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Can I withhold paying my rent due to my landlords negligence on environment hazards & paying water bill in the home I rent?

Bakersfield, CA |

My home has excessive black mold throughout it, infested with bedbugs, spiders, & roaches, & the plumbing throughout is constantly backing up, and not draining sometimes taking days before it finally drains. As well as recently having to pay the water/trash bill 4mo of non payment $203 to avoid my water being turned off. I have brought all this to my landlords attention on multiple occasions showing him the problems & asking they be fixed & informed him of the shut off notice on the water only to be ignored regarding all issues & made to pay the bill myself to avoid water shutoff. Can I withhold paying my rent as well as deduct the $203 I pd on the water bill from my rent payment?

Attorney Answers 2


Interesting question. First of all, this sounds like a serious habitability issue. As for the mold, make sure first that you are doing your part by cleaning and ventilating. If so, then it definitely is the landlord's problem. The infestation and drain problems clearly are the landlord's responsibility. As to remedy, you have the repair and deduct remedy provided by law, but there are specific rules you have to follow and some drawbacks. Talk to an attorney about this. Alternatively, you might be able either to withhold some or all of your rent or terminate the lease and vacate. Talk to an attorney. As regards your payng the water/trash bill, first look to your lease. Whose responsibility is it in the lease? If it is not mentioned in the lease, I would next quesion whether or not your residence is a single family residence or a separately metered unit in a multiple unit complex. How is situation handled by other tenants in the complex if applicable? What is your history with the landlord on this issue? All this means that you have to determine whose responsibility it is to pay the water/trash. If it is the landlord's responsibility, then the best remedy, in my opinion, is to sue your landlord in small claiims. Do this every month that you have to make this payment. It won't take the landlord long to figure out that it would be a whole lot easier and cheaper to pay his bills himself.

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Where problems with the unit affect health or safety, or the habitability of the unit, California Civil Code Section 1942 provides recourse to tenants in the event repairs are not performed. First, you must give "reasonable notice" to the landlord. This is presumed to be 30 days, but could be less depending on the urgency of the problem. If the landlord does not make the necessary repairs after such notice, you as the tenant may make the necessary repairs yourself and deduct them from the rent subject to the following requirements: 1) Your repairs must not exceed one month's rent, and 2) You cannot exercise this right more than twice in any twelve month period. You will want to make sure that both the problems and the repairs/costs are thoroughly documented. Take photographs/video and save all your receipts. As an alternative to performing the repairs, you could treat the landlord's failure to repair as a "constructive eviction" and vacate the premises. However, before doing this, I strongly recommend employing the assistance of an attorney in your area to be sure you do it in a way that effectively frees you from the terms of the lease or rental agreement. As for the water/trash bills, I agree with counsel's remarks that you must first determine whose responsibility it is to pay these bills. This is almost always spelled out in the lease agreement. If water and trash are the landlord's responsibility, why are the bills coming to you? I would recommend sending the landlord a letter demanding that these bills be sent directly to him/her and requesting a refund for your payments.

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