What are a tenant’s rights if a landlord fails to provide heat?

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What are a tenant’s rights if a landlord fails to provide heat?

My lease states that heat is include in our rent. However, it is November and the heat is still not on. There is a lock on the heat in the basement because the bill has not been paid. I contacted the property manager and he said that he can’t get it back on now because the landlord has left the country. Seem very odd to me. Our money orders for rent are made out to the property management offices and also sent there. Why can’t they get the heat back on? Is the lease broken because of no heat? Should I still have to pay rent while living in the cold? Really, I would like to know who is responsible.

Asked on November 18, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability which means that the landlord must comply with local and state housing codes to maintain the premises in a habitable condition.  Failure to provide heat would constitute a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You could sue the landlord and property manager, who is the landlord's agent for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  As a tenant,  when there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, you can either move out and terminate your obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term or if you decide to stay, you can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  If you do sue the landlord, but don't know the landlord's present whereabouts, you can have him/her served with the lawsuit by publication.  Service by publication means publishing notice of the lawsuit in the legal notices section of the newspaper.  Even though the landlord probably won't see it, it is still considered valid service of process.  Check with the court clerk to find out how long the notice has to run in the newspaper for valid service by publication as this varies from state to state.


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