Uninhabitable Units

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Uninhabitable Units & Properties

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According to Civil Code Section 1941, the landlord has a duty to ensure their property is inhabitable. By definition, this means the property must be conducive to a healthy, safe living environment that is generally seen as fit to be inhabited by human beings. In other words, the landlord is responsible for certain repairs and maintenance to keep the property up to a livable standard. If the landlord is negligent in this regard and a property becomes uninhabitable, the tenant may withhold rent or take legal action to seek justice and recover damages. 

If you are living in an uninhabitable property, or if your property was deemed uninhabitable, forcing you to relocate, you may have reason to file a claim against the liable landlord. Our firm is here to help. At Gaines & Gaines we have more than five decades of experience and we are dedicated to providing our clients with steadfast, trustworthy legal support. We rely on a client-centric approach so you always know where you stand and what to anticipate next, however complex your case may be. 

Are you ready to take the next step? Call (866) 400-4450today to schedule your free consultation with our lawyers about your Calabasas uninhabitable unit case. 

Can I File a Lawsuit Against My Landlord?

If your landlord has violated your rights as a tenant by failing to make your property inhabitable or safe, you may be entitled to take action. A unit may be uninhabitable if it does not provide standard measures of comfort, such as running water and heat. First, the tenant must notify the landlord of the poor conditions so they have a chance to repair the issue. If the landlord does not make the necessary repairs, the tenant may be within their rights to make the repairs themselves and withhold a portion of the rent (equivalent to the cost of the necessary repairs). 

Tenants’ Rights in California

The California Department of Consumer Affairs provides a California Tenants Guide, which explains the rights tenants are entitled to, especially as it applies to landlord responsibilities. If your landlord violates these rules, you may be able to take up the issue in small claims court or take additional action to seek certain damages. 

What is the Implied Warranty of Habitability in California

The Implied Warranty of Habitability in California is a legal doctrine that applies to residential rental properties. It implies that every residential lease in California contains an unwritten, implied warranty that the rental unit is fit and habitable for human occupancy. In essence, it means that landlords have an obligation to provide tenants with a safe and livable dwelling.

The key elements of the Implied Warranty of Habitability in California include:

  1. Safe and Sanitary Conditions: Landlords are legally required to maintain the rental unit in a safe and sanitary condition. This means ensuring that the unit is free from health hazards and meets basic building and safety codes.
  2. Basic Amenities: The rental unit should provide basic amenities, including working plumbing, heating, electrical systems, and secure doors and windows. These amenities should be in good working order throughout the lease period.
  3. Compliance with Local Codes: Landlords are obligated to comply with local housing and building codes. If the unit does not meet these standards, it may be considered uninhabitable.
  4. Repairs and Maintenance: Landlords must promptly address and make necessary repairs to maintain habitability. Failure to do so can result in legal action by tenants.
  5. Common Areas: The warranty of habitability also extends to common areas of the rental property, such as hallways and stairwells. Landlords are responsible for maintaining these areas in a safe and clean condition.
  6. No Retaliation: Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants for asserting their rights under the Implied Warranty of Habitability. This means they cannot raise the rent, threaten eviction, or take other adverse actions against tenants who report habitability issues.

The Implied Warranty of Habitability is a fundamental legal concept in California's landlord-tenant law. It means that tenants have the right to live in a rental unit that meets certain basic standards of habitability. If a landlord fails to maintain these standards, tenants have legal remedies available to them, such as withholding rent, making necessary repairs themselves (repair and deduct), or pursuing a legal action for damages or lease termination.

Tenants who believe that their rental unit does not meet the implied warranty of habitability should consult with an attorney or the appropriate local housing authority to understand their rights and legal options.

What Types of Damages Could a Tenant Be Entitled To?

Depending on the particulars of your situation, you may be able to take legal action against your landlord and sue for damages. Potential tenant’s rights claims include:

  • Breach of warranty of habitability
  • A tort action for negligence
  • Statutory Action for damages and abatement
  • Failure to provide habitable premises
  • Action for retaliatory eviction

Actions in a tenants’ rights case may pursue compensation for actual damages, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees. 

Examples of Uninhabitable Units 

In California, an uninhabitable rental unit is one that does not meet the minimum health and safety standards required by law. These conditions can vary, but here are some common examples of issues that may render a rental unit uninhabitable:

  1. Lack of Heating or Adequate Cooling: If the rental unit lacks a functioning heating system (especially important in colder months) or cooling system (critical in hot climates), it can be considered uninhabitable.
  2. Severe Plumbing Problems: This includes issues like broken pipes, persistent leaks, a lack of hot water, or inoperable toilets or sinks.
  3. Electrical Problems: If there are electrical issues that create safety hazards, such as exposed wires, faulty outlets, or frequent power outages, it can make the unit uninhabitable.
  4. Mold or Mildew: Extensive mold or mildew growth can pose health risks and make a unit uninhabitable.
  5. Pest Infestations: Severe infestations of pests, such as rodents or insects, can render a unit unlivable.
  6. Structural Damage: Significant structural damage, like a damaged roof, unstable floors, or walls, can make a unit unsafe and unlivable.
  7. Unsafe or Inadequate Wiring: Faulty or hazardous electrical wiring that poses a risk of fire can render a unit uninhabitable.
  8. Lead-Based Paint Hazards: If the rental unit contains lead-based paint hazards and the landlord fails to remediate them, it can be considered uninhabitable, especially if there are young children residing in the unit.
  9. Inadequate Sanitation: This includes a lack of trash removal, sewer backups, or any condition that affects the cleanliness and sanitation of the unit.
  10. Unsafe Staircases or Railings: Broken or missing handrails on staircases or balconies can create safety hazards and make a unit uninhabitable.
  11. Lack of Adequate Security: A lack of proper locks, or damaged or non-functioning security measures, can make a unit unsafe for tenants.
  12. Water Damage and Leaks: Persistent water leaks that cause structural damage or create safety hazards can render a unit uninhabitable.
  13. Inadequate Ventilation: If a rental unit lacks proper ventilation, it can lead to mold growth, poor indoor air quality, and other health issues.
  14. Blocked or Unsafe Exits: Any condition that makes exits inaccessible or unsafe in the event of an emergency can render a unit unlivable.

These are just a few examples, and California law defines specific standards for habitability. Tenants should always consult with a legal professional and document issues thoroughly before considering rent withholding or other legal actions to address uninhabitable conditions in their rental unit.

What If I Have a Claim?

If you believe the property you live in could be deemed “uninhabitable,” you should contact a local or state property health inspector to assess your living conditions. If they see cause for concern, you will have more substantial evidence to prove that your landlord is liable for failure to provide you with a safe living space. 

Contact Us for Help with Uninhabitable Units in Calabasas & Westlake

Our attorneys at Gaines & Gaines are committed to helping tenants exercise their rights when it comes to uninhabitable living conditions in California. We understand how stressful and unhealthy it can be to deal with these types of living situations, and we want to do what we can to help you pursue justice and compensation so you can move forward. Everyone has a right to a safe, healthy living environment, and we want to help you advocate for your rights as a California tenant. 

Contact our lawyers at Gaines & Gaines to schedule a free initial consultation with our team. We have more than 100 years of collective experience to lend to your case!

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