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The Warranty Of Habitability

The Warranty of Habitability

If you are a tenant and your home has problems making it unsafe and not sanitary to live in, and your landlord refuses to fix the problems, you should immediately call Lena Law, APC for a free consultation.

In California, tenants have the right to live in habitable, safe and sanitary living conditions. Landlords have certain legal obligations to provide and maintain certain basic features in their residential rentals. This is known as the warranty of habitability. [Implied in every residential lease is a warranty of habitability. See Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. 3d 616, 638 (1974).]  To prove a claim for breach of warranty of habitability, a tenant must show the uninhabitable condition; that the landlord had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition and that the tenant suffered damages. 

The Tenant also has certain responsibilities including but not limited to proper  use of electrical, plumbing and gas fixtures, keeping the home clean and sanitary, proper disposal of trash, and proper maintenance if the tenant breaks or damages the property.

If the problem you have is out of your control, and the rental unit is uninhabitable, you may be able to make a claim  against your landlord to recover damages.

The California Civil Code Section 1941.1 requires that the landlord provide the following to any residential rental property.

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of the roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
  • Plumbing, electricity, and gas facilities maintained in good working order.
  • Hot and cold running water and a sewage disposal system.
  • Sufficient heating facilities maintained in good working order
  • Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment which is maintained in good working
  • order.
  • Floors, stairways and railings maintained in good repair.
  • An adequate number of containers for garbage, kept clean and in good repair.
  • Building and building grounds free of trash, rubbish, rodents, cockroaches and other pests.
  • A working toilet, washbasin, and bathtub or shower
  • An operable dead bolt lock on main entrance door.Many more requirements exist as well as other health and safety codes that landlords must comply with in California

If the problems you have falls within one of the items listed above, and prevents you from enjoying the property where you are living, you have a good reason to complain to your landlord and expect that the problem will be taken care of. 



  1. Make a complaint in writing to your landlord/management company/manager. Date and sign your letter which should include your name and address, and the problem.  Keep a copy for your records. If your landlord does not act or fix the problem within a reasonable time, follow up by a second letter sent certified return receipt requested and make reference to your first letter.  If the landlord continues to ignore your requests, call an attorney immediately.  Telephone or in-person complaints are harder to prove.  A written letter is best!!
  2. If the landlord contacts you to begin repairs or to act on the problem, you need to  cooperate and allow the landlord to make repairs.
  3. Take lots of photographs of the problems you are experiencing, including cockroaches or bed bugs on your clothing, furniture, walls, cabinets, etc. It is a good idea to have a witness take the photographs.  Videos are also very powerful, especially in depicting living bugs/pests in your home and on your personal property.
  4. Use a ruler in your photographs to show the size and severity of holes, leaks, infestations, etc.
  5. If bugs are your problems, collect some in a sealed freezer bag to provide to your attorney.
  6. If you have to dispose of – throw away – food, clothes or other items because they are infested with bugs/pests, take photographs of the items first, and take photographs of the items once you throw them in the trash.
  7. If you have receipts of the items you threw away, or if you purchase new items, keep the receipts to provide to your attorney.
  8. If you are feeling ill or the rental is a danger to your health, see a medical provider and obtain a statement confirming your health results including a diagnosis that ties your health condition to the sanitation problem at your home. For example, if you have bed bugs and have been bitten, take photographs of the bites, get immediate medical attention as needed (and the medical records would generally indicate that you have been bitten by bed bugs, etc) and keep receipts of any medications you purchase. It is important to document everything in these kinds of cases.
  9. Continue to pay your rent, although there are instances that rent can be withheld. Nevertheless, pay your rent on time until your consult an attorney. Each case is different.

10. You may consider reporting the problems at your rental to the City Building Inspector.  The Building inspector can force the landlord to make repairs because fines can be issued for non-compliance. Understand that your landlord will not be happy that you made the report. Also, be sure you are living in a unit that is legal to rent otherwise the Building Inspector can require the unit to be destroyed.  Again, consult your attorney as soon as possible.