In the US, nearly every state has some form of an implied warranty of habitability created between landlords and their tenants. For example, jurisdictions may require landlords to provide heating, electricity, water, do repairs, install locks, and so on. But does this still apply for tenant-built property?

For example, let’s say I own a piece of land and rent it out on a long-term lease (5+ years). My lessee would like to build a cabin on the property, and I add as a term of our contract that the tenant can build a cabin, but that I’m not responsible for repairs. Does the tenant still retain the warranty of habitability if they build the property?

  • 5
    You are not renting the cabin to the person, you are renting the land. Jul 15, 2021 at 17:29
  • 1
    Even if the cabin is a permanent structure that stays on the land after the lease is expired? Jul 15, 2021 at 17:57
  • Look up ground lease Jul 15, 2021 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


A lease of land is not the same as a residential lease, the latter being strongly regulated by special laws. So caveat emptor is the default rule for land leases (see this article). You have to look at the laws of your state, but let's take Washington as an example. This is not a residential tenancy which is subject to different laws, it's just leasing land, similar to leasing a chainsaw or a car. Your implied warranty would be that the land is fit for the ordinary purposes for which land is used, and that is all. It might be worth wondering about whether building a cabin on the land changes your property tax liability.

  • 5
    In the UK, prior planning permission from the local authority may be required for new-build homes and/or change of use of the land. Is this the case in, for example, WA as well as any potential changes to tax liability?
    – user35069
    Jul 15, 2021 at 20:34
  • 2
    Not permission per se, but a dwelling structure would be subject to county safety inspection to enforce state building codes.
    – user6726
    Jul 15, 2021 at 22:15
  • 1
    @RockApe it depends. WA is one of the states that has significant unincorporated areas, where the "local authority" doesn't really exist.
    – hobbs
    Jul 16, 2021 at 14:47
  • @hobbs - unincorporated does not mean no local authority. It just defaults to a higher level (the county rather than a city in the county, or potentially up to the state).
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 16, 2021 at 16:16
  • @JonCuster I'm aware of what it means. Still, the locality level is cut out, and the next higher level tends to be generally less involved. It varies, of course.
    – hobbs
    Jul 16, 2021 at 21:09

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