CONDITION, MAINTENANCE AND
REPAIR (California Only)
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This article covers the obligation to
offer and maintain residential rental property in California in legally
habitable condition and is not intended to cover commercial settings.
The landlord is under an obligation to put and
keep his rental units in a condition fit for human occupancy, except for
those conditions caused by his tenant's want of ordinary care. Civil
Code Secs. 1929, 1941 A building fit for human occupancy must have at
least the following characteristics. Civil Code Sec. 1941.1:
Effective weatherproofing of roof, exterior walls,
and unbroken windows.
Plumbing up to code and in good condition.
Water supply up to code providing hot and cold
Heating facilities up to code and in good
Electrical lighting up to code and in good
Building, grounds and appurtenances clean and free
of vermin at the time of renting.
Adequate receptacles for garbage.
Floors, stairways and railings in good repair.
Install and maintain locks, Civil Code Sec. 1941.3
The landlord's obligation to repair dilapidations
in the above standard characteristics of habitable dwellings does not
arise if the tenant violates his own legal obligations as to
maintenance, provided these violations substantially interfered with the
landlord's ability to do the repairs. Civil Code Sec. 1941.2
In addition, the landlord is obligated to wire the
premises for at least one telephone line. Civil Code Sec. 1941.4
Some local jurisdictions have enacted ordinances
requiring certain types of locks, exterior doors, "peep
Although a tenant may not waive his right to the
foregoing habitability requirements, he can agree in writing to
maintain, improve or repair these items as part of the consideration of
his lease (although this is a terrible idea). Civil Code Sec. 1942.1.
The landlord having the duty to maintain the
premises, has the countervailing right to enter the premises to do so. Civil Code Sec. 1954
Where the landlord fails to maintain the premises
as above, then the tenant has a number of remedies. He may do the repair
himself and deduct it from rent under certain circumstances, or vacate
and be discharged from further obligations under his lease. Civil Code
Sec. 1942 He may also withhold the rent until the repairs are done, if
the landlords breaches are substantial and have affected the tenant's
health and safety.
A landlord may not collect rent on a premises
which are substantially in breach of his obligations to maintain the
premises (usually referred to as a breach of the implied warranty of
habitability), and may be legally penalized if he does. Civil Code Sec. 1942.4 Acts in retaliation for a tenant exercising his legal rights may
also subject the landlord to substantial legal penalties Civil Code
The breach of the implied warranty of habitability
usually comes to a head where the tenant has failed (or refused) to pay
the rent, the landlord has given a three day notice to pay or vacate,
then initiated an eviction action and placed the matter before a judge
Where this occurs, and the tenant can show that the
landlord's failure to maintain was a substantial breach of the implied
warranty affecting his health and safety, the court or jury will
determine the degree to which this breach devalued the rental value of
the property to the tenant, usually expressed as a percentage, i.e.,
-15%, -25%, etc. This factor will then be applied to the lease's rental
rate and the rental rate reduced by that amount. The tenant will have
the opportunity to pay the past due rent less the percentage earlier
found. If the tenant does so, the tenant wins. If the tenant fails to
pay, the tenant is evicted. Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 1174.2