Warrant of Habitability

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March 16, 2012

3:23 AM

You’ve heard the horror stories. A young college kid moves to his first apartment away from home. Creepy landlord—stained wife beater and chewing tobacco—and crappy apartment—black mold and no electricity. But all too often standard form contracts and disparate bargaining power—where else are you going to live?—push college students into a nightmare cycle of complaints, problems and more complaints, until eventually they move out.

But Virginia Code § 55-248.13 lays out the requirement that landlords must maintain fit premises. Landlords are required to comply with applicable building and housing codes affecting health and safety, and landlords are required to ensure all electrical, heating, plumbing and air conditioning, as well as electrical appliances—this includes items like ovens and refrigerators—in good and safe working order. Of course, if you don’t have air conditioning, you may be excited at the prospect of forcing your landlord to hook it up for you. Unforunately, your landlord must only provide “reasonable air conditioning…in season except where the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat, air conditioning or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant.” See, that’s how they get you.

Of course, tenants have responsibilities, too. According to Virginia Code § 55-248.16, tenants must “keep that part of the dwelling unit and the part of the premises that he or she occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.” That’s right—you may have a statutorily-imposed duty to keep those beer cans off the floor.

 

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