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Air conditioning and warranty of habitability under New York law

A recent article in The New York Times asks a question, particularly pertinent at this time of year: Who pays for repairs to air-conditioning units in a leasing situation?

Under state law landlords are responsible for keeping rental property in livable condition, regardless of the terms of the lease agreement. This is known as the warranty of habitability. The warranty covers a variety of items relating to the safety and functionality of the property, including utilities (water, gas, electric), appliances, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, noise and water leaks.

Air conditioning is not necessarily a requirement of the warranty of habitability, but the warranty does require landlords to maintain services and conditions that the tenant was informed of when he or she moved in. A landlord who promises air conditioning is responsible for the maintenance of the unit under the warranty of habitability. If a tenant notifies the landlord of the need for the unit's repair or replacement and the landlord does not fix or replace the unit, the tenant may be entitled to a rent refund.

For advice on the best course of action when a landlord breaches the warranty of habitability, consult an experienced real estate attorney.

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