Racist Neighbor’s Conduct Gives Rise to Breach of Warranty of Habitabilty Claim

In Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc., 14-cv-3555 (EDNY March 16, 2015), the court held that the plaintiff, an African American man whose neighbor subjected him to racist comments, stated a cause of action for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

Plaintiff alleged, for example, that his next-door neighbor called him a “fucking nigger” and repeatedly threatened him.

While the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims against the property owner under various statutes (the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fair Housing Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law), it permitted plaintiff’s warranty of habitability claim to proceed.

“Pursuant to Real Property Law § 235-b, every residential lease contains an implied warranty of habitability which is limited by its terms to three covenants: (1) that the premises are fit for human habitation, (2) that the premises are fit for the uses reasonably intended by the parties, and (3) that the occupants will not be subjected to conditions that are dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety.” This statute has been interpreted broadly to “extend[] a landlord’s liability to acts of third parties.”

After surveying pertinent case law, the court concluded that “a tenant may state a claim for breach of the statutorily implied warranty of habitability against a landlord for failure to intervene in response to harassing behavior by a co-tenant.”

In addition, “[t]he statutory warranty of habitability … protects against conditions that materially affect the health and safety of tenants or deficiencies that in the eyes of a reasonable person … deprive the tenant of those essential functions which a residence is expected to provide.”

The court concluded that “at this stage of the litigation … Plaintiff has adequately plead a breach of the implied warranty of habitability against KPM.”

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