Question: My rental unit is suffering from a serious defect. Can I move out or force my landlord to fix the problem?
Answer: Residential landlords are required to keep their rental units habitable, which means the housing must be fit for human occupation. The housing must also substantially comply with state and local housing codes. Some defects that may render housing uninhabitable include housing that is not weatherproofed, or housing that lacks functioning plumbing, electricity and heat. Landlords, however, are not responsible for repairs that were caused by the tenant and/or his or her guests.
If a problem arises that makes housing uninhabitable, the tenant should notify his or her landlord by phone and in writing. The landlord then has a reasonable period of time to complete the repairs. Repairs completed within 30 days of receiving notification are generally considered reasonable, but serious repairs may need to be completed much faster.
Tenants have several options if a landlord refuses to make repairs within a reasonable time. These remedies may include:
Tenants must comply with specific legal requirements when pursuing the above remedies and should fully understand all of the associated risks. Please be sure to consult with an attorney before taking action.
Emil Dixon is the founder of the Davis Legal Center, a private law office located in Davis, California.