The Warranty of Habitability is an important section of the New York Real Property Law. It requires owners of buildings to keep their premises safe, clean and in good repair. Both the common areas of buildings and the interiors of apartments must be free of any condition that is detrimental to a person’s health, life or safety.
Under the Warranty of Habitability, tenants frequently seek rent abatements by withholding rental payments, in order to get a service restored or a defective condition corrected. If there is a need for an emergency repair that the owner refuses to address, tenants may also contract privately to have the repair done, and then deduct the cost from the rent.
An owner’s liability is limited, however, if the cause of the service disruption is the result of a labor dispute. If there is such a strike, and the owner reaps a profit as a result, a court may order the owner to “pass through” the saving to the tenant in the form of a one-time rent reduction.
Before a tenant withholds rent, it is advisable to consult an experienced tenant organizer, legislative office, or attorney such as the Law Office of Eric Feinberg in order to assure that the law is being properly applied.