Three Things Landlords Should Know About Habitability

Real estate agent showing a house to a senior couple

A decision by the California Supreme Court in 1974 established that all rental agreements in the state include an implied warranty of habitability. This implied warranty binds anyone who rents or leases their property, regardless the explicit language within any rental agreements. Here are three things landlords should know about this important feature of landlord-tenant law in California.

The Definition of Habitability

To avoid encountering tenant complaints and potential legal trouble, landlords should have a firm grasp of what habitability means in the eyes of the law. Under the California Civil Code, a landlord’s requirements in regard to habitability include providing:

  • A secure building, including functioning locks (on windows and doors) and adequate lighting
  • Effective waterproofing of windows, doors and roofs
  • Safe and clean common areas, including hallways, laundry rooms and lobbies
  • Functioning plumbing, heating and electrical systems
  • An environment free from infestation by rodents and other pests
  • A functioning trash collection system
  • Removal of hazards such as lead paint and asbestos

There Are Exceptions

This warranty does have its limits. It does not extend to ensuring that rented properties are flawless and aesthetically pleasing, only that they provide basic comfort and safety to renters.

Furthermore, a landlord cannot be held responsible for uninhabitable living conditions if the tenant’s own careless or negligent behavior contributed to the breakdown of a system or building feature. If a tenant improperly uses plumbing, invites guests who destroy property or uses the unit for commercial purposes, for instance, the implied warranty may no longer apply.

You Have a Reasonable Amount of Time to Conduct Repairs

When something requires fixing, landlords have a reasonable amount of time to fix it. Generally, landlords must make repairs within thirty days, however, if a repair is necessary to ensure the health and safety of a tenant, that time may be much shorter.

Remember, there are two sides to every story and landlords are not without their rights. A tenant who claims their property is not habitable or that you did not make repairs within a reasonable time period may not, in fact, have a valid claim when all of the facts are revealed.