What are a tenant’s rights if they are being sued for eviction forunpaid rent but their living conditions are unsafe?

There are unsafe living conditions in my apartment that my landlord won’t do anything about. We haven’t paid him rent and now he is taking us to court for eviction. Is there anything that I can do?

Asked on July 29, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island


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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which means that the premises must comply with local or state housing codes. This is a health and safety issue regarding the unsafe living conditions.  You can sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  A breach of the implied warranty of habitability allows the tenant to withhold rent and either move out or stay and defend against eviction.  Your defense to eviction is the landlord's breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You might be able to file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court unless your state has a special court for landlord/tenant disputes.  If the landlord has already filed the lawsuit for eviction, you should respond in the same court where that original lawsuit was filed.

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