When Does a Landlord’s Neglect Become a Legal Issue?

Every landlord has a duty to their tenants to ensure their property is safe to live in. This is known, in legal terms, as the “implied warranty of habitability,” and no lease agreement can get around this basic obligation. Not every landlord keeps up this responsibility, though, failing to respond to tenants when they complain about problems in their rented spaces. If it goes long enough, neglect can stop being merely inconvenient, and start becoming a legal problem. Here are a few signs to look out for that might tell you it’s time to consider getting a lawyer:

  1. Landlord doesn’t respond to requests for maintenance
    • When a tenant makes a request to have something on the premises repaired, the least a landlord can do is respond. A negligent landlord may not get back to the tenant for days or weeks, assuming they get back at all. This ensures that problems in the apartment are not taken care of, potentially causing problems to get worse.
  2. Broken locks and latches don’t get repaired
    • One of the most basic safety measures protecting tenants is having functional locks on their doors, and latches on their windows. These help ensure that burglars cannot get in, protecting tenants’ safety and their personal property. When landlords refuse to repair locks, that goes beyond simple neglect into something that potentially endangers tenants’ lives.
  3. Hazards are left to hurt people
    • Broken floorboards, rotted ceiling tiles, loose carpeting, and broken light fixtures are all common hazards that can increase the risk of injury in apartment buildings. When these hazards are not addressed in a timely manner, tenants are placed at an unnecessary risk of harm. More than that, though, it can be a sign of a landlord’s neglect that may require a legal remedy.
  4. Utilities are not fixed in a timely fashion
    • Heating, water, and electricity are not considered conveniences in the modern era. As far as the law is concerned, these utilities are necessary to ensure the safe and comfortable habitation of a living space. When landlords allow their tenants to go without heating in the winter, or refuse to fix a broken water heater, their neglect may reach a point where legal action needs to be taken.
  5. Landlord tries to get out of responsibility
    • Finally, one of the biggest signs of a landlord’s neglect is that they try to argue they have no responsibility for the conditions in their apartments. They may try to point to language in your lease agreement, or try to argue that the damage is your fault. However, none of this excuses a landlord that tries to neglect their basic responsibility to their tenants.

If you have questions regarding your rights as a landlord or tenant, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling these matters. A New York landlord-tenant lawyer, who is experienced in handling landlord-tenant cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you are facing a dispute over unpaid rent, lease violations, or other similar issues, contact the Suffolk County landlord-tenant attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

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