California landlords must provide livable or habitable spaces to their tenants. A “livable” space must include working plumbing, heating, water proofing and electricity; a working toilet and kitchen sink, a clean and sanitary building, well-maintained floors and stairways, and a space free of danger and nuisances. Tenants are legally entitled to these basic standards. If a landlord fails to take care of any necessary maintenance requests, the tenant may take the following steps:
- Withhold rent until the issue is solved
- Pay for repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent (“repair and deduct”)
- Call state or local building health inspectors to assess the issue
- Sue the landlord
- Move out without notice
It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant who takes any of the steps above. However, if the tenant opts to “repair and deduct”, withhold rent, or move out without notice, the issue at hand must be serious enough to threaten the health or safety of the tenant or otherwise make the unit unlivable.
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