Article Title

The New Implied and Statutory Warranties of Habitability in Residential Leases: From Contract to Status

Publication Title

Urban Law Annual


The new rule that the landlord must provide a habitable dwelling for his tenants has now been adopted in at least thirty-one jurisdictions. In eleven of these jurisdictions, the new principle was originally established by judicial decision; in the others, by legislation." But in several jurisdictions the new judge-made implied warranty of habitability has been superseded by broader warranty of habitability legislation. Fifteen states have now enacted legislation based on the Model Code or the URLTA, both of which include a detailed specification of the landlord's "warranty" obligation and the tenant's remedies for breach of that obligation. If the trend toward recognition of the residential tenant's right to a habitable dwelling continues in the future, it seems probable that it will take the form of further adoptions (and adaptations) of the URLTA rather than new case law. But it is quite possible that the impetus for adoption of the new "habitability" principles, whether by legislation or by judicial decision, may be slowed by legislative and judicial doubts as to the likelihood that changing the law on the books will have much effect on the law of landlord and tenant in action, and the likelihood that the welfare of tenants will, in fact, be improved if the new habitability principles should prove to have substantial effect in the real world. It is interesting to note that the legislatures of Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas recently gave consideration to enactment of new landlord-tenant legislation including a warranty of habitability, and that the proposed legislation failed of passage in all three states.