In general, a landlord in Vermont has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues within a “reasonable time” (usually up to 30 days) of getting mailed or hand-delivered written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs.
Vermont Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Vermont landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Plumbing, including kitchen and bathroom sinks, a toilet, and a shower or bathtub.
Required utilities, including electricity.
Required light fixtures.
Garbage containers and removal.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors (except as agreed by the tenant).
Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Vermont?
Vermont tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the propertywhich affects health and safety.
Requesting Repairs in Vermont
Vermont tenants must request repairsby providing the landlord written notice about the issue that needs repair.This notice must be hand-delivered, or mailed (preferably through certified or registered mail).
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Vermont?
Vermont landlords have a “reasonable time”to make repairs after getting proper written notice about an issue from the tenant. What’s reasonable is case by case and depends on the circumstances, but in general it can’t be more than 30 days.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Vermont?
Vermont landlordscan refuse to make repairs,when the issue was caused by the tenant’s deliberate or negligent actions.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Vermont?
Vermont landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Vermont
Vermont tenants cancancel the rental agreementafter reasonable notice, if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. They might alsorepair and deduct,sue for damages,orget an injunctionto force repairs. Tenants can also recover reasonable attorney fees from the landlord.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Vermont?
Vermont tenantscan withhold rentuntil repairs are complete, when the landlord hasn’t made repairs within a reasonable time after the legally required notice.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Vermont?
Vermont tenantscan arrange for repairs and deductfrom the rent. The deductible amount is the actual and reasonable cost of the work, up to half the monthly rent. At the time of deduction, the tenant must provide written receipts proving costs, by hand-delivering them or mailing to the landlord.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Vermont?
Vermont tenantscan break their leasewhen the landlord hasn’t done repairs within a reasonable time after proper notice. The tenant must give the landlord an additional notice providing a reasonable amount of time until the lease ends and the tenant moves out.
Can the Tenant Sue in Vermont?
Vermont tenantscan sueto force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice. The tenant can also recover reasonable attorney fees from the landlord.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Vermont?
Vermont tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.
It’s illegal for Vermont landlords to retaliate bychanging the terms of the rental agreementorthreatening an eviction or other lawsuitagainst tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions:
Complaining to the landlord or government about failure to safely maintain the property.
Participating in a tenant organization.
If the property is found violating a health or safety law and the landlord tries to terminate the rental agreement within 90 days of getting government notice about the violation, there’s a presumption the landlord is retaliating. In such a case, the landlord must prove the intention was not retaliatory.
“(a) If the landlord fails to comply with the landlord’s obligations for habitability and, after receiving actual notice [i.e., written notice, hand-delivered or mailed] of the noncompliance from the tenant, a governmental entity or a qualified independent inspector, the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time and the noncompliance materially affects health and safety, the tenant may: (1) withhold the payment of rent for the period of the noncompliance; (2) obtain injunctive relief; (3) recover damages, costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees; and (4) terminate the rental agreement on reasonable notice.”
“Tenant remedies under this section are not available if the noncompliance was caused by the negligent or deliberate act or omission of the tenant or a person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”
“If within 30 days of notice, the landlord fails to repair a minor defect in order to comply with this chapter or a material provision of the rental agreement, the tenant may repair the defect and deduct from the rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work, not to exceed one-half of one month’s rent. The tenant shall provide the landlord with actual notice [i.e., written notice, hand-delivered or mailed] of the cost of the repair when the cost is deducted from the rent.”
“The tenant remedies under this section are not available if the noncompliance was caused by the negligent or deliberate act or omission of the tenant or a person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”
“(a) In any residential rental agreement, the landlord shall be deemed to covenant and warrant to deliver over and maintain, throughout the period of the tenancy, premises that are safe, clean, and fit for human habitation and that comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health regulations.
“(b) No rental agreement shall contain any provision by which the tenant waives the protections of the implied warranty of habitability. Any such waiver shall be deemed contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable and void.”
“Heat and water. As part of the implied warranty of habitability, the landlord shall ensure that the dwelling unit has heating facilities that are capable of safely providing a reasonable amount of heat. Every landlord who provides heat as part of the rental agreement shall at all times supply a reasonable amount of heat to the dwelling unit. The landlord shall provide an adequate amount of water to each dwelling unit properly connected with hot and cold water lines. The hot water lines shall be connected with supplied water-heating facilities that are capable of heating sufficient water to permit an adequate amount to be drawn. This subsection shall not apply to a dwelling unit intended and rented for summer occupancy or as a hunting camp.”
