Landlord Responsibilities for Habitability

Last Updated: October 12, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

Landlords have responsibilities that vary by state for maintaining habitable rental units, including what they are legally required (and not required) to provide as well as what they must fix, repair, or replace.

What Is the Implied Warranty of Habitability?

The implied warranty of habitability is the requirement for basic health and safety on rental property. There isn’t a single standard for the warranty of habitability. Each state has its own rules.

It’s a “warranty” because it’s a legal guarantee from landlords to tenants. “Implied” means it applies regardless of whether the landlord tries to waive responsibility.

The warranty of habitability typically only covers serious issues with basic health and safety. Landlords don’t have to provide property that’s perfectly clean, new, or issue-free.

The cause of the issue matters as well. Issues caused by the tenant’s deliberate or irresponsible actions aren’t covered.

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What Is (and Isn’t) a Landlord Required To Provide?

What a landlord must provide on rental property depends on the state and city. It can vary from only basics like heat and water, up to strict and comprehensive housing codes.

Most states count a landlord in compliance when provided housing is in good structural condition with working utilities and safety devices. A landlord usually doesn’t have to provide amenities like landscaping or laundry facilities.

Common Features a Landlord Must Provide

The most common state housing standards are variations on the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, or URLTA. The URLTA typically requires that a landlord provide the following features to a basic working standard:

  • Heating. Sometimes working heat isn’t required during the warm season, as in Rhode Island.
  • Heated Water
  • Plumbing
  • Utilities
  • Required Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors
  • Secure Exterior Doors
  • Garbage Removal. Specifics can depend greatly on jurisdiction and on single-family versus multi-unit property.
  • Pest Extermination

Common Features that Aren’t Legally Required

Landlords often aren’t required to provide the following features of rental property:

  • Air Conditioning. This is a requirement in a few states, but not for most.
  • Appliances. Many local building and housing codes require specific appliances. It’s relatively rare for state law to have detailed appliance requirements.
  • Blinds and Window Coverings. Some states have detailed requirements for weatherproofing. Most don’t.
  • Landscaping
  • Light Bulbs

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What Is (and Isn’t) a Landlord Required to Fix, Repair, or Replace?

Repair or replacement is required as necessary for any features that the landlord must provide in the first place. This is also usually true for features that are provided but not legally required. The general rule is that if the landlord provides it, the landlord must make sure it’s in safe condition.

These are some common areas where requirements differ for provision versus replacement:

  • Appliances. Many states, like Oklahoma, make the landlord fix all appliances provided with the property, whether they’re legally required or not. This includes things like air conditioning, washers, and microwaves.
  • Battery Replacement for Safety Devices. Landlords usually must provide smoke alarms and CO detectors at the beginning of a tenancy, and replace them if they break. Tenants are usually responsible for battery replacement and other periodic maintenance.
  • Windows. Most states don’t have strict requirements for windows that a landlord provides. However, a broken window, especially on the ground floor, is potentially a serious issue in most states. Landlords must often replace broken windows.
  • Minor Issues with Required Features. Issues which make a required feature annoying or inefficient usually don’t trigger legal repair requirements. The landlord can usually refuse to act until there’s an actual risk to health and safety.

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