What can I do about major health and safety issues in my rental?

UPDATED: Aug 2, 2011

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What can I do about major health and safety issues in my rental?

I have asked many times for my landlords to fix our roof which has been leaking and causing beams and support to rot away for about 3 years. The leak has caused a tremendous amount of black mold. I was also told by a roofing professional that the roof may not last another winter without falling in. Every time it rains black water drips from the ceiling. We also have a rat infestation and major electrical fire hazards. Can I sue? What can I do here? I live in NY, but not the city. We do not have a lease. Lived here for 5 years. Don’t have the money to move.

Asked on August 2, 2011 New York


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The landlord is in breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  The implied warranty of habitability means the landlord must maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done.  The landlord must respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time as occurred in your situation, the tenant has the following remedies:  The tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant decides to stay on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

You said that you don't have a lease, but have lived there five years.  Is that because the original lease term expired?  If the original lease term expired, by continuing to remain on the premises and pay rent, you have a month-to-month tenancy.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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