Tenants must navigate a complex set of rules and responsibilities in the state of California. Not only are there state guidelines that must be followed, but there may also be some specific city guidelines for rental properties, such as rent control. However, California tenants are entitled to the following rights however it is important that you read your lease carefully to determine what steps you should take if a problem arises.
- Landlords are Required to Provide a Habitable Rental Unit.
The property being rented must substantially comply with building and housing codes that have an effect on a tenant’s health and safety. Certain conditions exist, such as lead paint, mold, or a pest infestation call your landlord and tell them all of the hazardous conditions of the property and ask them to repair them right away. In general, a rental unit should be free of lead paint, mold, pests, and have working appliances, proper ventilation, and working window and door locks.
- A Tenant Can Move out Without Notice if the Property is Uninhabitable.
If there are uninhabitable rental conditions, that your landlord has not repaired, it may possible to move out of the property at any time. According to California Civil Code Section 1942 a tenant doesn’t have to notify their landlord about the conditions or request that they be fixed. With that being said, landlords do tend to take immediate moves to file a case in court and a judge may find in favor of the landlord. So it is best to notify someone about the conditions and give them the chance to fix it. If your landlord refuses to repair the conditions make sure to document the problems with pictures before you vacate just in case your landlord takes you to court. Also, make sure that all communication between tenant and landlord are done in writing.
- Habitability Issues Can be Repaired by the Tenant and Deducted from the Rent.
Habitability issues can be repaired immediately by the tenant and the cost of the repair can be deducted from the monthly rent that is owed. The issues must relate to the tenants health and safety which means that repairs like a tear in the flooring is not covered. Tenants can deduct work that they paid a repair person to correct or items that they had to purchase such as door locks they cannot however charge to compensate themselves.
- A Landlord Cannot Collect Rent or an Unpermitted or Illegal Unit.
If a tenant discovers that they are living in an unpermitted or illegal rental unit, such as a garage, basement or attic that has been converted into a rental, California laws block landlords from requesting any rent at all. Therefore, the tenant can move out without giving notice and without penalty. When landlords and tenants know California tenant’s rights it can help tenants as well as landlords better manage the rental relationship.