The following eight categories represent potential violations of Civil Code Section 1941.1. As a landlord, if you become aware of any of these items repairs must be made as soon as possible.
Untenantable Residential Unit: A residential unit shall be deemed untenantable if there are any violations of the following:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection of room and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
- Plumbing or gas facilities which conformed to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
- A water supply approved under applicable law, which is under the control of tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system which is under the control of the landlord, which produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.
- Heating facilities which conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
- Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment which 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 in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin and all areas under control of 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 adequate serviceable receptacles thereafter, and being responsible for the clean condition and good repair of such receptacles under his control.
- Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.
You will note that two items that do not appear on this list are air conditioning and screens. Both can be points of contention between a landlord and tenant. Air conditioning when provided, should be maintained in good working order. Although not a part of the habitability argument, it is a contractual issue. If the owner will not repair it in a timely manner the tenant may seek a rent reduction, just as they could on any item that is not repaired in a timely basis. Screens will also get lots of attention if not provided. We suggest you always make sure screens are in place and in good shape at move in and documented. They are not that expensive and not worth the argument as to whether they should be provided. Windows are built with screen holders, and they should be installed by the landlord.
If your tenant is not being taken care of they have a remedy to repair and deduct from their rent. The basic requirements and steps for using the repair and deduct remedy are as follows:
- The defects must be serious and directly related to the tenant's health and safety.
- The repairs cannot cost more than one month's rent.
- The tenant cannot use the repair and deduct remedy more than twice in any 12-month period.
- The tenant or the tenant's family, guests, or pets must not have caused the defects that require repair.
- The tenant must inform the landlord, either orally or in writing, of the repairs that are needed.
- The tenant must give the landlord a reasonable period of time to make the needed repairs.
What is a reasonable period of time? This depends on the defects and the types of repairs that are needed. The law usually considers 30 days to be reasonable, but a shorter period may be considered reasonable, depending on the situation. For example, if the furnace is broken and it's very cold outdoors, two days may be considered reasonable (assuming that a qualified repair person is available within that time period).
What if the tenant causes the need for a repair and then complains to you? The simple answer is that you should inform the tenant that they will be responsible to pay the expense, but that you, the landlord, will be making the repair. In that event, after the repairs have been made, add the charge to the tenant’s ledger and send them a copy of the invoice along with their updated ledger reflecting their new balance. Reminder: Do not include anything but rent on your 3 Day Notices to Pay Rent or Quit. 3 Day Notices to Pay Rent or Quit should not include maintenance charges, late fees, or returned check fees, just past due rent.
It is never a good idea to have the tenant make any repairs at your rental. What if they get injured making the repair? If the tenant gets injured, is it a workers compensation claim or a liability claim? What if the quality of work is so poor that you do not accept the work? This is not a pleasant discussion and has no good resolution. It is best to do the work yourself or hire someone. If you arrange for the work to get done the tenant cannot get injured and you can take up shoddy workmanship up with the contractor that did the work, not your tenant.