Tenant's Rights When a Landlord Violates Residential Lease Laws

California law provides residential renters basic legal rights regardless of the terms of a lease agreement or the invoices of a landlord. Based on the situation, you are able to address a suspected violation of the rights as a tenant in several ways. You can file a complaint with a government agency, take your landlord to court or, in certain circumstances, use self-help remedies such as abandoning the lease unit.

Report to a Government Agency

Various government agencies oversee the activities of landlords and act on complaints to ensure that tenant rights aren’t violated. For example, on the state level, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is investigates and litigates housing discrimination complaints, including those associated with a prospective tenant’s effort to lease a residential unit. Local agencies are usually responsible for health related problems, such as pest management and habitability issues. If your landlord does not properly address such difficulties, it is possible to report your landlord to the local health agency. The agency will inspect the property and, if appropriate, issue a notice of violation with directions to the landlord to remedy the situation.

Repair and Deduct

If your rental unit sustains damages that affect its habitability, you are eligible to fix the hurt yourself and deduct the expense of repair from the rent under certain circumstances. The “repair-and-deduct” remedy is only accessible after you first notify your landlord of these required repairs and give the landlord a reasonable time to make the repairs. Under California law, 30 days is presumed to be a reasonable time. You can use the repair-and-deduct remedy if the landlord fails to make the repairs. This remedy has added limitations: the repairs cannot be more expensive than one month’s rent and you cannot use the remedy over twice in a 12-month interval.

Abandon the Rental Unit

As an alternative to the repair-and-deduct remedy, it is possible to abandon the lease unit. This remedy is usually used when the cost of repairing the settlement is greater than one month’s rent. You must also give the landlord notice and a reasonable time to fix the harm as you have to with the repair-and-deduct remedy. When this remedy is used properly, you are no longer responsible for paying rent after the unit is vacated. The vital point is the harm to the unit must leave it unfit for habitation.

Civil Lawsuit

You have the right to take your landlord to court any time that your rights as a tenant have been violated. This includes suing your landlord though you still occupy the rental unit. For example, if the landlord failed to create needed roof repairs and your own personal possessions sustained water damage during a rain storm, you can sue your landlord for the damage to your house whilst still renting your unit. Also, you can sue your landlord after vacating the unit, which usually takes place when the landlord wrongfully withholds a few or all of your security deposit.

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