Is My Apartment Uninhabitable or Just Old?

hq10wzrq2lo-nick-tiemeyer-300x200When renting in California, you are bound to encounter some old and slightly rundown apartments. If you are a tenant in the same unit for a few years, you will likely be the one to discuss something that is broken or in a potentially dangerous condition. If your landlord is responsive, you should not have to deal with a problem for long. However, if your landlord is interested in fixing as little as possible and willing to skirt the law on a few issues, then you may have a problem on your hands. In many situations, you have the right to demand your landlord fix a problem. If he or she does not, you may be able to repair the issue and deduct the cost from the rent or move out. However, before you try to take matters into your own hands, consider the extent of the problem and your actual rights.

Your Implied Warranty of Habitability

Under California law, your landlord is required to maintain your apartment in a way that ensures it is safe and livable at all times. This is known as the implied warranty of habitability. It is not a guarantee you receive through an oral or written lease. Instead, an implied warranty is a promise inferred to you by law. No matter what the landlord says, he or she cannot take away your right to a habitable rental unit.

State Law and City Ordinances

You have more than the implied warranty of habitability to back you up when you ask for repairs. California laws regarding renting real property and San Francisco ordinances also offer tenant protections and lay out landlord’s duties.

What Does This Mean to Me?

To best communicate with your landlord and protect your rights, you should know when a condition lowers your apartment to an uninhabitable standard or breaks a specific law, ordinance, or code. While there may be repairs your landlord should conduct, they do not necessary make your unit unlivable. The difference greatly affects your rights if your landlord ignores the problem.

Here are some examples of old versus uninhabitable:

  • One of your windows is cracked versus an entire window is missing and open to the elements
  • The knob on your front door is broken versus your front door cannot lock in any way
  • You have multiple loose floor boards versus there is a sizable hole in your floor
  • You have a few ants in your apartment during the summer versus a bedbug infestation

What to Do if Your Apartment Needs Repairs

If you apartment needs repairs, it is best to contact your landlord in writing. If your landlord does not repair the issue within a reasonable amount of time, your next best step is to call the Department of Building Inspection or speak with a landlord-tenant attorney. A professional can determine whether the issue breaks a state law or local ordinance, or whether it arises to the level of uninhabitable. Once this determination is made, you will better understand your rights to repair and deduct, withhold rent, or move out without consequences.

If your apartment needs repairs or has become dangerous to live in, call a tenant’s rights lawyer of Brod Law Firm at 1 (800) 427-7020 to schedule a free consultation.

(image courtesy of Nick Tiemeyer)