Before renting a rental unit to a tenant, a landlord must make the unit fit to live in, or habitable. Additionally, while the unit is being rented, the landlord must repair problems that make the rental unit unfit to live in, or uninhabitable.
There are many kinds of defects that could make a rental unit unlivable. The implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for the “occupation of human beings.” In addition, the rental unit must “substantially comply” with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants’ health and safety.
A rental unit may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it contains a lead hazard that endangers the occupants or the public, or is a substandard building because, for example, a structural hazard, inadequate sanitation, or a nuisance endangers the health, life, safety, property, or welfare of the occupants or the public. A certain level of asbestos may make the unit uninhabitable.
If a tenant believes that his rental unit needs repairs, and that the landlord is responsible for the repairs under the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant should notify the landlord. Since rental units typically are business investments for landlords, most landlords want to keep them safe, clean, attractive, and in good repair.
It’s best for the tenant to notify the landlord of damage or defects by both a telephone call and a letter. The tenant should specifically describe the damage or defects and the required repairs in both the phone call and the letter. The tenant should date the letter and keep a copy to show
that notice was given and what it said. If the tenant gives notice to the landlord by e-mail or fax, the tenant should follow up with a letter.
If the landlord doesn’t make the requested repairs, and doesn’t have a good reason for not doing so, the tenant may have one of several remedies, depending on the seriousness of the repairs.
Highly recommend you consult with a tenants rights attorney in your area. Contact the Contra costa County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Information Service at: (925) 825-5700. They can give you a list of attorneys that will give you a free consultation. You may then wish to retain one of them.