The implied warranty of habitability is the type of implied warranty in residential leases by most jurisdictions. This warranty requires landlords to keep their property "habitable," even if the lease does specifically require them to make repairs. An implied warranty of habitability was first found in Javins v. First National Realty Corp.
“Habitability” is typically defined as property in substantial compliance with the local housing code. Due to this implied warranty, a tenant’s obligation to pay rent is contingent upon the property’s habitability and a tenant is free to withhold rent if they believe their home is not up to the required standards. This practice makes it easier for tenants to get landlords to make repairs. Furthermore, this warranty is usually coupled with retaliatory eviction rules which prohibit landlords from punishing tenants who complain about housing code violations.
This warranty is controversial. Supporters argue that it protects poor tenants from abusive landlords. Detractors argue that it drives up housing prices, encourages landlords to abandon old buildings if renovating them is too expensive, and turns landlords into public utilities.
See also: Rent Control; Landlord and Tenant Law.
[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]