The Implied Warranty Of Habitability In California
Landlords are required to keep rental premises in “livable” condition for tenants. The “implied warranty of habitability” is a legal rule that requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for human beings to live in. The implied warranty of habitability is implicit in all residential rental agreements and cannot be waived by either the landlord or the tenant. Below are some key concepts to better understanding the implied warranty of habitability.
Green v. Superior Court
In 1974 this landmark case set the stage for all implied warranty of habitability cases to come. The court recognized that “the realities of the modern urban landlord-tenant relationship” imposes upon the landlord the obligation to maintain leased dwellings in a habitable condition throughout the term of the lease. Green v. Superior Court, (1974) 10 Cal. 3d 616, 629. The court also recognized that “the implied warranty of habitability does not require that a landlord ensure that leased premises are in perfect, aesthetically pleasing condition, but it does mean that “bare living requirements” must be maintained.” Id. at 619. The case outlined the boundaries of the implied warranty of habitability rule, and is often referenced in modern implied warranty of habitability cases.
California Civil Code § 1941.1
California Civil Code § 1941.1 essentially lays out what a living space must have to be considered “habitable.” Those requirements are listed as follows:
Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
Plumbing or gas facilities that conformed to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
A water supply approved under applicable law that is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system that is under the control of the landlord, that produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.
Heating facilities that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
Building, grounds, and appurtenances at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, and all areas under control of the landlord, kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
An adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in clean condition and good repair at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, with the landlord providing appropriate serviceable receptacles thereafter and being responsible for the clean condition and good repair of the receptacles under his or her control.
Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.
A locking mail receptacle for each residential unit in a residential hotel, as required by Section § 17958.3 of the Health and Safety Code. This subdivision shall become operative on July 1, 2008.
Tenant Rights When Implied Warranty Of Habitability Is Breached
In general, the tenant must first give the landlord notice and an opportunity to repair the issue. As always, it is best to give notice in writing and to keep a record of all related correspondence. Tenants can seek various remedies when a landlord has breached the implied warranty of habitability and refuses to address the issue. Put basically, a tenant has three general remedies:
The tenant makes the repair and then deducts the cost from the rent owed.
The tenant can move out.
The tenant can withhold paying some or all rent until the problem is fixed.
Each remedy is only appropriate under specific situations and each carry inherent risks. The advice of an experienced attorney is highly recommended over attempting “self-help.”
Aziz Legal has helped both individuals and groups struggling with the implied warranty of habitability to settle for substantial sums. If you are struggling with a living situation involving the implied warranty of habitability, please call Aziz Legal by phone (408) 203-4627 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is merely informational and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Use of any information from this article is for general information only and does not represent personal legal or tax advice, either express or implied. Readers are encouraged to consult Aziz Legal, or another attorney, for any specific legal matters.