As a tenant, you have a right to a habitable dwelling. The presence of rats and pests such as cockroaches may render the apartment uninhabitable. See CA Civil Code section 1941.1.
Generally speaking, you need to give the landlord/manager a "reasonable" time to correct the problem. Thereafter, if the landlord/manager fails to do so, your remedies include abandonment (i.e., moving out), withholding rent (possibly), repair-and-deduct (possibly), and suing for damages.
How long has this problem existed?
I would not suggest taking any action without first allowing the landlord to remedy the situation and not without having consulted with a tenant's attorney.
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 for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
Difficult question. The correct legal answer is "no," a tenant does not have to pay rent for a dwelling that is "untenantable" or "uninhabitable" (
Important things to remember:
1. The fact that I answered a question that you asked me on line, doesn't make me your lawyer.
2. Opinions are like noses--everyone has one. I just happen to think my opinions are right, but check with another lawyer too.
You have many rights as a tenant, and protections, particularly in the city of Los Angeles. The pertinent rights which are at stake for you right now are your right to quiet enjoyment of the premises and the warranty of habitability. The right to quiet enjoyment means more than to enjoy the premises without noise. It is your right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the premises, without the vermin infestation. In regard to the warranty of habitability, the defective conditions you describe in the form of cockroach and rat infestations constitute violations of state and local housing laws, which constitute a breach the implied warranty of habitability. Depending upon how long your landlord has known about these conditions may constitute a violation of these rights if he has done nothing to abate them within a reasonable time. Which in turn, may give you a right to recover damages or monetary compensation in a lawsuit for your landlord’s failure to maintain the premises in a habitable condition.
As far as whether you need to pay rent, the answer is yes. If you do not pay rent you face the possibility of being evicted. Everyone who rents needs to pay rent. However, the amount of rent that you should be paying may be much less than what you are currently paying or than the amount the landlord is demanding. Therefore, the question is not whether you need to pay rent, but how much rent you need to pay. Unfortunately, it would be rare that you and your landlord would agree to an amount that represents the fair rental value. Only the Los Angeles Housing Department can determine a rent reduction if the apartment is in such bad shape that it is accepted into the City of Los Angeles REAP Program (or City of Los Angeles Rent Escrow Account Program) or a judge in a court of law; assuming you have an attorney knowledgeable not only in landlord-tenant law but also in habitability law. You may also be able to recover any rent that you paid, in excess of the fair rental value should a court determine the premises are inhabitable.
You should contact an attorney in your area that is knowledgeable in landlord-tenant law and also in habitability law so that you can get the proper advice before you act.
Note: This response is provided by the Law Offices of Jesus Rodriguez, 700 S. Flower St., Ste. 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90017 (213) 623-2333, it is provided for information purposes only and to encourage the exchange of ideas and open communication. It should not be construed as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.