Vermont Habitability Laws

Last Updated: June 27, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Vermont, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by 9 V.S.A. § 4457. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Windows/Doors, Roof/Walls, Cold/Hot Water, Heating, Plumbing, Electrical, Trash Can, Stairs/Railing, Floors, Fire Exits, No Combustible Materials, Sanitation Facilities, Smoke/ Carbon Monoxide Detector
Time Limit for Repairs 30 Days
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: Yes, for serious habitability issues
  • Repair & Deduct: Yes, if the repair cost is less than one-half of a month’s rent

Applicable Dwelling Types in Vermont

The implied warranty of habitability in Vermont does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and 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.

Questions? To chat with a Vermont landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Landlord Responsibilities in Vermont

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.

Heat

If the landlord supplies heat as a part of the rental agreement, heat must be supplied when the outside temperature is less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside of a dwelling unit should be able to maintain at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ventilation

All dwelling units must include at least one window or door that can be opened to bring in fresh air. Screens should be provided by the landlord for any operable window and doors that are used for ventilation. Common areas that contain hallways or stairways and any bathroom or shower room must be properly ventilated.

Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Vermont

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. Landlords should enter the premises at reasonable times, between the hours of 9am and 9pm are considered reasonable, except in emergency cases.
Questions? To chat with a Vermont landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made in Vermont

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

  1. Withhold Rent – Vermont landlord-tenant law permits a tenant to withhold rent in response to serious habitability issues.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Lawsuit– Tenants can sue the landlord for damages for the latter’s failure to comply with their duty as a landlord.

Landlord Retaliation in Vermont

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.
  • Organized or become a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization.

Sources

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