Rochester Landlord Tenant Attorney Examines the Basis of Liability
- Among the many legal grounds upon which tenants sue landlords is the Warranty of Habitability which applies to all residential properties in the United States and says that, in addition to providing the tenant with a place to live, the landlord is charged with ensuring that residence’s habitability – meaning there is no danger to life, health, or safety.
- A tenant may sue a landlord if danger exists, the property is not habitable, the tenant becomes ill, or if an unsafe condition causes a fall. Because the tenant is permitted to withhold rent in the event of a breach in this Warranty, the habitability defense is often raised in non-payment proceedings.
- Because there is only one defense to a holdover proceeding, a landlord who needs to evict a tenant should posit holdover or other grounds. If a tenant is being evicted, the only viable defense to a holdover proceeding – other than procedural grounds – is retaliation, which can be claimed if a tenant has complained to the building inspector or health department within six months prior to an attempted eviction or 30-day notice.
- Tenants involved in non-payment proceedings may allege that they simply withheld rent because the property was unsafe, in violation of building or fire codes, or infested with rodents.
- An injury-based lawsuit may allege ongoing building code violations such as improper rails or other unsafe conditions. Further, under Joint and Several Liability, even if a landlord is responsible for only 1% of a person’s injury – and the tenant is 99% responsible – a plaintiff can recover the entire judgment against the landlord. This is where renter’s insurance can add an additional layer of liability protection.
- New York also recognizes Comparative Negligence which means a jury may decide that someone was partially responsible for their own injuries and reduce their award.