Can I Withhold Rent Until My Landlord Fixes the Problems?

7uzyfaxugi8-todd-quackenbush-300x183Tenants in the San Francisco area often wonder what they can do if their landlord fails to fix problems with their apartment. Landlords are responsible for providing a space that is livable. There are some things that tenants can do to resolve issues that are not being taken care of by the landlord. Tenant’s rights are protected by law.

Conditions That Make Premises Uninhabitable

There are a number of conditions that may make an apartment or home unlivable. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Non-working plumbing
  • Broken doors or windows
  • Debris or unclean premises
  • Improperly maintained floors, stairs, or hand rails
  • Lead paint
  • Dangerous conditions

These, and other conditions are included in state laws (California Civil Code) require landlords to provide livable premises. You can find out more by visiting the California Department of Consumer Affairs website to read the Landlord/Tenant publication.

What to Do if the Landlord Will Not Fix Your Problems

If you are experiencing problems, immediately inform your landlord in writing. It is essential that you put the communication in writing so that you can show when you informed the landlord. The landlord is allowed a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem. In some instances, the repair must be immediate. For example, if your bathroom toilet stopped working, it must be fixed quickly. If your rental unit is located in San Francisco, you can obtain more information through the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Repair and Deduct

In some situations, it may be best for you to repair the problem and deduct the cost from your next month’s rent. This is allowed under civil code § 1941.1 – 1942.5. Tenants are allowed to make the necessary repair if they have already informed the landlord of the deficient and it has not yet been corrected. The problem needs to be serious enough that it warrants immediate repair. You cannot deduct more than one month’s rent, and you cannot have caused the problem. Before taking action, it is advisable to speak with a qualified attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.

Withholding Rent

It is possible to withhold rent if your rental unit is uninhabitable. Before doing so, it is important to know that the situation warrants this type of action. You cannot withhold rent for minor issues. You may also not stop paying rent if you caused the problem. You must have informed the landlord, and allowed enough time to correct the situation. The landlord cannot retaliate against you for taking steps necessary to resolve habitability issues.

What to Do if You are Experiencing Problems

If you are experiencing a habitability problem, notify your landlord. You may let him or her know by phone, but document it with an email. If the problem is not addressed within a reasonable amount of time, you may need to take further action. You may repair and deduct, or withhold rent. Some other options include calling the local inspectors, moving out, or suing the landlord. If your unit is rent-controlled, you may petition the rent board. An experienced attorney will review your situation and advise you of the options that are available to you.  

When you are having difficulties with your landlord, you need help from a tough attorney who will advocate for your rights. Contact the legal team at Brod Law Firm to discuss your case. Call us today at 800-427-7020 for a free consultation.


(image courtesy of Todd Quackenbush)

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