What if my landlorddoesn’t havea Certificate of Occupancy/Compliance?

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What if my landlorddoesn’t havea Certificate of Occupancy/Compliance?

I’ve been living at my apartment for a year now. Within the last 2 months I have found out about Certificate of Compliance laws in my city. I went to the City Hall and found out that my landlord does not have one. I told her until there was one I wouldn’t pay rent and I would find a new place to live as soon as I could. I began getting threats from her and her property manager to evict me; then her property manager tried fighting a family member of mine. A few days ago I recieved a summons to court in which she is sueing me for disruptive behavior as well as the past few months rent. I’d like to know if I can counter sue?

Asked on August 16, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Every state allows for a tenant's ability to sue their landlord for violations or rights of a tenant during the course of their tenancy.  Generally a tenant sues for what is known as "habitability" issues: the right to a clean, safe and habitable apartment.  In your Answer to the complaint you will allege a "breach of habitability" if there exists such a breach but you will raise as an affirmative defense that the lease is void or voidable due to illegality.  See where that gets you.  The court clerk will help you to prepare the answer.  But I caution you: Judge's do not like for tenants to practice "self help" by withholding rent even if they believe that a condition exists to warrant it.  Good luck.


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