Q: One of our tenant’s Reverse Osmosis System was leaking and we pulled the system out and did not repair or replace it. Did we violate the tenant’s rights when we did this?- TVS Landlord
Under landlord-tenant rules, the landlord always has a duty to provide ‘habitable’ premises. That means the unit must be safe, structurally sound, and provide access to services necessary for ordinary living — electricity, heat, hot water and such.
It seems reasonable that the landlord must provide potable water, especially if the water purification system was in place when the tenant moved in and there is no easy alternative for the tenant, short of paying to fix the reverse osmosis system themselves. Look at this way — if you don’t fix the system, will you still be in compliance with local building and health codes? Do other houses in the neighborhood have the systems as well? Will another tenant want to move in if the system is not operating? The bottom line: whether the water is safe and up to standards without the reverse osmosis system.
A similar issue arises when the landlord needs to take away an amenity that was available when the tenant negotiated the lease, like a fitness room, swimming pool, or laundry facility. While the landlord may be able to argue that these items do not affect ‘habitability’, the fact remains that the tenant may have chosen the property because of access to those amenities. If that’s the case, the tenant may accuse the landlord of breaching the lease. The tenant’s case is even stronger if they can show that the negotiated rent included those items, or that they acted on reliance — sold their old washer or canceled their health club membership, for instance.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.