A large percentage of Californians live in rental units – 17 percent, in fact. Only Washington, D.C. and the state of New York have higher percentages of apartment-dwellers, according to the National Multi Housing Council.
Because of this, California has established a guide covering the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. Much of the information is common knowledge, like lease agreements and rental applications, but this guide also delves into less-known topics like repair-and-deduct remedies when a tenant makes repairs to a unit.
When a state has a higher percentage of the population living in rental units, a good share of those residents tend to stay in their homes for quite some time. And as years pass, maintenance will be needed to keep the rental unit up to date. Some landlords and tenants can come to an agreement for the tenants to perform all repairs and maintenance on their home in exchange for reduced rent payments.
In the case where the landlord is responsible for repair and maintenance, according to the guide, tenants should notify the landlord in writing of the requested repairs. If the landlord declines to take any action, without good reason, the tenant has a couple of options:
1. Repair and deduct – Tenants can make repairs for serious substandard issues – like a leaky roof, no hot water or a gas leak – and deduct the cost of those repairs from rent as long as the cost is less than the monthly rental payment. There are a lot of legalities involved with this, and tenants are recommended to contact legal counsel first.
2. Abandon – A tenant also has the option of moving out if a repair situation is needed but not addressed. This often happens when the repair costs would be more than a month’s rent. Again, the repairs must be for substandard issues. Because this could also appear to be a breach of lease to a landlord, it might be a good idea to contact legal counsel first.
3. Rent withholding – Tenants have the right to not pay rent if repairs are not made, however there are many requirements that have to be fulfilled to make this option legal. Again, the needed repairs must be for a health or safety reason, and the result of this action could cause a landlord to sue for breach of lease, or give a tenant notice of eviction.
The California guide for landlord and tenant rights is frequently revised to include the latest legal changes. If you are a California renter, be sure to review this document.