5 Ways a Landlord Should Ensure Habitability of a Living Space

A landlord’s responsibility does not end at completing the construction of the building and installing the basic utilities. Under landlord-tenant law, the landlord’s obligation extends to ensuring that the building is habitable for its occupants during their stay. Of course there are certain limitations to this obligation. It would be unreasonable, for instance, to expect a complete roof reinstallation just because of a small leak on the roof. With that in mind, here are 5 ways a landlord should ensure habitability of a living space. 

  1. Building Codes 

One way landlords can ensure habitability of a living space is by providing safety. They can do this by ascertaining that the building is in compliance with all local safety codes. These codes typically concern: 

  • Toxic mold 
  • Electrical wiring 
  • Plumbing
  • Use of fire retardant paint 
  • Safety guards on windows 
  • Adequate lighting in common areas
  • Carbon monoxide detectors 
  • Smoke detectors 
  • Asbestos 
  • Structural integrity of the building, etc.

In most places, you cannot put tenants in your property before it is inspected for adherence to building and safety codes. 

  1. Repairs

A significant part of ensuring habitability involves making regular repairs to the building to ensure that it is in a reasonably good condition. This might include, for example, correcting plumbing problems or fixing a leaky roof that is causing a disturbance in the building. 

  1. Maintenance of common areas 

A landlord is also expected to maintain all common areas of the property, according to the landlord-tenant law. This may involve ensuring: 

  • Safety – the landlord has to make sure that the area has adequate lighting. The lighting fixtures and light bulbs have to be in working condition. Additionally, the area has to be free of injury-prone hazards such as unsafe stairs or faulty banisters. 
  • Cleanliness – the landlord is expected to maintain a reasonable level of cleanliness in the common areas. This does not necessarily mean keeping the areas in pristine condition, but they have to ensure that there is free of trash and other debris. The landlord has the right to evict any tenant who has the habit of keeping the common area consistently dirty. 
  1. Keep vital processes functioning

The landlord is supposed to ensure that all essential processes are working properly, including: 

  • Electricity 
  • Plumbing
  • Heat 
  • Gas
  • Elevators 
  • Central Air Conditioning (where applicable)

Note that supplying the utility is not the landlord’s responsibility. The landlord is only required to ensure that the systems supplying the utilities are functioning properly. If the rent includes the price of the utilities (e.g. gas and electricity), the lease agreement should spell out what the responsibility of the landlord is regarding the issue. 

  1. Supply Running Water 

Every building needs running water to ensure habitability. According to the law, providing running water is the landlord’s responsibility. The same goes for heat regulation during the cold and warm months (for buildings that have central air conditioning) and providing hot water. However, this rule does not apply to buildings where these utilities are directly installed in the units and only the tenant can control them. 

It is important to ensure that your property complies with these requirements, as failure to meet basic standards of habitability could be the grounds of a costly lawsuit. If you need to speak with a real estate attorney regarding your property, the Law Office of Ray Garcia, P.A. has you covered. Contact us now.