The Basics of the Implied Warranty of Habitability

Every residential lease agreement in California contains an implied warranty of habitability.[i] This means that the landlord has an obligation to “maintain the leased dwellings in a habitable condition throughout the term of the lease.”[ii] The implied warranty finds its roots in California Civil Code section 1941, which imposes additional statutory duties on a residential landlord to maintain the premises in “a condition fit for such occupation, and repair all subsequent dilapidations thereof, which render it untenantable.”

Civil Code 1941.1 gives us a list of items that a residential unit must have, and without it, the dwelling is uninhabitable:

1. Effective waterproofing and weather protection (roof, exterior walls, windows and doors);

2. Plumbing and gas lines to code (at the time of installation) and in good working order;

3. Running hot and cold water;

4. Heating to code (at time of installation) and in good working order;

5. Electricity to code (at time of installation) and in good working order;

6. Premises maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, free of debris, filth, garbage, rodents and vermin;

7. An adequate number of trash receptacles, clean and in good working order at all times;

8. Stairways, railings and floors in good repair;

9. A locking mail receptacle (for residential hotels only) for each residential unit.[iii]

Furthermore, a landlord violates the warranty of habitability if a dwelling is considered “substandard” under California Health & Safety Code section 17920.3, meaning the condition endangers the “life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants.”

While these are some of the cut-and-dry requirements of a habitable dwelling, there are other deficiencies that could amount to a breach of the warranty of habitability. Whatever those defects are, they must be substantial defects. Montez Law can help you determine whether you might have a claim of or need to defend against a breach of the warranty of habitability.

A tenant’s remedies include withholding rent[iv], retroactive rent abatement[v] (discounts on past rent paid due to the conditions), obtaining damages against the landlord[vi], and the tenant herself repairing the defects and deducting the costs from rent.[vii]

Despite these requirements, the tenant is responsible to fix all damage the tenant has caused. The warranty of habitability cannot be waived under any circumstances.

Call Montez Law now to discuss your particular situation and whether as a tenant, you might be living in an uninhabitable dwelling, or as a landlord, if you are unsure what your potential risk of exposure is.

[i] Green v. Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 616, 629, 631, 637.

[ii] Id. at 619.

[iii] Cal. Civ. Code § 1941.1 (a)-(i).

[iv] Green, supra, at 635.

[v] Quevado v. Braga (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d.Supp. 1, 7-8, disapproved on other grounds by Knight v. Hallsthammer (1981) 29 Cal.,3d, 46, 55.

[vi] Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.4

[vii] Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.

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