Your tenants are entitled to live in a rental property that meets certain standards of habitability. This means that the home must be safe and comfortable throughout the year.
As the landlord, you are obligated to ensure that the rental home or apartment has a reliable heating system, among other necessities. If you do not, your tenants may take legal action against you or terminate their lease.
If you don’t want to end up with a vacant and unprofitable property, you must understand your responsibilities as a property owner.
What is the Implied Warranty of Habitability?
The Implied Warranty of Habitability is an implicit obligation that all rental property owners have. It generally means that all landlords must provide rental properties that meet minimum living standards throughout the tenancy. The Implied Warranty of Habitability applies specifically to residential rental properties, and not to commercial properties. Lease agreements do not have to explicitly include the landlord’s obligations as they are implied.
Housing codes vary from state to state, but every state acknowledges the implied warranty of habitability. Regardless of the amount of rent a tenant pays, landlords must provide livable or habitable housing, which includes:
- Making sure that interior and exterior structural elements, such as roofs, walls, and floors, are intact.
- Keeping all areas in multi-family properties safe and clean all year round.
- Ensuring that all heating, plumbing, electrical, air-conditioning, sewage, and ventilation systems are functional.
- Supplying a sufficient amount of cold and hot water at certain times.
- Eliminating hazards such as asbestos, mold, and lead from the property.
- Preventing criminal intrusions by securing the property.
- Exterminating pests and rodents.
To ensure that you remain compliant with federal and state laws, consider consulting a property management company.
May the Implied Warranty of Habitability Be Waived?
A property owner or landlord cannot waive his/her obligation to ensure that the rental property meets the basic conditions for habitability. For instance, a property owner cannot include a “disclaimer” in the lease agreement that relieves them of their responsibilities. Even if the lease agreement does include this clause, it will not hold up in court.
When Does a Landlord Violate the Implied Warranty of Habitability?
A landlord violates the Implied Warranty of Habitability when he/she neglects or refuses to address rental-related problems that put the tenant’s health and safety at risk. For example, if the tenant reports that the furnace isn’t working during the winter, and the landlord fails to fix the problem within a reasonable time, a habitability issue would arise because the home would be considered unlivable.
How Much Time Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Heating Issue?
For heating issues that cause a serious health or safety risk to the rental property’s occupants, the landlord is given a specific amount of time to complete the repairs. This varies from state to state and is often determined by the seriousness of the issue. Most states allow landlords thirty days to complete the repairs, while others allow only three to seven days, especially if there is no running water or if the outdoor temperature is cold.
For example, under Florida state law, landlords have seven days to complete the repairs. If the repairs are not completed within this period, the tenant may legally terminate their lease agreement. The landlord may also face heavy fines.
In colder areas such as Chicago, landlords are required to fix the heating system under 72 hours after receiving a formal complaint or notice from the tenant.
Ask your property manager about your state’s policies regarding the amount of time that you have to fix heating issues on your rental property.
Can a Tenant Fix the Heating Issue By Themselves?
Some states such as California allow tenants to complete the repairs by themselves. This is also known as the “Right to Repair and Deduct.”
Tenants have the option to hire a technician of their choice and to deduct the cost from their next rent payment. However, the renter must first inform the landlord of the necessary repairs. The total cost for repairs also cannot go beyond one month’s worth of rent.
Is There an Exact Temperature That Must Be Maintained for Multi-Family Rentals?
By law, landlords can control the heat in multi-family dwellings such as apartments. This is common in properties that have a single thermostat that controls the heat for all of the units.
There is no federal law that specifically provides how warm the rental unit should be. Generally, landlords should ensure that the apartment is safe and comfortable (meaning not too hot nor too cold) that it would begin to impact the health of the occupants. Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to tenants who have unique medical conditions.
Additionally, heating systems should be able to reach temperatures of at least 68-degrees Fahrenheit when outdoor temperatures reach -20-degrees Fahrenheit.
Many cities have specific requirements as to how warm each rental unit should be. For instance, in New York, the indoor temperature cannot be below 62-degrees Fahrenheit. Hire a property management firm to help you determine which laws apply to your property.
Do Landlords Have to Give Advanced Notice of Repairs?
Landlords are typically required to give the tenants advance notice that they will be entering the tenant’s unit or home. This notice should be given at least 24 hours before entry, but it can be waived during emergencies.
Can Tenants Withhold Rent Until Repairs Are Made?
In some states, tenants are allowed to withhold their rent until their heating systems are repaired. However, before a tenant can withhold rent, they must have provided the landlord with a formal written notice of the issue, as well as deposited the withheld rent with the court.
Keep in mind that this applies only to situations wherein the Implied Warranty of Habitability is breached.
If you are dealing with a heating issue in your Florida rental property, give the property managers at Luxury Property Care a call today. We have an established network of vetted vendors who can complete the repairs quickly so that your tenants can stay warm and comfortable all year round.