Are Landlords Responsible for Power Outages?

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The landlord is required in nearly every state to provide adequate power to the apartment. If it’s caused by the landlord, like from faulty wiring, it’s usually considered a violation of the lease if it lasts for an extended period of time. In many states, landlords are responsible even if the power outage if the fault of the power company.

Brief Power Outages

If the place loses power for a few hours, the tenant may look to local laws requiring electricity or the lease. The tenant’s remedies for temporary power outages are very limited unless they are subject to frequent but short power outages. The implied warranty of habitability doesn’t apply to a brief outage because it doesn’t make the place unfit for habitation. If multiple outages are brief but recurring, the tenant may have a claim that the apartment is unfit for habitation and may seek the remedies outlined above.

Extended Power Outage

Generally, landlords are required to provide housing that’s fit for habitation under the “implied warranty of habitability,” which says that every lease includes an implicit promise to provide a safe, livable home. If the power outage is extended (or regularly recurring and frequent) and is caused by the landlord or by normal and tear, the place may be considered unfit for habitation. If the landlord is notified and fails to make reasonably timely repairs (usually 24 to 48 hours), then the landlord is deemed to have violated the lease. The tenant can choose to move out. In some states, tenants can call an electrician and deduct the costs from rent or withhold rent until the problem is fixed (please look at state laws for more details). Tenants may also be able to work with the landlord to come to an agreement for a reduction in rent, so the tenant doesn’t pay for the days where they couldn’t live in the apartment.

Outage Caused by Utility Company

In most states, landlords will be responsible for ensuring that power is provided even if it’s out of their control. Where the power company fails to provide electricity for a unit, the landlord will violate the “implied warranty of habitability” - an implied guarantee that the apartment is suitable for human habitation. For example, in New York, the highest court ruled that “acts of third parties or natural disaster are within the scope of the warranty as well.” Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell, 47 NY2d 316, 418 NYS2d 310. That means the tenant is free to move out and the landlord must return the tenant’s deposit.

Tenant-Caused

If a tenant attempts to rewire their home or uses a high-power device that causes an outage, the tenant is responsible for the cost of repairs they caused.

Breaking the Lease

If the landlord has broken a promise in the lease, the tenant is free to break their end of the agreement too. The tenant can move out and is entitled to get their deposit back. Alternatively, the tenant can go to court and seek a reduction in rent or a court order requiring the landlord to fix the problem. In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable vary heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues). A house without power is generally considered uninhabitable. In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

Brief Power Outages


If the place loses power for a few hours, the tenant may look to local laws requiring electricity or the lease. The tenant’s remedies for temporary power outages are very limited unless they are subject to frequent but short power outages.

The implied warranty of habitability doesn’t apply to a brief outage because it doesn’t make the place unfit for habitation. If multiple outages are brief but recurring, the tenant may have a claim that the apartment is unfit for habitation and may seek the remedies outlined above.

Extended Power Outage


Generally, landlords are required to provide housing that’s fit for habitation under the “implied warranty of habitability,” which says that every lease includes an implicit promise to provide a safe, livable home. If the power outage is extended (or regularly recurring and frequent) and is caused by the landlord or by normal and tear, the place may be considered unfit for habitation. If the landlord is notified and fails to make reasonably timely repairs (usually 24 to 48 hours), then the landlord is deemed to have violated the lease. The tenant can choose to move out. In some states, tenants can call an electrician and deduct the costs from rent or withhold rent until the problem is fixed (please look at state laws for more details). Tenants may also be able to work with the landlord to come to an agreement for a reduction in rent, so the tenant doesn’t pay for the days where they couldn’t live in the apartment.

Outage Caused by Utility Company


In most states, landlords will be responsible for ensuring that power is provided even if it’s out of their control. Where the power company fails to provide electricity for a unit, the landlord will violate the “implied warranty of habitability” - an implied guarantee that the apartment is suitable for human habitation. For example, in New York, the highest court ruled that “acts of third parties or natural disaster are within the scope of the warranty as well.” Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell, 47 NY2d 316, 418 NYS2d 310. That means the tenant is free to move out and the landlord must return the tenant’s deposit.

Tenant-Caused


If a tenant attempts to rewire their home or uses a high-power device that causes an outage, the tenant is responsible for the cost of repairs they caused.

Breaking the Lease


If the landlord has broken a promise in the lease, the tenant is free to break their end of the agreement too. The tenant can move out and is entitled to get their deposit back. Alternatively, the tenant can go to court and seek a reduction in rent or a court order requiring the landlord to fix the problem.

In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable vary heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues). A house without power is generally considered uninhabitable.

In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

Last Update : August 27, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Power Outage

8 months ago
0
votes

Our apartment loses power for an average of 5 hours a night, at least every 3 weeks. The issue I have with this is my partner has epilepsy & when the power bows out, the lights flicker & cause her to seize. Then trying to maintain her health in the dark, keep her comfortable with A/C or heat is difficult. When we tried to contact the front office on this matter, the phone lines were suddenly down & we weren’t able to even leave a message. Is there anything that can be done about this?
Renter in Houston, TX, USA
Power Outage
10 months ago
0
votes

Can my landlord disconnect the electric to my house due to accusation of non payment. Even though i have a record of the payment. She did it due to a disagreement honestly.?
Renter in Rockport, TX, USA
Power Outage
almost 2 years ago
0
votes

Our power went out and the landlord practices Sabbath, so he won't use a phone or fix it. A little ironic, I guess, our electricity won't be fixed be cause he don't touch electricity. Is this legal? I get freedom of religion, but this is his job, he should be reuqired to hire someone.
Renter in New York, NY, USA
Power Outage