Can California Tenants Repair and Deduct?

Using the Rent for Vital Repairs

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Tenants have the right to live in a rental unit that meets certain health and safety standards. If there is a major health or safety issue at the property that affects habitability, a California tenant may have the right to pay to have the repair completed and deduct this amount from their rent. Learn how and when a California tenant can repair and deduct.

Landlord Must Maintain Premises

In every state, a landlord is obligated to keep their rental property in a habitable condition. This requirement includes initially installing all facilities at the property correctly, as well as maintaining these facilities over time so they continue to meet health and safety standards. In California, a landlord has specific maintenance responsibilities that they must follow, including:

Waterproofing-

  • The landlord must make sure all areas of the rental are waterproof, including roofing, exterior walls, exterior doors, and windows.

Plumbing and Gas-

  • Any plumbing or gas must be done to code and be in good working condition.

Water and Waste-

  • The tenant must have access to a proper water supply and waste disposal system.

Heating-

  • All heating systems must be done to code and be in good working order.

Electrical-

  • All electrical work must be done to code and be in good working order.

Common Areas-

  • The interior and exterior of the building must be clean and free from dirt, debris, rodents, and vermin.

Trash Bins-

  • Landlord must supply appropriate number of trash receptacles and receptacles must be in good condition.

Stairwells and Floors-

  • All stairwells, railings, and floors must be free from hazards and in good condition.

Entry Doors-

  • Dead bolts must be installed on all entry doors.

Windows-

  • All windows must have proper safety and locking mechanisms.

Common Area Doors-

  • All common area doors must have locks that meet local fire code.

Telephone Lines-

  • Each rental unit must have at least one working telephone jack.

Tenant Must Notify Landlord

The first step any tenant must take if he or she notices a health or safety violation at the property, is to give the landlord notice of the violation. The tenant can give this notice to the landlord orally or can provide written notice to the landlord, which will serve as better proof. This notice must:

  • Inform the landlord that there is an issue at the rental that is making living conditions unfit for the tenant.
  • Require the issue to be fixed.

No Response From Landlord

If the tenant has given written notice to the landlord about a health or safety issue that needs to be fixed, and the landlord has not addressed the problem, the tenant has two options:

  1. Repair and Deduct
    1. In California, if the landlord refuses to fix substantial health and safety violations at the property, the tenant has the ability to do the repair themselves or hire someone to repair the issue. The tenant is then allowed to deduct the cost of the repair from their monthly rent, however, they cannot deduct more than one month’s rent.
  2. Vacate the Premises
    1. If the landlord does not fix the issue that is causing the unit to be “untenantable,” then the tenant can vacate the premises. After leaving the rental property, the tenant is not responsible for paying any additional rent. In California, the tenant cannot vacate the premises more than twice during any 12 month period.

    Tenant Has Reasonable Time to Take Action

    The tenant has a reasonable amount of time to repair and deduct. Under California Code, this reasonable amount of time is 30 days. If the tenant does not take action within 30 days of notifying the landlord of the needed repair, then the burden of proof of explaining why the repair was not completed sooner falls on the tenant.

    Tenant Negligence

    A tenant forfeits their right to repair and deduct or vacate the premises if the health and safety issue in the rental unit is caused by the tenant’s negligence or failure to follow the tenant’s obligations under California Code 1941.2 or if the tenant’s failure to follow these obligations limits the landlord’s ability to make the needed repair. This includes:

    • Keeping the unit clean and in a sanitary condition
    • Properly disposing of all trash and debris
    • Properly using all electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures
    • Keeping all electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures in a clean condition
    • Not allowing any guest to damage, deface, destroy or remove any part of the dwelling
    • Only using each area of the rental for its intended purpose

    California Code on Repair and Deduct

    If you would like to read California’s code on a tenant’s ability to repair and deduct, please see California Civil Code §§ 1941.1, 1941.2, 1941.3, 1941.4, 1942 500 and 1962. 500