Written by attorney Rami N. Nabi

Landlord Tenant ( an Overview of Who Is Responsible for the Cost of Repairs to the Unit)

I receive many questions regarding the cost of repairs and who is responsible (landlord or tenant) for paying for those repairs. This guide is a brief overview of California Law in regard to Landlord and Tenant rights and responsibilities.


Before a landlord can rent a unit or a house they must make the unit or house habitable. Habitable means that the rental property is fit for human occupation and that it complies with state and local building and health codes that materially affect tenants health and safety. This is so important that the law is implied meaning that every rental unit used for a dwelling contains the Implied Warranty of Habitability.

After a tenant has moved in to the unit, it is the landlords responsibility to keep the unit habitable. Therefore the landlord must make repairs to keep the unit fit to live in. Below is a list of problems that can make the unit uninhabitable and therefore violate the Implied Warranty of Habitability.

-Health hazard such as gas or lead

-Ineffective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors

-Non-sanitary conditions (rodents or roaches)

-Non working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower. The toilet and bathtub or shower use must be in a room which is ventilated and allows privacy.

-Floors, stairways, and railings in bad shape

-Heating facilities not in good working order

-Nuisances (such as oder or noise)

There are other problems that can breach the implied warranty of habitability. In deciding whether there is a breach always think of health and safety. If there is a safety or health concern there can be a violation. The implied warranty of habitability is not violated merely because the rental unit is not in perfect pleasing condition. Nor is the implied warranty of habitability violated if there are minor housing code violations, which, standing alone, do not affect habitability.

Tenants duty to disclose and allow time to repair

The tenant must give notice to the landlord and allow the landlord reasonable time to repair the damages before taking other action. If the landlord does not take any action or fails to fix the problem the tenant has several options.

First, the tenant can repair and deduct the money from the rent.

Second, the tenant may abandon the property because of the health concern and seek damages.

Third, the tenant is allowed to stop paying rent until the landlord cures the defects that violate the implied warranty of habitability .

Limitations on the Warranty of Habitability

Even if the unit breaches the implied warranty of habitability, a landlord may not be legally required to repair the condition if the tenant has not fulfilled there own responsibilities or the tenant has caused the problem which made the unit uninhabitable. For example if the tenant fails to keep the unit clean which in return attracts rodents. Or the tenant did not use fixtures such as a stove, electrical unit, shower properly.

Even if a rental unit is unlivable because of one of the conditions listed above, a landlord may not be legally required to repair the condition if the tenant has not fulfilled the tenant's own responsibilities. For example,

  1. Tenant did not keep unit clean therefore attracting rodents and roaches

  2. Tenant did not use fixtures correctly such as the stove or plumbing.

  3. Tenant destroyed or damaged the premises or allowed someone else to do so.

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