What Rights Do Tenants Have When Their Unit Is Unsafe or Unsanitary?
Tenants have the right in Missouri to receive “habitable” space and “quiet enjoyment” of the home they are renting. Sometimes the poor conditions in a rented home are so severe or dangerous that you would consider moving out to protect yourself and your family. Under Missouri law, a tenant can do just that, but only in certain limited situations. In these situations, the claim is that the landlord has breached its “warranty of habitability” regarding the property.
In order to constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability, the conditions must be of such a nature as to render the premises unsafe or unsanitary, which is be determined by factors such as the nature of the deficiency or defect, its effect on the life, health or safety of the tenant, the length of time the has persisted, and the age of the structure. See King v. Moorehead, 495 S.W.2d 65, 75 (Mo.App. 1973).
Unfortunately, this is confusing and creates a situation where you don’t really know before going to court whether you are permitted to break the lease and move out.
To provide some guidance, here are some basic elements you will likely need (but this list is not meant to be exhaustive): to establish breach of the warranty of habitability:
- you are in a lease for residential property;
- dangerous or unsanitary conditions developed on the premises materially affecting your life, health and safety (or others living there with landlord permission);
- you provided reasonable notice of the defects to the landlord; and
- the landlord failed to restore the premises to habitability.
To further complicate matters, habitability is measured using community standards, which change based upon locality and property maintenance codes (regarding habitability-type issues).
In some instances, a tenant may be able to pay an independent contractor to fix the residence and then deduct the amount paid to the contractor from the rent.
However, Missouri law requires tenants to follow strict guidelines before, during, and after engaging in this practice, so make sure you seek out legal advice prior to making such a decision. Missouri law provides some guidelines you can discuss with your attorney.
NOTE: There are exceptions even to these guidelines that would prevent tenant from deducting the cost of repairs. Due to the rigid nature and complexity of the guidelines and the exceptions, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney before taking this on yourself.
If you are renting or leasing from a landlord in the St Louis area and your unit is dangerous or unsafe, please reach out to us and take advantage of the flat fee pricing we can usually offer in this area.
If you are a residential tenant facing problems with your landlord, we also offer reduced fee consultations of $50 for thirty (30) minutes.
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