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"Want to break a lease? The landlord won't make needed repairs? Want to get your deposit back when you move out? The answer to these and many other questions about the magic of renting are answered in detail in California Tenant's Rights." Oakland Tribune
"Are you shopping for an apartment, or already renting one and wondering about repairs, your rights as a tenant or collecting a security or cleaning deposit when you move? Your legal rights and how to pursue them are spelled out in California Tenant's Rights." San Diego Union-Tribune
Everywhere in California, you are legally entitled to rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. But suppose a landlord comes up short? When landlords fail to take care of important maintenance, you may have the legal right to use the "big sticks" in a tenant's arsenal -- the rights to:
This chapter describes your right to basic, important things, such as hot water, a floor that will not collapse under your feet, decent heat, and a roof that doesn't leak -- in other words, your right to a safe and livable home. It also provides practical advice on how to get a reluctant landlord to perform needed repairs (and how to get them done yourself, using the big sticks mentioned above, if the landlord refuses). Less important maintenance and repair issues -- such as unclogging kitchen drains or mowing the front lawn -- are covered in the next chapter.
All landlords are legally required to offer livable premises when they originally rent a unit, and to maintain it in that condition throughout the rental term. In legal terminology, this promise of fit housing has the lofty-sounding name "the implied warranty of habitability." The word "implied" means that by virtue of offering a residential rental, the landlord is automatically promising you a fit place to live -- even if the landlord doesn't realize it.
Importantly, you have the right to a habitable rental even if you've willingly moved into aplace that's clearly below habitability standards, or even if the lease or rental agreement you've signed states that the landlord doesn't have to provide a habitable unit. No California judge will accept these sleazy attempts to secure tenant "waivers," and none will uphold landlord "disclaimers."
So far, your right to a livable rental probably sounds rather imprecise. What does a "fit and habitable" rental really mean? Fortunately, in California the landlord's responsibility to provide habitable housing is quite specific. The sections below give you chapter and verse from state law, building codes, and court decisions. Taken together, they form an impressive list of entitlements for tenants.
The major California law defining habitable housing is Civil Code § 1941.1 and § 1941.3. According to these laws, at a minimum every rental must have:
The State Housing Law, H&S § 17920.3, provides that the following problems render a rental unfit and substandard if they endanger you or the public:
The state statutes quoted above dictate the minimum condition for rental premises to qualify as fit and habitable. The law also approaches the issue from another angle, labeling a rental "substandard" if it has any problem in "State Housing Law," above, that "endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants." (H&S §17920.3, also known as the State Housing Law.) As you read through the list, in "State Housing Law," remember that only when these conditions endanger life, limb, and so on, will they legally create a substandard, unfit rental.
Posted January 13, 2014