Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
“Can a tenant withhold rent for repairs in California?” – This is a common question atop most tenants’ minds when facing a repair issue.
Well, it depends on the specific repair issue! If the issue affects your habitability, then you’d be in the clear to withhold rent if the landlord fails to do the repairs within a reasonable time.
However, it’d be illegal for you to withhold rent for repairs that don’t impact your health or safety. Doing so could even give your landlord a legal ground to evict you from the property. This is, of course, the last thing you’d want!
In this blog, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know when it comes to withholding rent for repairs in California.
Can a tenant withhold rent for repairs in California?
California law grants landlords a smorgasbord of responsibilities. Among these is providing tenants with a habitable rental property. Your landlord has a duty to provide you with a home that meets the basic health and safety codes.
Among other things, the property must:
- Be properly weatherproofed and weather protected.
- Have running hot and cold water.
- Abide by the state’s heating requirements.
- Have adequate trash receptacles.
- Have safe floors, stairs, and railings.
- Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
In addition, the landlord must respond to repairs affecting your health and/or safety within 30 days.
What are California tenant rights to withhold rent or repair and deduct?
If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs within the 30-day period, you can exercise several legal options.
One option would be to simply break the lease and excuse yourself from further lease obligations. The landlord cannot penalize you for doing so, as that is a legal justification to end a lease.
The other option is to sue the landlord for any damages that could have arisen from their inaction. For instance, any damage caused to your personal property due to a broken heater or a rodent infestation.
You may also be able to withhold rent until the landlord makes the repair. You must, however, give your landlord a written notice of your intent to withhold rent. Additionally, you must also place the withheld rent in an escrow account or with a court.
Another legal option you can exercise when it comes to repairs in California is repairing the issue yourself and then deducting the cost from future rent payments.
Can I withhold rent for broken ac in California?
Not really! California habitability law (CA Civ. Code § 1941.2) doesn’t require landlords to provide air conditioning in rental units. In other words, air conditioning isn’t mandatory for an apartment to be habitable.
As such, it would generally be wrong to withhold rent for broken ac in California.
California landlords, however, are obligated to provide heating. The minimum room temperature must be 70 degrees Fahrenheit at a point above three feet above the floor in all habitable rooms. Here is a guide on CA residential heating requirements.
In such a case, you’d be within your rights to withhold rent if the landlord fails to meet the required heating guidelines.
Can I withhold rent for mold in California?
Yes! California law (HSC §17920.3) says that mold in a home can be a health hazard. Consequently, you may have a legal right to withhold rent until the landlord addresses the mold issue within a reasonable period of time.
What repairs are landlords responsible for in California?
Landlords in California have a responsibility to make repairs that are necessary to maintain the unit’s habitability. This includes repairs to things like:
- Damaged roofs, appliances, or pipes that can lead to water leaks.
- Broken pipes, sinks, or toilets that can lead to water damage in a home.
- Electrical issues that can become a safety hazard.
- Broken windows or doors that can allow thieves, water, or pests into the property.
- Structural issues, like foundation cracks, that can become a safety issue for tenants.
The following are a few things you must keep in mind in this regard.
- You cannot hold your landlord liable for repairs that arise from your negligence or carelessness. For instance, your landlord may not be responsible in a situation where you break a window. That would be your problem to deal with.
- You can only withhold rent, or exercise another legal option, if the issue impacts the unit’s habitability. For all other repairs, the liability for repairs may fall on either party depending on the lease terms.
- You must notify the landlord of a habitability problem as soon as you notice it. The notice must also be in writing.
- Always document all repairs by taking photos or videos. The documentation may be useful in case you may need to take legal action against the landlord.
So, can a tenant withhold rent for repairs in California? As can be seen, it depends! If the repair problem affects a unit’s habitability, then yes! However, if it doesn’t, or is a result of your negligent actions or misuse of the property, then withholding rent would be a serious violation of the lease.
Disclosure: The content herein isn’t a substitute for advice from a professional attorney. It’s only meant to serve educational purposes. If you have a specific question, kindly seek expert attorney services.
Sources: https://law.justia.com/codes/california/2021/code-civ/division-3/part-4/title-5/chapter-2/section-1946-2/, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/basic-tenants-rights-california-8085.html, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/, https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/California-Tenants-Guide.pdf,
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.