Avoiding Habitability Claims in North Carolina
By: Gentry Collins – North Carolina & South Carolina Licenced Attorney with Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, LLC
In North Carolina, a housing provider’s obligation to deliver and keep a habitable living space, or the “implied warranty of habitability” is primarily governed by North Carolina General Statutes § 42-42. This statute not only provides requirements that must be met for a housing provider to fulfill its duty to provide a fit home but also provides for resident remedies if repairs are not made in a timely manner.
Housing providers are required to comply with applicable building and housing codes; do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition; keep all common areas in a safe condition; maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied by the housing provider; and provide operable smoke detectors, either battery-operated or electrical, having national testing laboratory approval, and install smoke detectors in accordance with either the standards of the National Fire Protection Association or the minimum protection designed in the manufacturer’s instructions, which the housing provider shall retain or provide as proof of compliance.
These laws apply to both single family dwellings and multifamily dwellings and states that housing providers must perform repairs within a “reasonable amount of time.” Residents must request the repairs or deliver notice of any defects, generally in writing, unless it is an emergency. From there, the housing provider has a reasonable amount of time to complete the repairs, and reasonable time periods will vary depending on the nature of the required repair and specifics of the situation.
North Carolina law also sets requirements for residents residing in a rented homes. These duties include paying rent on time; keeping the rented homes as clean and safe as possible (i.e., removing trash properly and keeping plumbing clean); avoid damaging the home; and notify the housing provider if they decide to vacate the premises.
In North Carolina, residents are not allowed to withhold rent even when repairs are not completed. The only circumstances in which a resident is permitted to withhold rent is when the housing provider consents to it in writing or when a judge or civil magistrate allows the resident to withhold rent pursuant to a court order.
In order to be held liable, housing providers must be put on notice that there is an issue. Should a resident or their property be injured due to a defective or damaged condition after a housing provider has failed to timely make a repair, the housing provider can be held liable.
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