Vermont
Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. All plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities and smoke detectors must be kept in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 30 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenants can withhold rent, repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Vermont does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs Not specifically addressed
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Only if person in mobile home is renter, not owner
Condos Yes
Hotels/Motels No

Additionally, rental agreements are not allowed to include any provisions that waive the tenant’s right to live in a habitable residence.

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Vermont, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. It’s always best to check local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Yes
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Heating required
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Yes
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Yes
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Yes
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox for each unit. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Yes
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

Kitchens

Landlords are required to provide a kitchen and a kitchen sink, and floors and countertops must be “non-absorbent.”

Pests/Bedbugs

Landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining pest- and bedbug-free rental units. In addition, rental units must be “rodent-proof.”

Lead-based Paint

For buildings built before 1978 landlords are required to comply with additional duties meant to protect tenants from possible lead paint exposure including, but not limited to, providing tenants with information on protecting against lead, posting a notice asking the tenants to report chipping, flaking or damaged paint, and completing Essential Maintenance Practices (EMP’s)annually. Check out this link on EMP’s to know more about these requirements.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. The landlord will then have 30 days to make any necessary repairs.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants 48 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Report habitability issues – where the landlord’s failure to maintain the habitability of the unit also violates a health, safety, building or housing code or rule, the tenant may report the landlord for such violation.
  2. Withhold rent – Vermont landlord-tenant law permits a tenant to withhold rent in response to habitability issues. Note, however, that because non-payment of rent is a ground for eviction, withholding of rent is a remedy that should be used very carefully and only in instances where the tenant has a clear right to do so.
  3. Repair and deduct – tenants can pay for the repair themselves and deduct the repair amount from their monthly rent payments. The amount to be deducted, however, cannot exceed one-half of a month’s rent.
  4. Sue for damages – tenants can sue the landlord for damages for the latter’s failure to comply with their duty as a landlord.
  5. Terminate the Agreement – tenants may opt to terminate the agreement, upon reasonable notice, without losing their right to the refund of their deposits.

Landlord Retaliation

It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant by establishing or changing terms of a rental agreement, raising the rent or threatening to bring an action against a tenant who:

  • complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building or housing violation;
  • complained to the landlord of a violation of Vermont’s Residential Rental Agreements Laws or Fair Housing Law; or
  • organized or become a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization.

Sources