What is habitability and why is it so important? Essentially, it is anything that endangers the livability of the property and the health and welfare of the tenants. Many common problems are heat, plumbing, major roof leaks, unsafe electrical, carpeting, stairways, or sidewalks, etc. Very few things can be more costly to an investor than ignoring anything that involves tenant safety.
If a problem exists and the property owner does not provide the maintenance required to solve the problem, they can incur major losses of rents and/or damages. The court has a very dim view of property owners that ignore the safety of their tenants. The court puts the burden of proof on the owner.
In some states the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the URLTA has been passed; a number of states have based their statutory law on this act or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. Pennsylvania’s law is the Landlord Tenant Act of 1951, however the legal principles of habitability were not well established in the original law. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court in the case of Pugh v. Holmes established the rule of “Implied Warranty of Habitability”and over the years, courts have made many habitability rulings based on this case. Interpretations can vary with different judges and in different jurisdictions. Many people are unaware of the existence of this case its impact on tenant relations.
When faced with a difficult case between Landlord and Tenant, a judge will often consult the many points of law before rendering a decision. Important Federal and State Landlord/Tenant Law often stems from these judgments.
Landlord-tenant law in the United States originated from English common law developed within an agricultural society. Habitability stems from this. The basic points are:
▪ Are there any documented code violations
▪ Are there any dangers or hazards in the dwelling
▪ Does the electric and plumbing system
▪ Has the same problem reoccurred numerous times
Unfortunately, many property owners often ignore the potential liabilities of maintenance that involves “habitability.” These actions have lead to major legislation, such as Fair Housing; lead based paint, and mold, which has a far-reaching effect on property owners and tenants.
As professional property managers, we have the expertise to help your investors with these issues. Have your clients contact us so we can assist them with their investment.
Name: Peter N. Lamandre
Bio: Peter N. Lamandre is a Licensed Real Estate Broker, Consultant, Speaker, Mentor and Licensed Real Estate Instructor in Scranton Pennsylvania. He currently owns and operates Better by Design Real Estate, LLC a full service Real Estate Brokerage in Scranton, PA. One of the areas of specialty for Better by design Real Estate, LLC is property Management. Peter is a member of IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management), the National Association of REALTORS®, the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® and the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® where he services on various committees and taskforces. Peter can be contacted at his office at (570) 969-2105 or by visiting Better by Design Real Estate, LLC.