Paralegal 101: Landlord Tenant Series - Warranty of Habitability

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Paralegal 101: Warranty of Habitability

New York State Real Property Law, Article 7, § 235-b: Warranty of habitability:

"1. In every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential premises the landlord or lessor shall be deemed to covenant and warrant that the premises so leased or rented and all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants or residents are fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety. When any such condition has been caused by the misconduct of the tenant or lessee or persons under his direction or control, it shall not constitute a breach of such covenants and warranties."

"2. Any agreement by a lessee or tenant of a dwelling waiving or modifying his rights as set forth in this section shall be void as contrary to public policy."

"3. In determining the amount of damages sustained by a tenant as a result of a breach of the warranty set forth in the section, the court; (a) need not require any expert testimony; and (b) shall, to the extent the warranty is breached or cannot be cured by reason of a strike or other labor dispute which is not caused primarily by the individual landlord or lessor and such damages are attributable to such strike, exclude recovery to such extent, except to the extent of the net savings, if any, to the landlord or lessor by reason of such strike or labor dispute allocable to the tenant's premises, provided, however, that the landlord or lesser has made a good faith attempt, where practicable, to cure the breach. (c) where the premises is subject to regulation pursuant to the local emergency housing rent control law, the emergency tenant protection act of nineteen seventy-four, the rent stabilization law of nineteen hundred sixty-nine or the city rent and rehabilitation law, reduce the amount awarded hereunder by the total amount of any rent reduction ordered by the state division of housing and community renewal pursuant to such laws or act, awarded to the tenant, from the effective date of such rent reduction order, that relates to one or more matters for which relief is awarded hereunder."

Those three little paragraphs hold so much meaning to parties entering into a rental agreement...

In New York, this section of law reflects in sum and substance the fact that landlords entering into written or oral lease agreements with tenants must maintain the property and dwelling in a condition that is (a) free from conditions detrimental to health and safety while being fit for human habitation and (b) in accordance with agreed upon / required services.

What is an agreed upon service? Examples include allowing a tenant to use a portion of storage space for a bicycle, Christmas tree, file bins, travel trunks, etc. A tenant should not assume just because the guy in Apt # 1A always parks his bike in the basement that everyone may line their bikes up in that general, designated area. Each resident must obtain usage permissions from his/her landlord and abide by the rules of the building regarding permissible usage.

What is a required service? Examples include rectifying any condition that violates a New York housing code, adhering to the New York City Rent Regulatory Laws (e.g. Rent Control, Rent Stabilization, etc) and services with base dates designated in regulatory laws or granted by the lease agreement.

My life as an example: I have been in my current rent controlled apartment since 1993. All services that were in effect in New York City on March 1, 1943 are REQUIRED services for my building. My rent control base date is from 1943 although my occupancy date is from 1993. 

In New York City there are two rent stabilization base dates. Contrary to popular belief they are actually important for you to know because these two base dates determine REQUIRED services for apartments subject to New York City Rent Stabilization: 

(A) Pre 1947 Construction: May 29th, 1974 for stabilized apartments ON or AFTER July 1st, 1974.

(B) Post 1947 Construction: May 31st, 1968 for stabilized apartments ON or BEFORE June 30th, 1974.

Our invisible New York City rent stabilization lines were divided June 30/July 1, 1974 into PRE and POST 1947 construction. If you are are a renter looking to secure rent reductions for lack of services or a landlord staring at an expensive painters bill because your tenant picked out special paint because you failed to paint her apartment every three years this conversation may suddenly become very interesting to you (LOL).

Your attorney is the correct venue to render a legal opinion and to craft all complaints and defenses within the confines of the applicable laws. Your real estate practitioner is not the correct venue and Paralegals do not render legal opinions. Don't ask people who are not lawyers for legal advice or you may find yourself watching the landlord covering that expensive, custom color latex paint job with cheap, white water-based flat paint while thanking you for reminding him he had three days left and it was time to paint your apartment (LOL). ;-)




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