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Implied Warranty of Habitability gives tenant right to reduce/withhold rent for habitability issues.

Los Angeles, CA |

Thoughts on..... CA Supreme Court case Green v. Superior Court (1974), which states that because there is an implied warranty of habitability in all residential rental agreeements, the tenant does have the right to withhold/reduce rent for habitability issues.

Excerpts from Knight v. Hallsthammar (1981), 29 Cal.3d 46(expands on Green v. Superior) - GIVES TENANTS RIGHT TO REDUCE/WITHHOLD RENT RE HABITABILITY ISSUES, despite not being codified. "[t]he landlord's lack of fault and reasonable efforts to repair do not prolong the duty to pay full rent."..."At least in a situation where, as here, a landlord has notice of alleged uninhabitable conditions not caused by the tenants themselves, a landlord's breach of the implied warranty of habitability exists whether or not he has had a "reasonable" time to repair. Otherwise, the mutual dependence of a landlord's obligation to maintain habitable premises, and of a tenant's duty to pay rent, would make no sense.

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In California, a warranty of habitability is implied in all residential rental agreements. Green v. Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 616, 629. The implied warranty “recognizes the realities of the modern urban landlord-tenant relationship and imposes upon the landlord the obligation to maintain leased dwellings in a habitable condition throughout the term of the lease.” Peterson v. Superior Court (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1185, 1204, quoting Green v. Superior Court, supra, 10 Cal.3d at 619.

The implied warranty of habitability is, in effect, a corollary to a residential landlord’s statutory obligation to put the premises “into a condition fit for such [residential] occupation, and repair all subsequent dilapidations thereof, which render it untenantable.” Civil Code section 1941. A tenant’s right to “habitable premises” is non-waiveable, and residential landlords cannot avoid the warranty of habitability by contracting around it in their leases. See Civil Code section 1942.1.

Civil Code section 1941.1 defines untenantable dwellings and specifies specific “tenant-ability” characteristics, including plumbing and gas facilities that conform to state and local law at the time of installation maintained in good working order. Civil Code section 1941.1(b). Moreover, any building or portion of a building, including any dwelling unit, guestroom or suite of rooms, is deemed substandard under the State Housing Law and “untenantable” under Civil Code section 1941.1 whenever a prescribed condition exists to the extent that it “endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants.” Health and Safety Code section 17920.3. Inadequate plumbing system is one of the prescribed conditions. See Health and Safety Code section 17920.3. California courts have found that water leaks can constitute substantial defects sufficient to constitute statutory non-compliance under the State Housing Law. See Knight v. Hallsthammer (1981) 29 Cal.3d 46, 50.

This response is for information purpose only and does not constitute a legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship.



So Green v. Superior Court gives tenants the right to withhold/reduce rent for periods when the rental unit is not habitable/in compliance with the law?

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen




Attorney Lee gave you an excellent response. It is accurate. You haven't really asked a specific question though.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.


It sounds as if you are asking if it is okay for you to withhold rent to make repairs. The answer is yes, but you need to be careful anytime you resort to "self-help" so that you are not harmed. Your best approach is to file a complaint with the health department if there habitability issues.
If you want to move, try and work something out with your landlord.



Actually, I am talking about reducing rent for periods when the unit is not habitable. For example, landlord asks tenatn to to vacate for a few days because he wants to tent the building to spray for bugs, or where there is major construction going on in the unit. The tenant is not only not required to pay rent for those periods, but the landlord is required to make the tenant whole for tenant's damages (i.e. for tenatn eating out instead of at home, for tenant having to stay at a hotel or elsewhere, etc).

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