Dear Rabbi: I am renting an apartment which has become unlivable for months due to construction noise from 1) condo common area renovations to which the landlord is a party and 2) next door neighbor completely gutted and renovated. Noise from jackhammers, sledgehammers, tile cutters, etc., debris, dust, water shutoffs and noxious fumes have caused me to evacuate many times during daytime hours only during the past 4 months.

Is the landlord responsible to provide a warranty of habitability, refund a portion of rent, or otherwise provide compensation for past suffering, loss of use of apartment, loss of income from home business, health issues and other damages caused by the situation of which he was or should have been aware in advance but did not provide notice to me as a tenant? Thanks.

Answer:

If this situation was not known to you before, you can claim that this is a “mekach ta’us,” meaning that you intended to receive a livable apartment, and not one that cannot be lived in.

You can claim your money back for months in which the apartment was not livable – though this can depend on whether or not you continued to live there nonetheless (continuing to live in the apartment in spite of the hardships can demonstrate your acceptance of the situation, though this depends on whether or not you notified the landlord and make your objections clear).

You should notify your landlord ASAP that you do not accept the situation, that you are not willing to live under such circumstances, and that you want money back.

Beyond receiving money back (which depends, as above, on whether you notified the landlord etc.), it will be hard to claim for other compensation.

Best wishes.

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