Tenant’s Rights – Proper Repairs and Maintenance . . .

A landlord’s duties to repair and maintain a rental property derive from two sources: the law and the rental agreement. As I discussed last week, the rental agreement and its provisions play a major role in how and when a landlord must handle problems within the rental premises. Nevertheless, the law protects tenants with outlined duties that the landlord must abide with no matter what the provisions are in the rental agreement. These duties occur at the outset of the tenancy and continue during the tenancy.

Specifically, provisions of the California Civil Code require the landlord to provide:

  • Effective water proofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
  • Plumbing and gas facilities maintained in good working order.
  • A water supply capable of producing hot and cold running water furnished to appropriate fixtures and connected to a sewage disposal system properly maintained in good working order.
  • Heating facilities maintained in good working order.
  • Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment maintained in good working order.
  • Building, grounds and appurtenances in every part clean, sanitary and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rodents and vermin.
  • An adequate amount of receptacles for garbage and rubbish maintained in good working order.
  • Floors, stairways and railings maintained in good working order with adequate lighting.
  • Pursuant to current law, Death-bolt locks must be maintained on main exterior doors, existing common-area doors, gates and certain windows.
  • All units in multi-unit buildings must have smoke detectors installed and in good working order.

Please understand that these are the minimum requirements that a landlord must provide all of its tenants regardless of the provisions in its rental agreement. If a landlord fails one of its duties to repair or maintain, a tenant must report the problem and follow up with a letter of complaint outlining the problem giving reasonable time for the landlord to repair and maintain.

If after a reasonable time a landlord has not taken action to make the repairs or maintenance the letter has outlined there are several remedies.

First, you can move out. The law allows you to do this if the dwelling substantially lacks any of the above duties a landlord has when the landlord has been notified of the problem but failed to fix them in a reasonable time. This is called the doctrine of constructive eviction.

Second, you can call the building inspector from the State or Local Housing Authority to inspect the premises.

Another method is to repair and deduct. When the landlord refuses to make the necessary repairs, California law gives the tenant the right to make the repairs and deduct the costs from the rent. There are some restrictions: 1) A tenant can use this right only for the above listed duties of the landlord enumerated in California Civil Code; and 2) so long as the tenant has not interfered with landlord’s attempt to repair the defect or 3) the defect was caused by the tenant’s violation of the following duties to:

  • Keep the premises clean;
  • Properly dispose of garbage and trash;
  • Properly use all electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures and keep them as clean as the condition permits;
  • Not to permit any person on the premises to damage the premises or the facilities willfully; and
  • To use each room only for the purpose of which it was intended;

Finally, the repair of the defect can not exceed the expense of more than one-months rent and cannot be used more than twice in any twelve month period.

All tenants must seek the advice of an experienced attorney to insure that all of his or her rights are protected from landlord’s who refuse to maintain premises in good and livable conditions.

This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: Mary@MaryDLaw.com or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at www.MaryDLaw.com.

© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group


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