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Tenant Rights To Repair and Deduct: Is it unlivable, or annoying?

In California, there are specific tenant rights to repair and deduct. In certain situations, tenants may have the right to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost from their rent. California law says tenants have the right to live in habitable conditions. Landlords must provide a rental property in good repair. All rental units must satisfy basic structural, health, and safety standards. When landlords fail to adequately maintain their property, tenants may have the legal right to pay for repairs and deduct the cost from their rent. 

When it comes to rental housing, both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities. In this article, we’ll explain the basics of tenant rights to repair and deduct.

California Tenant Rights to Habitable Conditions 

Under California law, landlords must rent maintain rentals in a livable condition for the entire rental term. Additionally, California Civil Code mandates the following minimum standards for every rental unit:

  • Sound water and weather protection of exterior walls and roof
  • Unbroken doors and windows
  • Plumbing, heating and electrical systems in proper working order
  • Hot and cold water
  • Functional toilet and kitchen sink
  • Clean and sanitary premises in building and on grounds that is free of debris and rodents
  • No offensive activities on the premises that could cause danger to human life, or health, such as crime or drug dealing
  • Floors, stairways and railings in proper repair
  • Sufficient trash receptacles
  • Deadbolt locks 
  • No lead paint hazards

In like manner, landlords must abide by county and local city housing requirements. 

CaliforniaTenant Responsibilities 

Likewise, tenants have certain responsibilities. California law requires that tenants:

  • Keep their unit as clean and sanitary as possible
  • Dispose of garbage in a sanitary manner
  • Properly use all plumbing, electrical and gas fixtures
  • Do not damage, impair or remove any part of the unit or facilities


Tenant-Landlord Communication Is Important Before Implementing Tenant Rights to Repair and Deduct

The first step when a tenant discusses repairs with a landlord is to make the request in writing. To that end, it’s important for the tenant to describe the problem in detail, its effect, and the necessary repair. It’s also important for the tenant to keep a written record of all communications. This includes photos that document the problem. 

Is it a major or minor repair?

While a problem can be annoying, it might not make a rental uninhabitable. For that reason, it’s important for tenants to correctly assess the problem before claiming a landlord is failing to make necessary repairs. Does the problem make the premises unfit for living? Or, is it a minor issue?

What are the rules of tenant rights to repair and deduct?

So what happens if the landlord does not make the repairs after a reasonable amount of time? In that case, a tenant may fix the problem and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent. However, there are certain rules:

  • The repair cannot cost more that one month’s rent.
  • Tenants may only do this twice in a 12-month period
  • The tenant must not have caused the problem.

Are there protections with tenant rights to repair and deduct?

Further, it is illegal for landlords to retaliate against tenants who exercise their right to repair and deduct. To that end, if a landlord ignores requests to make repairs, a tenant has the right to:

  • withhold rent
  • call state or local building and health inspectors
  • sue the landlord
  • move out without notice

As San Francisco’s dedicated landlord-tenant attorneys, we make it our business to clarify California landlord-tenant law. Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners has resolved landlord-tenant disputes and real estate issues for over 30 years. To schedule a consultation, please call 415-956-6488.

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