Riskier Methods to Get Repairs Made
If methods for getting repairs made in Part 2 do not solve your issues, there are other rights you have available to address habitability problems. Before pursuing these options, we recommend exercising caution – especially if the repair issues are minor – and consulting an attorney. We also recommending asking yourself these questions first:
- Who is responsible for fixing the issue?
- Have you communicated with your landlord and waited a reasonable time for them to fix your issues?
- How serious is the problem? If it is minor, a court may not view the following methods for getting repairs made as justifiable in a potential eviction case.
- Have you discussed the issue with Tenant Sanctuary or an attorney to be sure you understand your rights?
- Are you willing to risk eviction or money damages if a judge does not find using these methods justifiable?
- If you move out, can you find a comparable or better unit?
#1 Withhold rent (Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal.3d 616 (Cal. 1974)
You have the option to withhold rent until the repairs in your home are made. This is sometimes called “going on rent strike.” Your rental contract obligates the owner of your home to keep the home in good condition. If they do not keep up their end of the contract, you may not have to pay full rent. If only part of the home is unlivable, it might be safer to withhold only part of your rent. However, if the conditions in your home are so severe or dangerous that the home is totally unlivable, you may be protected if you pay no rent. It is a good idea to set aside any money you withhold. Your landlord may sue you for the unpaid rent – if the judge disagrees with the amount you decided to withhold, you may have to pay some of it back.
#2 Move out! (CA Civil Code 1942)
If the property still isn’t habitable despite your attempts to get repairs made, you have the right to move out. The owner should not be able to claim any further rent money from you, but they may try to sue you or hold on to your security deposit. Your right to abandon and your rights around deposits should protect you in that case. To further protect yourself while using this remedy, we suggest that you write to the property owner and inform them you intend to abandon the rental. List the ongoing problems with the home and detail your efforts to get repairs made. Keep a copy of this document.
#3 Sue the owner
You may be able to recover all or part of the rent that you paid while your home was uninhabitable, as well as unusual costs you paid because of the home’s condition. For example, if you had to move out and stay in a hotel because of serious repair issues, you could demand the owner of your home pay the cost of the hotel. You can sue them in Small Claims Court for up to $10,000. If you want to claim more than that amount, you will need to file in Superior Court. The owner must represent themselves in Small Claims Court, but can have an attorney in Superior Court. The owner cannot retaliate against you for filing a lawsuit. For help filing a Small Claims lawsuit, visit the Small Claims Self Help Center. Their website can be found here.
- CA Civic Code
- Portman, J., & Weaver, S. (2020) California Tenants’ Rights (22nd Edition). NOLO.