What are my rights and options if part of my rental has been rendered unlivable?

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What are my rights and options if part of my rental has been rendered unlivable?

We are currently renting a house. The landlords are redoing the roof and they have removed the chimney for repair. It has rained the past week a half and they did not cover up the hole where the chimney was. Therefore it has leaked through the roof into one bedroom and drenched the wall and insulation. We have now had to remove all the belongings from that room and seal it off from the rest of the house; the smell will give you a headache from being in the room for 30 minutes. The landlord will not look at it or fix it.

Asked on June 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, North Dakota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

All leases come with what is known as an "implied warranty of habitability." This is term, added to all leases, that the rented premises will be fit and safely inhabitable for their intended purpose--in this case, residence. While minor problems (e.g. small crack in a window) would not violate this warranty, major problems, like a large leak causing bad smells and requiring you to seal off a room, would seem to; and if the warranty is violated, the tenant may sue for compensation, to get out of the lease, and/or to force the landord to make repairs. Also, if any of your belongings were damaged by the water due to the landlord's (and his contractors') negligence, you may be able to sue for their value. So  you have rights, and you should discuss with an attorney (preferably one with landlord-tenant experience) how best to vindicate them and how much compensation you may seek.


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