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WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY 

Tenants are entitled to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment. Lease provisions inconsistent with this right are illegal. Failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or to rid an apartment of insect infestation are examples of a violation of this warranty. Public areas of the building are also covered by the warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability also applies to cooperative apartments, but not to condominiums. Any uninhabitable condition caused by the tenant or persons under his direction or control does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability. In such a case, it is the responsibility of the tenant to remedy the condition. (Real Property Law §235-b)

If a landlord breaches the warranty, the tenant may sue for a rent reduction. The tenant may also withhold rent, but in response, the landlord may sue the tenant for non-payment of rent. In such a case, the tenant may counter sue for breach of the warranty.

Rent reductions may be ordered if a court finds that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability. The reduction is computed by subtracting from the actual rent the estimated value of the apartment without the essential services.

A landlord's liability for damages is limited when the failure to provide services is the result of a union-wide building workers' strike. However, a court may award damages to a tenant equal to a share of the landlord's net savings because of the strike. Landlords will be liable for lack of services caused by a strike when they have not made a good faith attempt, where practicable, to provide services.

In emergencies, tenants may make necessary repairs and deduct reasonable repair costs from the rent. For example, when a landlord has been notified that a door lock is broken and willfully neglects to repair it, the tenant may hire a locksmith and deduct the cost from the rent. Tenants should keep receipts for such repairs.

Disclaimer: The law is subject to  change and interpretation of the court. The information provided is for reference. Please consult an attorney for further assistance. 
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