In every residential lease, the landlord implicitly promises that the premises will be maintained in livable condition for the duration of the lease. This so-called implied warranty of habitability does not mean that the premises will be perfect. It simply means that the residence is suitable for human habitation. Breaches of the implied warranty of habitability may occur due to failure to provide heat in winter, adequate plumbing, or running water.
If the implied warranty of habitability is breached, the tenant is entitled to either:
- Move out, thereby terminating the lease
- Remain in possession and affirmatively sue the landlord for damages
In many states, the tenant is also entitled by statute to “repair and deduct.” Thus, the tenant may make the necessary, reasonable repairs and then deduct the costs from future rent. Alternatively, in many states the tenant is entitled to withhold all rent, or reduce the rent paid to an amount equal to the fair rental value of the premises in view of the defects, until the court determines an appropriate rental amount. Usually, the tenant must place any withheld sums into an escrow account.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment pertains to residential and commercial leases. It is an implicit promise that the landlord makes, entitling the tenant to the right to quiet use and enjoyment of the premises, without interference from the landlord. The landlord could breach this implied promise overtly by wrongfully evicting the tenant, or excluding the tenant from the premises.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is breached when the landlord commits a constructive eviction. A constructive eviction occurs when a tenant suffers a substantial interference with the right to use and enjoy the premises because of some act, or failure to act, that is attributable to the landlord. For example, if the tenant’s apartment floods every time it rains and the landlord fails to correct the problem, a constructive eviction may have occurred. Prior to claiming constructive eviction, the tenant must give the landlord reasonable notice of the problem and a meaningful opportunity to respond. In most states, to claim constructive eviction, the tenant must vacate the premises within a reasonable time after the landlord fails to correct the problem.
Bailey v. Lawler-Wood Housing, LLC, Case No. 05-5193 (E.D. La. 2006)
The duties of a landlord are enumerated in Louisiana Civil Code article 2682, which provides:
The lessor is bound:
(1) To deliver the thing to the lessee;
(2) To maintain the thing in a condition suitable for the purpose for which it was leased; and
(3) To protect the lessee’s peaceful possession for the duration of the lease.
La. Civ. Code, art. 2682.