California Tenant's Right to Repair and Deduct

Reasons Tenants Can Repair and Deduct in California

Rental units in the state of California must meet certain habitability standards. It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain their property up to these standards. If a tenant feels that there is an issue in their unit or at the property as a whole, that is making the property ‘untenantable’, the tenant must provide the landlord with notice of the issue. Here are a California tenant’s rights to repair and deduct for repairs.

Landlord Responsibility to Maintain Premises

A landlord is responsible for keeping their rental property in a habitable condition. This involves the proper installation, as well as maintenance, of facilities within the property. In California, a landlord’s obligations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Ensuring that the rental is waterproof- Which includes roofing, exterior walls, exterior doors and windows.
  • All plumbing and gas adheres to code and is in good working condition.
  • Tenant has access to proper water supply and waste disposal system.
  • All heating adheres to code and is in good working condition.
  • All electrical adheres to code and is in good working condition.
  • The interior and exterior of the building is clean and free from dirt, debris, rodents and vermin.
  • Landlord supplies appropriate number of trash receptacles and receptacles are in good repair.
  • All stairwells, railings and floors are in good condition.
  • Dead bolts must be installed on all entry doors.
  • Ensuring all windows have proper safety and locking mechanisms.
  • Making sure all common area doors have locks which comply with local fire code.
  • Ensuring that each unit has at least one operable telephone jack.

Tenant Must Give Notice

If a tenant notices a health or safety violation at the property that is making the property unfit for a tenant, the tenant must give written or oral notice to the landlord that the issues must be remedied.

No Response From Landlord

If the tenant has given written notice to the landlord about a health or safety issue that needs to be fixed, and the landlord has not addressed the problem, the tenant has two options:

1. Repair and Deduct- If the landlord has not fixed the problem, then, in California, the tenant can do the repair themselves or hire someone to do the repair for them. The tenant is then allowed to deduct the cost of the repair from their monthly rent, however, the cost cannot exceed one month’s rent.

2. Vacate the Premises- If the landlord does not remedy the issue that is causing the unit for be “untenantable,” then the tenant can vacate the premises. After vacating the premises, the tenant is not responsible for paying any additional rent. The tenant cannot vacate the premises more than twice during any 12 month period.

Tenant Has Reasonable Time to Take Action

The tenant has a reasonable amount of time to repair and deduct. Under California Code, this reasonable amount of time is 30 days. If the tenant does not take action within 30 days of notifying the landlord of the needed repair, then the burden of proof of explaining why the repair was not completed sooner falls on the tenant.

Tenant Negligence

A tenant forfeits any right to repair and deduct or vacate the premises if the dilapidated condition in the rental unit is caused by the tenant’s negligence or failure to adhere to the tenant’s obligations under California Code 1941.2 or if the tenant’s failure to adhere to these obligations limits the landlord’s ability to make the needed repair. These include:

  • Keeping the Unit Clean and in a Sanitary Condition
  • Properly Disposing of All Trash and Debris
  • Properly Using All Electrical, Gas and Plumbing Fixtures
  • Keeping All Electrical, Gas and Plumbing Fixtures in a Clean Condition
  • Not Allowing Any Guest to Damage, Deface , Destroy or Remove Any Part of the Dwelling.
  • Only Using Each Area of the Rental for Its Intended Purpose.

California Code on Repair and Deduct

If you would like to read California’s code on a tenant’s ability to repair and deduct, please consult California Civil Code §§ 1941.1, 1941.2, 1941.3, 1941.4, 1942 and 1962.