Hello, me and my roommates have multiple problems with our apartment, there is a black mold issue in our bathroom and there is a leak not just in one of our rooms but in our neighbors room as well. our neighbors and I have been trying to get in contact with our landlord for the past 2 months and none of us have heard a reply we have tried to contact a higher authority but we keep getting transferred back to our landlords machine so we are under the impression that he owns the company and the building and We are on a year lease.
You must follow the language of your lease. If it permits to repair and deduct you may be able to do so, as long as you can establish (written track record) that you have given the landlord an opportunity to fix the problem and s/he did not after your written notice. Then you must follow procedure outlined in your lease exactly to protect yourself against eviction. Consult an attorney to be sure you interpret the lease correctly.
You should immediately complain to the local cde enforcement agency. If the agency cites the landlord, that should strengthen your legal position - see Civil Code Sections 1942.4 and 1942.5.
As another attorney noted, there is a repair and deduct remedy provided under Civil Code Section 1942, but it has limitations, as noted in that law, and would probably not be useful if the leak would be very expensive to fix and/or originates outside your rental unit.
That same law - and the doctrine of constructive eviction - may well entitle you to break your lease, if you would like to do so.
If you withhold rent, receive a 3-day notice, don't pay, and are then sued for unlawful detainer, it would be up to the judge/jury to decide whether the problem was so severe that you were entitled to withhold rent. If they disagreed with you, you would be evicted, have your credit damages, etc.
So, if you withhold rent, and the landlord serves a 3-day notice, it is always safer to timely pay the $, but to do so under express written protest, and reserving your legal rights (including to seek a refund).
You should consult a local landlord-tenant attorney to get a more detailed analysis of your legal rights and options, which may well include suing the landlord for a partial rent refund and damages, including under legal theories of nuisance and habitability.
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