implied warranty of habitability and therefore has the right to terminate the lease and her obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term.

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