Isn’t my landlord obligated to proved a sanitary living environment?

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Isn’t my landlord obligated to proved a sanitary living environment?

A neighbor reported backed up pluming in their apartment and when the plumbers fixed the clog it resulted in my bathroom toilet overflowing. It wasn’t at any fault of mine. The rental company says it’s not their obligation to clean up my bathroom. Are they not obligated to proved a sanitary living environment?

Asked on February 13, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

The answer is both yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that the implied warranty of habitability--which the law adds to all leases, even if it's not written in so many words--requires that the rental premises be fit for their intended purpose, which in this case is residence. Major or significant sanitary conditions violate the warranty; therefore, the landlord is required to clean up major problems.

However, "no" in that sense that more minor or transitory problems, like a one time back up or overflow of a toilet, would not violate the warranty and therefore not require landlord action.

That said, if it was a plumber hired by the landlord or managing company (or, indeed, one of their own staff), then they should have had to clean the mess that they themselves created; when someone damages another's property or creates some other problem or expense for that person, they can be liable for the cost to remediate it.

If the plumber was hired by the neighbor, then it may be the neighbor (or the plumber him/herself) who could be liable.

Of course, no matter who may theoretically be liable, if they will not pay willingly, you'd have to sue to recover compensation, which is not likely to be economically worthwhile.


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