Will it be a breach of contract for a landlord to not take care of maintenance issues at all during the term of the lease?

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Will it be a breach of contract for a landlord to not take care of maintenance issues at all during the term of the lease?

Asked on January 8, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the maintenance issues. Landlords must provide habitable (usuable to live in, if a residence; or usuable for their intended purpose[s], if commercial) premises. If a landlord does not take care of maintenance issues affecting habitability, like (for example) a non-working or frequently breaking boiler, bad or dangerous electrical wiring, large holes or roof leaks letting the outside in, external doors that don't lock and so provide no security, a rickety and dangerous staircase, etc., that failure would breach the "implied warranty of habitability" and could provide the tenant with grounds to withhold rent or even move out, treating the lease as terminated by the breach. 
But landlords don't have to repair non-hability problems (unless a written lease's plain terms say they have to). So a landlord could refuse to fix a dripping sink, or a cooktop if 1 or 2 of 4 burners don't work, or a toilet that keeps running after being flushed; a landlord also does not have to repaint, file in small cracks in interior walls, etc. Failure to do this is not a breach.


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