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Do I have a right to rent reduction while major repairs are being made in my apartment?

San Francisco, CA |

My unit's kitchen sustained serious water damage due to a flood on the roof of my apartment. As a result the kitchen will have to be closed off while repairs are made. The repairs might take several weeks. Without a kitchen, I'll have to spend a lot more money eating out. Do I have any legal right to rent reduction to cover this cost? I have not talked to my landlord about the details yet and I wanted to go into the conversation informed with realistic expectations.
Thank you.

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Attorney answers 1


The short answer is yes, you leased a unit with a working kitchen and the landlord is obligated to provide the space you rented in a "habitable" condition. He should be deducting a reasonable amount from the lease. Below is a bit of information from the State of California regarding tenant rights:

If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs within a reasonable period of time, the tenant can withhold some or all of the rent. the tenant can continue to withhold the rent until the landlord makes the repairs.

• how much rent can the tenant withhold? While the law does not provide a clear test for determining how much rent is reasonable for the tenant to withhold, judges in rent withholding cases often use one of the following methods. these methods are offered as examples.

Percentage reduction in rent: the percentage of the rental unit that is uninhabitable is determined, and the rent is reduced by that amount. For example, if one of a rental unit’s four rooms is uninhabitable, the tenant could withhold 25 percent of the rent. the tenant would have to pay the remaining 75 percent of the rent. Most courts use this method.
reasonable value of rental unit: the value of the rental unit in its defective state is determined, and the tenant withholds that amount. the tenant would have to pay the difference between the rental unit’s fair market value (usually the rent stated in the rental agreement or lease) and the rental unit’s value in its defective state.169

The tenant should save the withheld rent money and not spend it. the tenant should expect to have to pay the landlord some or all of the withheld rent.
• if the tenant withholds rent, the tenant should put the withheld rent money into a special bank account (called an escrow account). the tenant should notify the landlord in writing that the withheld rent money has been deposited in the escrow account, and explain why.
depositing the withheld rent money in an escrow account is not required by law, but is a very good thing to do....

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