Landlords are required to meet both building codes and health codes as outlined by the state of California. If a rental unit has inadequate sanitation due to plumbing problems, it will likely be considered uninhabitable.
Plumbing Issues that Could Result in a Rental Unit Being Deemed Uninhabitable Include:
- Plumbing facilities are not in good working order.
- Setup does not provide cold and hot running water.
- The system is not properly connected to the appropriate sewage disposal system.
Other Issues to Consider Regarding Plumbing Problems and California Rental Properties Include:
- Landlords are required to supply: a working toilet, bathtub or shower and wash basin.
- All plumbing issues will not result in the rental unit being deemed uninhabitable. For instance, a dripping faucet is not cause for legal action.
- Before you contact your landlord regarding a problem, study your lease agreement. Find out if it is specified that the tenant is responsible for minor repairs. Many lease or rental agreements include this specification.
- Landlords are not required to repair damage that is generated by the resident or their guests.
- Tenants have no right to request that their landlord complete statutory repairs unless they are current on their rent payments.
Landlords are not held responsible for fixing problems unless they are made aware of them - tenants must notify their landlord in writing (preferably by certified mail). When notified in writing, the landlord is required to fix your plumbing issue (or other repair) under landlord-tenant law. The law usually allows for 30 days as a reasonable amount of time for a landlord to complete a needed repair. Shorter periods of time may be appropriate in certain situations. For example, if a busted pipe has the apartment flooding, a day or two may be seen as more reasonable. If the landlord does not complete the repair in a reasonable amount of time, the tenant may pay for the repair and deduct the cost from their rent. Tenants may also withhold rent (a capped portion) until the landlord makes the unit habitable according to California building and health codes. In extreme cases, a tenant may be able to move out and void their lease (with no further liability to pay).
If the tenant misjudges the situation, the landlord can file a countersuit, so it's best to consult an experienced, southern California real estate attorney at the Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP first.