Renter rents a house to a family with young children without giving the federally mandated documents regarding lead paint under Title X. Tenent lives in the house for three years without landlord complying with lead paint rules, window gate rules, or carbon monoxide monitor rules. Many windows are not openable yet have drafts. Landlord refuses to fix and refuses to acknowledge a lead paint issue, a mold issue and other issues.Tenant is unaware of these laws and his legal rights Tenant offers to move out after 3 years becasue landlord has refused to fix stuff and tenent becomes aware of lead paint. Landlord says he will repair. Landlord does not repair. Landlord told tenant to stay and not move.Tenant lets another rental unit go becasue landlord says he will fix. Landlord does not fix. Three months later, tenant stops paying rent for 7 months because landlord is not fixing .LANDLORD REFUSES TO GO TO BAIS DIN OF AMERICA and files in Civil Court. After a number of hearings and adjournments, motion to dismiss for improper service is accepted as the server testifies he did not follow regulations. Landlord now goes and continues to besmirch renters name to neigbors, rabbi’s, etc. Wife’s boss wants to intevene and demands renter pay part of the rent due or all the Rabbi’s in town will know and it will be impossible for tenenat to remain in neighborhood. wife’s boss is nasty and insinuates wife’s job is in jeopardy.Tenant says the house was not habitable, rent was a mekach ta’us, and landlord cannot evict him becasue he now hates him becasue tenant had city inspectior come and prove 99 violations of lead paint.
It is difficult to deal with this case in a question and answer forum. Obviously, the tenant has a claim, and the renter is obligated to provide him with a liveable house according to legal and acceptable standards. The claim of mekach ta’us might also be possible, depending on a more precise analysis of the circumstances. However, the tenant would not be able to use these claims as a pretext for not paying at all, because he still derives benefit from living in the house. Rather, he would pay, based on the decision of Beis Din, a reduced amount.
The manner in which the case has proceeded is most regrettable, and it should certainly be taken to a Beis Din, who would adjudicate based on Din Torah.