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Javins v. First National Realty Corp

    Brief Fact Summary. When a landlord sought possession of the premises, the tenant defended by claiming a breach of the warranty of habitability.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In regards to residential property, the landlord makes an implied warranty of habitability, and the standard of habitability will be set by the relevant housing codes.

    Facts. Tenants (Appellants) at a housing complex did not pay their rent for one month. The landlord, First National Realty Corp. (Appellee), sought possession based on the default. Appellants alleged numerous violations of statutory housing regulations as a defense.

    Issue. In the lease of an apartment, is there an implied warranty of habitability?

    Held. Yes.
    Leases of urban apartments should be treated as contracts. Obligations are imposed on landlords by modern housing codes to keep the premises in a habitable condition.
    Since a lease specifies a certain period of time in which the tenant will use the apartment, the tenant may legitimately expect that the apartment will be fit for habitation for that time. There is no allegation that the apartments were in poor condition or in violation of the housing code at the time the leases started. Since the tenants continued to pay the same rent, they were entitled to expect that the landlord would keep the premises as it were in the beginning of the lease.
    There is inequality in the bargaining power between landlord and tenant. Tenants cannot really demand better housing.
    The housing code requires that a warranty of habitability be implied in the leases of all housing that it covers. By signing the lease, the landlord takes a continuing obligation to the tenant to maintain the premises in accordance with the law. The code implies a warranty of habitability measured by the standards outlined in the code into all leases that it covers.
    Appellants’ obligation to pay rent depends upon Appellee’s performance of his obligations. Appellants’ must be given an opportunity to prove violations that breach the warranty in order to determine if rent is owed.

    Discussion. When the landlord breaches the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant has a legal right to stop paying rent.


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