This happened to many of us. You walk into an apartment in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California and everything seems OK at first sight. The landlord keeps telling you how great this apartment is and leaves no room for thinking by offering you a juicy discount if you sign a rental contract here and now.
“Well, if I agree to rent this apartment now, I will be saving X bucks each month, so what the hell!” you are thinking, so you reach for your pen and leave your signature at the bottom of the agreement with the landlord.
Overwhelmed by your state of euphoria, you do not notice mold growth on the ceiling or the smell of gas in the apartment. Heck, even that wet spot on your bed does not seem to bother you. But each time you walk into this apartment and look at the surroundings with a fresh pair of eyes, you start thinking, “Wait, is this apartment even inhabitable?”
“We receive many calls from California residents complaining about uninhabitable apartment for which they have already signed a rental contract and paid,” says our Los Angeles premises liability attorney at Compass Law Group, P.C. “And in the vast majority of cases, these people are right: they are living in an uninhabitable residence.”
But how do you know that you are not exaggerating things? What is an uninhabitable apartment and what to do if you happen to be living in one? These are the questions we asked our premises liability attorney Los Angeles.
How does California law define an uninhabitable residence?
Under California law, landlords have a legal duty to ensure that their apartments and residences (for sale, rent or lease) are inhabitable or, in other words, fit for human occupancy. If a residence is, for some reason, not suitable for living, the landlord has a duty to take care of any necessary repairs to make the residence fit for human occupancy.
If you are reading this and thinking that your apartment is uninhabitable simply because something is broken or malfunctioning, the apartment may not fit the description of an “uninhabitable residence” as per California law.
An apartment is considered uninhabitable and not suitable for living if any of the following is true:
- Inadequate waterproofing or weather protection of the roof and exterior walls (or lack thereof);
- Plumbing and gas facilities installed or maintained in violation of law;
- A water supply is not capable of effectively producing hot and cold running water;
- Heating facilities are not in compliance with local or statutory law;
- Improper electrical lighting in violation of local or statutory law;
- Building, grounds, or residence are insanitary or infested with vermin;
- An inadequate number of containers for garbage;
- Improperly maintained floors, ceilings, stairways, or railings in the residence or building; and
- Broken or damaged locks (or lack thereof).
What to do if you are living in an uninhabitable apartment?
Unless you (the tenant) was responsible for any of the above (i.e. failure to keep the property clean and sanitary, failure to properly use electrical, gas, and plumbing fixtures, etc.), you may be able to request your landlord to conduct any necessary repairs to make the apartment inhabitable.
Our Los Angeles premises liability lawyer explains that under California law, you have a right to contact your landlord and request repairs if the residence is uninhabitable. If the landlord ignores your request or refuses to make the repairs, you may have a right to conduct repairs yourself or hire a third party make the repairs and then subtract the cost from your rent.