Where the tenant remains in possession and the landlord sues for possession for unpaid rent, the implied warranty of habitability may be asserted as a defense. Virtually all courts addressing the issue of breach of this warranty as a defense concur with this view. If the landlord totally breached the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant's obligation to pay rent would be abated in full, the action for possession would fail because there would be no unpaid rent. If the landlord had not breached the warranty at all, no part of the tenant's obligation to pay rent would be abated and the landlord would be entitled to a judgment for possession and for unpaid rent. Id. If there had been a partial breach of the warranty, the obligation to pay rent would be abated in part only. In such case, a judgment for possession must be denied if the tenant agrees to pay that portion of the rent not abated; if the tenant refuses to pay the partial rent due, a judgment granting possession would be ordered.
A tenant rented a residential dwelling from the landlord on an oral month-to-month basis. The landlord filed actions against the tenant seeking unpaid rent and possession, and the tenant counterclaimed asserting breach of an implied warranty of habitability and a set-off for repairs to defective conditions. The trial court found that the tenant failed to set forth a legal defense or a legal cause of action. On appeal, the intermediate appellate court reversed and remanded, abolished the doctrine of caveat emptor, and held that an implied warranty of habitability applied to all residential leases. The landlord sought review of that determination.
Is there an implied warranty of habitability applied to all residential leases?
The Court held that that the doctrine of caveat emptor no longer applied and that the implied warranty of habitability governed residential leases. The court further held that a breach of that warranty relieved the tenant of the obligation to pay rent, although the tenant had an obligation to allow the landlord a reasonable time for repairs.