The implied warranty of habitability

Category: Tenant Rights & Laws Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September 2014 Published: Sunday, 21 September 2014 Written by ATA Admin

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The implied warranty of habitability:

The implied warranty of habitability is probably the most used defense to payment of rent in the residential setting. In Pennsylvania the warranty dates back to 1979, when it was legislated into existence by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of Pugh v. Holmes. The doctrine quickly became a fixture of the Commonwealth's landlord-tenant law and gave the tenant a new and potentially powerful set of remedies against its landlord.

Tenants frequently misuse the habitability doctrine on the flimsiest of pretexts. However, a residential landlord can take heart from the fact that only a serious defect should result in relief to a tenant. The Holmes court put it this way: "In order to constitute a breach of the warranty, the defect must be of a nature and kind which will prevent the use of the dwelling for its intended purpose to provide premises fit for habitation by its dwellers . . . this means the premises must be safe and sanitary; of course, there is no obligation on the part of the landlord to supply a perfect or aesthetically pleasing dwelling."

The habitability analysis often has a subjective "beauty pageant" feel to it--whether the apartment is fit for habitation is in the eye of the beholder (who is usually a district justice). Some guidance, however, is provided by the judicial record which establishes that the residence contains specific defects that, individually or collectively, may give rise to the breach of the implied warranty of habitability; those defects include lack of heat, broken windows, broken locks, lack of potable water, health code violations, fire code violations, non-functional fire alarms, water intrusion, and mold.

The uses of the implied warranty of habitability are three-fold: it provides a defense to rental payments; it allows a tenant to make repairs and deduct those costs from rent; and it can serve as the basis of a counterclaim against the landlord.

The bottom line is that a Pennsylvania residential landlord should be aware of the condition of his property at the inception of his lease and should promptly attend to tenant complaints about the premises. The threat of losing rental payments (even if the tenant doesn't vacate) is a real one.


The basic idea behind the Implied Warranty of Habitability is that in exchange for the tenant’s promise to pay rent, the landlord promises to provide a residence fit for human habitation. This warranty or promise is said to be implied because it does not have to be in writing.




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