Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
As a renter in California, living in uninhabitable conditions is simply unacceptable! Read on to find out whether your property qualifies as uninhabitable under state law.
California landlords have a duty to provide their tenants with habitable living spaces. This legal requirement is primarily governed by CA Civ. Code § 1941.2, which is commonly known as the “warranty of habitability.”
The warranty applies to most residential dwellings, including single-family homes and multi-family units.
The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding uninhabitable conditions in California.
What are Uninhabitable Living Conditions in California?
An uninhabitable living condition is basically one that affects a tenant’s health and/or safety. The following are examples of conditions that would qualify as uninhabitable living conditions in California.
- Broken windows and doors.
- Inadequate weatherproofing and weather protection of the roof, walls, etc.
- Lack of running hot and cold water.
- Damaged plumbing and electrical wiring and lighting.
- Lack of heating.
- Damaged sanitation facilities.
- Inadequate trash receptacles.
- Unsafe floors and/or railings.
- Unsafe and clean fire exits.
- Combustible materials in storage areas, such as basements and garages.
- Malfunctioning smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.
- Damaged gas facilities.
- Infestation by pests such as termites, roaches, and rats.
- Lack of a mailbox.
You should use the aforementioned list as a habitability checklist when looking for a new apartment to rent.
What is the law for unsafe living conditions in California?
Civil Code Sections 1941.1, 1941.3, Health & Safety Code Section 13113.7, and Health & Safety Code Sections 17920-17928. The following is a simplified breakdown of the codes.
Civil Code Sections 1941.1 and 1941.3 require California landlords to provide tenants with rental units that are in a good state of repair and free of potential hazards. A landlord must ensure the unit is effectively weatherproofed and weather protected, as well as have working plumbing, gas, and heating facilities.
The unit must also be free from pest infestation, and have adequate trash receptacles.
Health & Safety Code Section 13112.7 requires landlords to provide tenants with units that are free from lead-based paints.
Last, but not the least, Health & Safety Code Sections 17920-17928 require landlords to provide tenants with structurally sound units. The unit must not, for instance, have foundation issues or collapsing walls or floors.
What are the damages for habitability in California?
Damages for habitability will usually vary depending on the specific circumstances. With that in mind, as a renter, you may be able to recover the following from the landlord.
- Rent paid
- Damages for any injury suffered
- Damages for emotional distress
- Cost of repairs if you exercised the right to “Repair and Deduct”
- Reasonable court and attorney fees
You may also be able to recover punitive damages from the landlord. This is especially true if the landlord has had similar cases before regarding uninhabitable living conditions.
How to report uninhabitable living conditions in California?
Do you have reasons to believe your rental unit is uninhabitable? If so, then the first thing would be to contact your landlord. Request (in writing) that they make the repairs. Once you’ve done this, the landlord will have up to 30 days to do the repairs.
If they don’t, you may be able to exercise a few legal options. Including:
- Reporting them to the local housing authority. Just do a quick online search or call 211 to find the contact info of the local housing authority.
- File a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. You can do so either online or by dialing (800) 952-5210.
- Contact the City Attorney’s Office by calling the city’s main number.
What is the statute of limitations on habitability in California?
The statute of limitations in California depends on how a lease is entered. If the lease was entered orally, the statute of limitations on habitability in California is 2 years. However, if the lease was entered through a written document, then the statute of limitations is 4 years.
This means that you must file the complaint within 2 or 4 years for action to be taken against the landlord. Failure to which you’ll be barred from recovering any damages for the landlord’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability.
How long does a landlord have to fix uninhabitable living conditions in California?
California landlords must make repairs to defects that impact their tenant’s health or safety within 30 days. Examples of such defects include the following.
- Plumbing issues, such as overflowing drains, backed-up toilets, and leaking pipes.
- Inadequate heating.
- Electrical problems, such as a faulty electrical outlet.
- Infestations by pests, such as termites, cockroaches, rats, and mice.
- Water damage to floors, walls, and ceilings.
- Structural damage, such as wall cracks or foundation movement.
There you have it – everything you need to know when it comes to uninhabitable living conditions in California. If you have reasons to believe your home is uninhabitable, the first thing to do would be to contact your landlord. This will give them up to 30 days to remedy the situation.
If the 30 days lapse without a remedy, you may be able to exercise a few legal options. Including, suing the landlord for damages, withholding rent until the landlord makes the repairs, repairing the issue and then making appropriate deductions from future rent payments, or simply breaking 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: Civil Code Secs. 1929, 1941, CA Civil Code Sec. 1941.3, CA Civil Code Sec. 1941.2, CA Civil Code Sec. 1942.4, CA Civil Code Sec. 1942, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/basic-tenants-rights-california-8085.html, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1942.5.&lawCode=CIV, 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.