California Tenants' Rightsby Janet Portman, David Brown
-understand and negotiate a lease
-inspect a rental before moving/i>
- Editorial Reviews
- Product Details
- Related Subjects
- Read an Excerpt
- What People Are Saying
- Meet the author
Many tenants have to deal with roommates who don't pull their weight, neighbors who routinely engage in illegal activities, landlords who don't know -- or won’t follow -- national or state laws and local rent ordinances. With California Tenants' Rights, you'll have what you need to:
-understand and negotiate a lease
-inspect a rental before moving in
-get needed repairs and maintenance
-deal with a nosy landlord
-break a lease with minimum fall-out
-get your security deposit back
-figure out rules for rent increases
-fight an eviction
The 17th edition is completely updated with the latest laws and official legal forms, and now covers the new bankruptcy rules and how it affects evictions.
“Want to break a lease? The landlord won’t make needed repairs? Want to get your deposit back when you move out? These and many other questions … are answered in detail in California Tenants’ Rights.” Oakland Tribune
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Eighteenth Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 8.52(w) x 10.86(h) x 0.81(d)
Read an Excerpt
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:
- withhold rent
- pay for repairs yourself and deduct the cost from the rent
- sue the landlord, or
- move out without notice.
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.
Your Basic Right to Livable Premises
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.
Fit and Habitable: State Statutes
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:
- effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors
- plumbing or gas facilities that conformed to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, maintained in good working order
- a water supply approved under applicable law that is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system that is under the control of the landlord, that produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law
- heating facilities that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order
- electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order
- building, grounds, and appurtenances at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, and all areas under control of the landlord, kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin
- an adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in clean condition and good repair at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, with the landlord providing appropriate serviceable receptacles thereafter and being responsible for the clean condition and good repair of the receptacles under the landlord's control
- floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair
- deadbolt locks on certain doors and windows (see Chapter 12 for specifics), and
- No lead paint hazards (deteriorated lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust or soil, or leadbased paint disturbed without containment). (CC §§ 1941.1 and 1941.3; H&S § 17920.10.)
State Housing Law
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:
- Inadequate sanitation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Lack of, or improper water closet, lavatory, or bathtub or shower in a dwelling unit.
- Lack of, or improper kitchen sink.
- Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a dwelling unit.
- Lack of adequate heating.
- Lack of, or improper operation of required ventilating equipment.
- Lack of minimum amounts of natural light and ventilation required by this code.
- Room and space dimensions less than required by this code.
- Lack of required electrical lighting.
- Dampness of habitable rooms.
- Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by the health officer.
- General dilapidation or improper maintenance.
- Lack of connection to required sewage disposal system.
- Lack of adequate garbage and rubbish storage and removal facilities as determined by the health officer.
- Structural hazards shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Deteriorated or inadequate foundations.
- Defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports.
- Flooring or floor supports of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
- Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that split, lean, list, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.
- Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
- Members of ceilings, roofs, ceilings and roof supports, or other horizontal members, that sag, split, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.
- Members of ceiling, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other horizontal members that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
- Fireplaces or chimneys that list, bulge, or settle due to defective material or deterioration.
- Fireplaces or chimneys that are of insufficient size or strength to carry imposed loads with safety.
- Any nuisance.
- All wiring, except that which conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation if it is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.
- All plumbing, except plumbing that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and has been maintained in good condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly, and that is free of cross connections and siphonage between fixtures.
- All mechanical equipment, including vents, except equipment that conformed to all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and that has been maintained in good and safe condition, or that may not have conformed to all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.
- Faulty weather protection, which shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Deteriorated, crumbling, or loose plaster.
- Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roof, foundations, or floors, including broken windows or doors.
- Defective or lack of weather protection for exterior wall coverings, including lack of paint, or weathering due to lack of paint or other approved protective covering.
- Broken, rotted, split, or buckled exterior wall coverings or roof coverings.
- Any building or portion thereof, device, apparatus, equipment, combustible waste, or vegetation that, in the opinion of the chief of the fire department or his deputy, is in such a condition as to cause a fire or explosion or provide a ready fuel to augment the spread and intensity of fire or explosion arising from any cause.
- All materials of construction, except those that are specifically allowed or approved by this code, and that have been adequately maintained in good and safe condition.
- Those premises on which an accumulation of weeds, vegetation, junk, dead organic matter, debris, garbage, offal, rodent harborages, stagnant water, combustible materials, and similar materials or conditions constitute fire, health, or safety hazards.
- Any building or portion thereof that is determined to be an unsafe building due to inadequate maintenance, in accordance with the latest edition of the Uniform Building Code.
- All buildings or portions thereof not provided with adequate exit facilities as required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof whose exit facilities conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and that have been adequately maintained and increased in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration, or addition, or any change in occupancy.
When an unsafe condition exists through lack of, or improper location of, exits, additional exits may be required to be installed.
- All buildings or portions thereof that are not provided with the fire-resistive construction or fire-extinguishing systems or equipment required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof that conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and whose fire-resistive integrity and fire-extinguishing systems or equipment have been adequately maintained and improved in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration, or addition, or any change in occupancy.
- All buildings or portions thereof occupied for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes that were not designed or intended to be used for those occupancies.
- Inadequate structural resistance to horizontal forces. (H&S § 17920.3, irrelevant sections omitted.)
- Finally, a building is substandard if the landlord has not complied with the requirements of the State Fire Marshall, who has the authority to set standards for structural fire safety and fire-resistant exits. (H&S § 13143.2.) <
Fit and Habitable: No Risks to Health, Safety, or Property
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.
What People are saying about this
"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
Meet the Author
Janet Portman is the Managing Editor at Nolo. She specializes in residential and commercial landlord/tenant law, legal issues related to courts, landlords and tenants, and neighbor disputes. She is the co-author of Every Landlord's Legal Guide, Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants, Every Tenant's Legal Guide, Renters' Rights, Negotiate the Best Lease for Your Business, Leases & Rental Agreements, The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities, and California Tenants' Rights. Ms. Portman received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University and a law degree from Santa Clara University. Before joining Nolo in 1994, she practiced law as a public defender.
David Brown practices law in the Monterey, California area, where he has represented both landlords and tenants in hundreds of court cases -- most of which he felt could have been avoided if both sides were more fully informed about landlord/tenant law. Brown, a graduate of Stanford University (chemistry) and the University of Santa Clara Law School, also teaches law at the Monterey College of Law and is the author of Fight Your Ticket (CA version), Beat Your Ticket (the national version), The Landlord's Law Book, Vol. 1: Rights and Responsibilities; The Landlord's Law Book, Vol. 2: Evictions and co-author of How to Change Your Name in California and The Guardianship Book for California.
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