Withholding rent for habitability issues - California

I know that CC 1942.4 allows for withholding of rent in situations where you have complained to a government agency, and if after 35 days the issue has not been abated, but what is the law on withholding rent when the unit is simply not habitable for a certain period of time. For example, if a landlord repipes your building over a 7 day period, and you have no water for extended periods, have workers in your home from morning till evening for 7 days straight, have to spend the night elsewhere, can't use the kitchen or bathroom, etc, what is a tenant's remedy if the landlord does not offer any rent reduction, and does not offer to put you in a hotel??

Los Angeles, CA -

Attorney Answers (2)

William Edward Shapiro

William Edward Shapiro

Landlord / Tenant Lawyer - San Francisco, CA

Withholding rent is never a good idea. Although it is permitted, a tenant who chooses to use Civil Code section 1942 repair and deduct scheme must actually use the withheld money to make the repairs. Otherwise, by not following the scheme laid out in section 1942, the tenant opens themself up to charges that they are simply not paying their rent. California, while it allows repair and deduct to used, does not allow for rent strikes.

That being said, your landlord seems to have failed to provide some of the basics necessary to make the premises habitable. My suggestion would be to make a demand of the landlord that you will have your next rent reduced by the amount you had to lay out for hotel and meals (and parking if thats an issue) plus the daily rental for your unit for the period which you were out. If the landlord refuses, you can then take them to, presumably, small claims court.

Furthermore, you may live in an area which is covered by a rent control law. There may be an administrative procedure available for you to recover your losses. Before you do anything, I would suggest that you contact an attorney in your area who represents tenants and understands the local rent control laws which may apply to you.

If the problem is serious enough, and the landlord has allowed a condition to exist, or caused it to exist, which makes your home uninhabitable, you may have a cause of action for constructive eviction or breach of the warranty of quiet enjoyment.

However, in order to make an intelligent choice, you need to sit down with an attorney and see what your options are.

This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. It is also to give you general... more
Evan Andrew Gould

Evan Andrew Gould

Employment / Labor Attorney - San Diego, CA

For a better understanding of habitability you may wish to look at the following link. http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook... If the property is truly uninhabitable and you incur costs to live elsewhere during the period of repairs you may always bring a claim against the property owner in Small Claims court if he/she is unwilling to reimburse you.

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