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Can I sue my former landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability?

Los Angeles, CA |

I lived in an apartment that was infested with mice and cockroaches. It also had leaks in the ceiling. I have since moved. Can I sue my former landlord for damages? Can I claim emotional distress?

The conditions were so bad that I had to move. The landlord refused to fix the place. I incurred costs in moving and my kids had to go to new schools. This has upset me although I haven't seen a psychiatrist for my distress. Are there any sorts of state penalties? Will a lawyer take a case like this on contingency or do I have to pay him by the hour? Is it likely my landlord would have to pay for my attorneys fees? (Also, I am in California)

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. What are your damages? Did you provide your landlord with notice to repair the defects and allow him a reasonable time within which to do so? Were you so traumatized that you actually sought psychiatric care for your claimed emotional distress?

    The bottom line is that your suit likely has no merit, especially since you likely have no actual damages and you are no longer living in the apartment.

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.


  2. You may have a claim for breach of the warranty of habitability, which means you would be entitled to a refund of a portion of your rent based upon the partial loss of use of your apartment. Unfortunately, there is no fixed formula for calculating the percentage.

    Infliction of emotional distress seem unlikely.


  3. Your case for emotional distress will depend upon the details of your habitability claim and the extent that you can document those details - that means evidence. Ideally, you have photograhic and/or video evidence of the conditions you mention. It would also be very helpful if you have documented requests for repairs and responses to those requests. Document your out of pocket expenses. What did it cost you to move? Also, did anyone get sick from any of the conditions iun the apartment? You may be able to recover for those injuries, the medical costs, future medical, etc. Think too in terms of other systems that may have been broken or unhealthy (plumbing, heating, gas facilities, electrical, air-conditioning, trash removal, garbage disposal, etc.) . Take a look at the emotional distress of each family member. Was there particular difficulty experienced by any of your children in changing schools? Did anyone have to change jobs? Each family member has a claim that should be examined. Good luck with your case!

    Mike Coletti

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