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The basic law

 Under California civil code, certain conditions must be met within living spaces when it is rented out.   Space must be habitable and safe for the inhabitants.    For example, there must be electric and plumbing utilities, proper locks, and security systems.

If a landlord wants to make a living by renting out his property, he must also take on the responsibility of ensuring that the space has basic amenities.

Should a landlord fail to meet basic requirements, the lessee can vacate the premises or deduct the cost of repair from his rent.

‘Fit for human occupancy’

The following basic conditions must be met if a landlord wants to rent out space.

  • The property must be waterproof – especially the roof and exterior walls
  • Plumbing and gas facilities must be compliant with the law
  • Hot and cold running water must be provided
  • Facilities for heat and electricity facilities must be well-maintained
  • Building and grounds must be free from debris and vermin
  • Enough garbage receptacles
  • Stairs, floors, and railings must be well-maintained
  • Entry doors must have deadbolt locks and windows that can be opened must be secure

The landlord must maintain all of these and do the necessary repairs.   The tenant also has a responsibility to properly use amenities, to keep the property clean and not to damage anything.

My rental is not habitable – what can I do?

First, you have to bring the matter to the attention of the landlord.   Usually, he has got 30 days to do the necessary repairs.

If there is no reaction, the tenant can do the repair himself and subtract the cost from the rent owed.

It is important that the tenant should be reasonable in his actions.  If your problem is a faulty tap, you cannot buy a very expensive replacement and demand the cost from the landlord.   The new tap you buy must be reasonably priced and similar to the old one.

In very dire circumstances where a property is totally uninhabitable, the tenant is allowed to move out and would be free from any outstanding responsibilities in terms of his lease.     Landlords are not allowed to collect rent for a property which they have failed to maintain completely.

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