California Habitability Laws

Last Updated: June 23, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In California, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by CA Civ. Code § 1941.2. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Windows/Doors, Roof, Hot/Cold Water, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Gas, Sanitation Facilities, Trash Can, Stairs/Railings, Floors, Fire Exits, No Combustible Materials, Smoke Detectors, Mailbox, Telephone Jack
Time Limit for Repairs 30 Days
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: Yes
  • Repair & Deduct: Yes, If Less Than Monthly Rent
  • Abandonment: Yes, if Unlivable

Applicable Dwelling Types in California

The implied warranty of habitability in California does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs Not specifically addressed
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Not specifically addressed
Condos Not specifically addressed
Hotels/Motels Yes, for long term owners only
Questions? To chat with a California landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Landlord Responsibilities in California

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in California, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Yes
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Yes
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Yes
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Yes
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Yes
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Yes
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Yes
Provide working kitchen appliances. No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Not addressed

California’s landlord/tenant laws are some of the most detailed in the entire country—and not only do landlords and tenants need to be aware of the laws at the state level, but there may also be additional regulations for the city or town the rental property is in. Here are several of the more detailed requirements in more depth below.

Sanitation Facilities

The sanitation facilities must include a working toilet, bathtub/shower, and sink. In addition, they must be in a room with ventilation and privacy.

Kitchen/Appliances

The kitchen sink cannot be made from wood or any other absorbent material.

Landlords may provide kitchen appliances and/or washers/dryers, but they are not required to under the law. If any non-landlord owned appliance fails, it’s the renter’s responsibility to repair/replace it.

Windows

Windows or skylights must be provided for every room, and any windows provided must be operable, meaning they open at least halfway—unless another form of ventilation is provided such as a fan.

In addition, the windows cannot be broken or damaged to the point that they do not operate properly.

Security

Working deadbolts must be provided for entry doors and working locks or security devices must be provided for all windows.

Pools

For any multifamily unit with a pool, landlords must provide anti-suction measures for wading pools, and ground fault circuit interrupters for swimming pools.

Mold

Finally, the presence of mold in the unit may mean the unit isn’t in habitable condition, but it doesn’t automatically mean that’s the case. The landlord and tenant need to work together to determine whether the mold in the unit makes it unlivable and needs to be mitigated.

Sprinkler Systems

Not all states require existing apartment complexes, townhomes, and condos to have sprinkler systems. Many states do not require new construction to have sprinkler systems, either. However, California has enacted laws requiring “retroactive” installations for high rises.

Rodents and Vermin

Landlords must provide rental units that are rodent- and vermin-free.

Required Landlord Disclosures

In addition, landlords must disclose any of the following pre-existing conditions affecting habitability to potential renters:

  • Lead-Based Paint – For properties built prior to 1978, landlords must also provide tenants with a booklet titled, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” issued by the Federal government, prior to the signing of the lease.
  • Asbestos and Known Carcinogens – Landlords must disclose if there is or isn’t asbestos on the property to the tenant. They must also inform the tenant if the asbestos is not properly contained and how it will be fixed.
  • Methamphetamine Manufacturing – A notice shall be provided from a health inspector for any rental property that has been inspected and found to be used for the manufacture of methamphetamines. The landlord must provide a copy of the health inspector’s notice and order to vacate the premises to all current and potential renters (who have already submitted a rental application for the property).
  • Death of the Prior Tenant in the Rental Unit – If the prior tenant died in the rental unit not more than three years prior, the landlord is required to disclose this to the new tenant(s), including what caused the former tenant’s death. The only exception to this rule is if the prior tenant died from AIDS—then a landlord is not required to disclose that as the cause of death.

Tenant’s Right to Repairs in California

The tenant has the right to request that their landlord make repairs should any unexpected issue affecting habitability comes up.

  • Sending Notice – If tenants do request repairs, they have the option to put their request in writing to their landlord, make the request in person, or ask for the repairs over the phone. The landlord will then have a “reasonable” amount of time to make the repairs—30 days in non-emergency situations.
  • Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give landlords access to the property to make necessary repairs, landlords are only allowed to enter the premises during business hours of 8am and 5pm on weekdays (unless there is an emergency). However, a landlord must give tenants at least 24 hours’ written notice unless:
    • The tenant is home at the time and allows the landlord entry.
    • It’s an emergency.
    • There’s an oral agreement between the landlord and the tenant regarding when the landlord will be accessing the property to make repairs.
    • The tenant no longer occupies/has abandoned the unit.
Questions? To chat with a California landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made in California

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold Rent – In California tenants can withhold rent (all or in part) until the necessary repairs have been made. There must be a “true” habitability problem for a tenant to legally withhold rent. Withheld amounts may be required to be held in escrow accounts until the issue is resolved.
  2. Repair and Deduct – If a repair must be made and the tenant has asked the landlord to fix and was unsuccessful, the tenant can fix the problem themselves or by hiring a handyperson. Tenants can deduct the amount of the repair from their monthly rent (if the repair costs less than one month’s rent). This cannot be done more than twice in one year.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – Landlords can be reported to state or local health inspectors if they fail to make repairs and restore the unit into a safe and habitable condition.
  5. Abandonment – The tenant has the option to abandon the unit if the problems are making the unit unlivable or the repairs would cost more than one month’s rent.

Landlord Retaliation in California

Landlords cannot retaliate against a tenant who exercised their rights under California habitability laws, such as:

  • Complaining about suspected bed bug infestation.
  • Reporting any habitability issues to the appropriate agency or government authority.
  • Withholding rent.
  • Filing a lawsuit.

The following actions are considered retaliatory conduct against a tenant:

  • Increase rent.
  • Decrease services.
  • Forceful evictions.
  • Recover possessions.
  • Threatens to report to immigration.

If a landlord retaliates against a tenant within 180 days of exercising their legal right, the tenant may seek actual damages, punitive damage, and attorneys’ fees.

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