“Every kitchen sink, lavatory sink, shower and tub-shower combination shall be connected with water heating facilities in working order that are capable of safely heating an adequate yield of water. Shower and tub-shower combinations must be plumbed to be able to achieve a hot water temperature greater than or equal to 100°F and remain less than 120°F at the fixture.”
“Owners of rented mobile home lots shall provide hook-up to and owners of all dwellings and rooming houses shall connect all kitchen sinks, toilets, bathroom sinks, bathtubs, showers, washing machines and dishwashers to a public sewage system if available, or to a properly operating subsurface wastewater disposal system. Each wastewater disposal system shall be operated so that sewage does not back up into the dwelling, flow to the ground surface or directly into surface water.”
“Owners of dwellings, rooming houses and rented mobile home lots with short-term deficiencies in water quality or quantity must provide occupants with an alternate, adequate and accessible supply of water for drinking and sanitation until a regular source of water is made available.”
“Every habitable room in a dwelling unit or rooming house other than a kitchen shall contain at least two duplex electrical outlets or one duplex electrical outlet and one electrical light fixture. Every kitchen in a dwelling unit or rooming house shall contain at least one electric light fixture and two duplex electrical outlets. Every other room in a dwelling unit or rooming house shall contain at least one electric light fixture. All building entrances in dwellings or rooming houses and all common areas in rooming houses or dwellings containing two or more dwelling units shall be adequately lighted to provide for safe and reasonable use and safe access and egress to and from the building. All electrical systems in dwellings, rooming houses and on rented mobile home lots shall be maintained in safe working condition.”
“The owner of any dwelling or rooming house shall provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of trash, recyclables, and food scraps in accordance with 10 V.S.A. ch. 159 [Vermont’s waste management laws].”
“The owner of any dwelling or rooming house shall assure that arrangements are made for the removal of trash, recyclables, and food scraps in accordance with 10 V.S.A. ch. 159 [Vermont’s waste management laws].”
“The owner of every dwelling or rooming house shall be responsible for maintaining in a clean and sanitary condition free of trash, recyclables, and food scraps all common areas as well as any other part of the premises not used as a dwelling space.”
“Screens shall be provided for all operable windows and for doors that are providing ventilation when a window is not available. All screens shall be maintained in good repair and be free from tears, holes, or other imperfections of either screen or frame that would admit insects such as flies or mosquitoes.”
Every owner of a dwelling or rooming house shall provide and maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, staircases, chimneys and other structural elements of his or her dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming house or rooming unit so that it is weathertight, watertight, rodent proof and in good repair.
Vermont requires smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in all residential dwellings. In general, Vermont’s incorporation of the NFPA’s International Fire Code means the landlord is primarily responsible for maintaining such safety systems, but certain minor issues like battery replacement may be the tenant’s responsibility by explicit agreement in the lease. For details, seeVermont Dept. of Pub. Safety Div. of Fire Safety, Fire & Bldg. Safety Code 34-35 (2016); see alsogenerally2018 Int’l Fire Code § 907.8.5 (2018) (“The building owner shall be responsible to maintain the fire and life safety systems in an operable condition at all times.”)
“Where a tenant leases substandard premises, she ought recover from the landlord her excess rental payments, her consequential damages for ‘annoyance and discomfort’ and, in certain instances, punitive damages.”
Tenants may recover attorney fees even when the landlord technically “wins” the lawsuit through a net recovery of owed rent: “[A] landlord’s breach of the statutory warranty of habitability entitles tenants to attorney’s fees… The statute does not require a tenant to receive an overall net gain in the lawsuit — it requires only that tenants prove a breach of the warranty of habitability.”
“(a) A landlord of a residential dwelling unit may not retaliate by establishing or changing terms of a rental agreement or by bringing or threatening to bring an action against a tenant who: (1) has complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building, housing, or health regulation of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health and safety; (2) has complained to the landlord of a violation of this chapter; or (3) has organized or become a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization.
“(b) If the landlord acts in violation of this section, the tenant is entitled to recover damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and has a defense in any retaliatory action for possession.”
“If a landlord serves notice of termination of tenancy on any grounds other than for nonpayment of rent within 90 days after notice by any municipal or State governmental entity that the premises are not in compliance with applicable health or safety regulations, there is a rebuttable presumption that any termination by the landlord is in retaliation for the tenant having reported the noncompliance.”