What are a tenant’s rights if a house is not ready to move into when the lease starts?

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What are a tenant’s rights if a house is not ready to move into when the lease starts?

We are roommates who signed a lease the beginning of last month. The former tenants left a terrible mess with lots of junk. We cleaned most of it as we needed to move and the landlord said he couldn’t touch the place until after the first of the month. He said he would finish cleaning and shampoo the carpets. This was not done. Now there has been a flea infestation from the previous tenants, and the landlord said he would bomb twice. We can’t live in the place because of these conditions but he is demanding full rent from the 1st, plus deposit or eviction. What to do?

Asked on August 26, 2011 Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is the landlord's obligation to clean up a mess left by former tenants.  As prospective tenants, you should not have cleaned up the mess from former tenants. 

The landlord has a duty to place you in physical possession of the premises.  Until you are in physical possession of the premises, you do not owe any rent.  Your obligation to pay rent begins on the date you physically move in.  If the place isn't ready on the first of the month, your obligation to pay rent doesn't start until the date you move in and are in physical possession of the premises.  The starting date of your lease should be amended to the  date you move in.  When you move in, your rent for the first month should be prorated since you weren't there the entire month.

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability, which means the landlord is required to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes. If the landlord has failed to respond within a reasonable time to the flea infestation and the other cleaning problems after being notified by you, the landlord's failure to remedy the problems constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  The flea infestation is a health hazard and is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, 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 decides to stay on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

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

 

 


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