Right now the rental market is incredibly competitive and tight. Many renters are happy to have any lease, much less a place in great condition. In order to save a little money, you might be tempted to rent an older or less kept-up rental, but it is important to know your rights when it comes to drawing the fine line between minor problems and inhabitability.
Some landlords skate pretty closely to renting inhabitable units and it is very important to know what the law requires of them. In the state of Georgia, a landlord must follow very specific guidelines to ensure that a rental unit is habitable according to the law. You can learn more about this topic by reading the Tenant’s Right’s Brochure from Georgia Legal Aid.
What is the landlord responsible for?
Every landlord is required to provide a safe and livable rental home. What does this practically mean?
- A roof that keeps out snow and rain
- Reliable heating
- Sufficient and reliable hot water
- Walls and floors that are sturdy and not in danger of collapsing
- Reasonable protection from criminals and intrusion
- No danger of significant environmental hazards such as mold, lead, and asbestos
Implied Warranty of Hability in Georgia
Every state in the US, except Arkansas, recognizes the “Implied Warranty of Habitability”. This is a legal doctrine that states that if a landlord does not provide a rental unit that is habitable under the guidelines set forth by the law, tenants may break their contract and move out or file a lawsuit.
How does the law define habitability and when is a rental unit uninhabitable?
If a landlord is following the Implied Warranty of Habitability, they will…
- Maintain all common areas (hallways, stairwells) in a clean and safe condition
- Maintain safe electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, sanitary, air conditioning systems, and elevators
- Maintain the safety of structural elements of the building. This includes stairs, floors, walls, and roofs
- Supply hot and cold water at reasonable times and in reasonable amounts
- Fix or manage known environmental hazards such as mold, dust, or lead paint, so that they do not pose a significant danger to tenants.
- Exterminate and prevent rodents and other vermin
- Provide a unit which is reasonably safe from foreseeable criminal intrusions
- You can learn more about this by reading the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook
Every tenant in the state of Georgia has an unwaivable right to a livable rental unit
Every tenant in the state of Georgia has an unwaivable right to a livable rental unit. This means that a tenant can force a landlord to maintain a livable rental at all times. A landlord can not waive habitability responsibilities in a “disclaimer” when the tenancy begins. Additionally, an agreement between a landlord and a tenant to waive habitability (in exchange for lower rent, for example) will not be upheld by the courts.
How do you know when a landlord has breached the Implied Warranty of habitability?
When a problem arises due to the negligence or inattention of the landlord, the Implied Warranty of Habitability has been breached. These are problems that cause a tenant to be concerned about their health or safety.
An Example: If the air-conditioning is not working for a tenant and the unit is becoming very warm in the summer heat. This results in a major habitability concern because a unit without proper Air Conditioning is unlivable.
When a tenant has a reasonable fear for their health or safety, a landlord has breached the implied warranty of habitability
Here are a few more examples of minor problems versus major habitability problems:
|Minor Problem||Habitability Problem|
|An old or creaky furnace that makes noises when on||A furnace that will not turn on|
|A slight roof leak that causes some discoloration of the ceiling||A leaky roof that causes water to pool inside the house|
|Rats or mice under the house, but not inside||Rats or mice inside the house|
|Air Conditioning does not get as cold as a tenant would like||Air conditioning does not work in the summer|
|A front door or lock that is sticky or requires more effort to lock||A front that does not lock|
What are my options when a landlord breaches the Implied Warranty of Habitability?
If a landlord breaches the implied warranty of habitability, there are four main options to enforce the implied warranty of habitability. Be sure to check with an attorney and the law before taking any of these actions.
- Pay for repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent
- Withhold rent
- Sue the landlord
- Move out without notice and without paying rent
If your landlord has breached the Implied Warranty of Habitability, check with an attorney before taking any of the above actions. This is because every state and municipality has different recognized tenant remedies. You can call (678) 819-5200 for a free consultation with a trusted personal injury attorney today.