Understanding “Repair and Deduct” in California

jilbert-ebrahimi-33575-300x200There are certain circumstances under which if your landlord will not fix a problem in your rental unit, you have the right to take control of the situation, pay for the repair, and deduct the cost from your next month’s rent. However, this is only an option in limited circumstances and you must follow the law to do this “repair and deduct” process correctly. If you take a misstep, you could end up with problems with your landlord and not being able to deduct the amount. If you have serious issue in your apartment that needs repairs and your landlord is not responding, contact a San Francisco tenant rights attorney from Brod Law firm at (800) 427-7020 to learn about your options.

When is Repair and Deduct an Option?

Repair and deduct may be an option if an issue within your apartment makes it uninhabitable. This includes but is not limited to:

  • No hot water
  • No working toilets
  • No working plumbing
  • Broken doors or windows
  • Broken, leaking, or unsealed roofs and walls
  • Holes in the floor
  • Unsafe stairs

Simply put, there must be a serious issue that makes your apartment unlivable. The problem has to negatively impact your health and safety. If you are not sure if the problem rises to this level, contact the San Francisco Tenants Union, California Department of Consumer Affairs, or Brod Law Firm for advice.

Moving Forward With Repair and Deduct

You must contact your landlord regarding the habitability issue. To ensure your landlord has actual notice of the problem, the best way to do this is to send a certified letter that describes the problem, how this affects your living situation, and how you want the issue repaired. However, you can also provide notice to your landlord through email, over the phone, and in person. You should document and keep copies of all of your correspondence regarding the problem with your landlord.

If your landlord does not respond in appropriate amount of time, which can vary depending on the exact problem, then you may be able to move forward with repairing the issue yourself and deducting the cost from your rent. You should check with a housing authority or attorney before moving forward with his remedy. If you make the repair too soon, before the landlord had a reasonable amount of time to correct the situation, you may not be able to deduct the cost.

When is Repair and Deduct Not an Option?

In general, you cannot repair a minor issue yourself and deduct the cost. Even if the problem is unsightly or inconvenient, it is not eligible for the repair and deduct remedy if it does not alter your health and safety.

There are a number of other legal limitations on this remedy as well, including:

  • Make and deduct a repair that costs more than one month’s rent
  • Use the repair and deduct remedy more than once within the same 12-month period
  • Your, your family, guests, or pets cannot have caused the defect that needs to be repaired

What Can Go Wrong?

If you do not strictly follow the law regarding repairing a problem and deducting the cost, the landlord can require you to pay the full amount of rent. If you refuse, the landlord can sue you for the amount or evict you.

Contact Brod Law Firm Before Trying to Repair and Deduct

Repair and deduct is an important possible remedy for California renters. However, if not performed within the letter of the law, it can lead to more trouble than it is worth. Before paying for a repair yourself, contact a San Francisco tenant rights attorney from Brod Law Firm at (800) 427-7020.

(image courtesy of Jibert Ebrahimi)

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