What If A Property Becomes Uninhabitable?
Every tenant wants to live in a clean, safe place. Landlords who annually inspect the rental property avoid defenses of breach of warranty of habitability when pursuing recovery of past due rent. What defines habitability? California has specific laws to guide tenants and landlords through these definitions and specific actions to take when there is a breach of warranty of habitability.
The Law Offices of Patricia Turnage has helped landlords and tenants in the Bay Area resolve rental disputes and habitability conflicts for over 15 years. Our staff is friendly, approachable and attentive. Call us in Hayward, California, to get started on your legal issue at 510-470-5044.
What Is Habitability?
This is the term used to determine if a property is “fit to live in,” according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). This doesn’t just mean that the place must be free of pests, but it must also have other aspects of the home that make it livable, such as:
- Working heat
- Fixtures such as floor, stairs, railings, in good repair
- Plumbing, including sinks, drains, toilets, showers or tubs all working
- Garbage disposal area in acceptable order
- Security measures working as promised: dead bolts, door locks, front entrance, etc.
- Waterproof roof
- Smoke detectors
- Rodent infestation
Can A Tenant Refuse To Pay Rent If Habitability Is An Issue?
In California, a tenant may withhold rent or make repairs and deduct expenses from future rent if there is a breach of warranty of habitability. Review DCA laws, such as length of time landlord had to make repairs, to ensure you are following the laws, or speak with an attorney to clarify your rights. Time frames and maximum dollar amounts must be followed by law.
To learn if a landlord can recover rent after the habitability dispute is resolved, refer to our page about rent recovery.
What Are A Tenant’s Obligations?
While a landlord is obligated by law to provide a livable rental property, the tenant also has rules that must be followed, including:
- Use rooms as designated and expected; for example, don’t use the bedroom as a kitchen.
- Keep the property neat and free of excess garbage and recycling.
- Don’t cause damage to property and make property uninhabitable as a result.
The rental agreement should explain tenant responsibilities in more detail.