Tenants Guide to keep Rental Unit Livable

by Property Management Software on July 14, 2010

Keeping Livable Rental Unit

Keeping Livable Rental Unit

Even if a rental unit is unlivable, a landlord may not be legally required to repair the condition if the tenant has not fulfilled the tenant’s own responsibilities.

In addition to generally requiring a tenant to take reasonable care of the rental unit and common areas, the law lists specific things that a tenant must do to keep the rental unit livable.

Tenants must do all of the following:
• Keep the premises “as clean and sanitary as the condition of the premises permits.”
• Use and operate gas, electrical, and plumbing fixtures properly. (examples of improper use include overloading electrical outlets; flushing large, foreign objects down the toilet; and allowing any gas, electrical, or plumbing fixture to become filthy.)
• Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.
• Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises, or allow anyone else to do so.
• Not remove any part of the structure, dwelling unit, facilities, equipment, or appurtenances, or allow anyone else to do so.
• Use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for their intended purposes. For example, the bedroom must be used as a bedroom, and not as a kitchen.148
• Notify the landlord when dead bolt locks and window locks or security devices don’t operate properly.149
however, a landlord may agree in writing to clean the rental unit and dispose of the trash.150

If a tenant violates these requirements in some minor way, the landlord is still responsible for providing a habitable dwelling, and may be prosecuted for violating housing code standards. If the tenant fails to do one of these required things, and the tenant’s failure has either substantially caused an unlivable condition to occur or has substantially interfered with the landlord’s ability to repair the condition, the landlord does not have to repair the condition.151 However, a tenant cannot withhold rent or has no action against the landlord for violating the implied warranty of habitability if the tenant has failed to meet these requirements.152

148    Civil Code Section 1941.2(a)(5).
149    Civil Code Section 1941.3(b).
150    Civil Code Section 1941.2(b).
151    Civil Code Section 1941.2(a).
152    Civil Code Section 1929, 1942(c); see Brown, Warner and Portman, The California Landlord’s Law Book, Vol. I: Rights
& Responsibilities, pages 188-189 (NOLO Press 2009).

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