California Landlord’s Duty to Repair


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Duty to Repair

The tenant’s responsibility to pay rent depends on the landlord’s fulfilling his legal duty to maintain the property and keep it in good repair. Obviously,

then, keeping up rental property should be something every landlord takes seriously.




There are several state and local laws that set housing standards for residential rental property. These laws require landlords to put their rental apartments and houses in good condition before

renting them, and keep them that way while people live there. Here is a list of the laws you need to know about.

California’s State Housing Law.

Also known as the state building standards Code, lists property owners’ general obligations to keep residential property in livable condition. Health and Safty Code §§ 17900–17997.8, refers to housing standards. contained in the uniform housing Code enforced by local governments, of the city or county where you own rental property to see which local laws apply to your property. Civil Code Sections 1941.1–.3. this state statute lists the minimum legal requirements for a rental dwelling to be “tenantable,” or legal to rent to tenants. If your property doesn’t meet these requirements—for example, if it has a leaking roof—a tenant may be excused by a judge from paying full rent for the period of time the residence was defective.

Civil Code § 1941.1 -.3

This code lists the minimum legal requirements for a residential rental unit, to be tenable. If the property doesn’t come up to these standards by meeting the requirments set down in this statute, the the property is untenable, and cannot be rented without first repairing, and if already occupied then repaired as soon as possible. There are overlapping laws and all of them must be considered and met. For example Civil Code § 1941.1 requires only that “hot water” be available, while the Uniform Housing Code requires that the water heater be able to heat the water to 110° Fahrenheit.)

Civil Code Section 1941.4 and Public Utilities Code Section 788.

These statutes make residential landlords responsible for installing a telephone jack in each of their rental units and placing and maintaining inside phone wiring. Health and Safety Code Section 13113.7. this state statute requires all units in multi-unit buildings to have smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.

Smoke detectors must be installed in every bedroom, and one outside in the hallway. Also one detector must be installed on every level, i.e. upstairs, the main floor and basement.

As of January 1, 2014, all smoke alarms installed in residential rental units must be on the State Fire Marshal’s list of approved devices. In order to be on the list of approved devices, the device must:

  1. Display the date of manufacture on the device
  2. Provide a place on the device where the date of installation can be written
  3. Incorporate a hush feature
  4. Incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced; and
  5. Contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for a minimum of 10 years (this last requirement applies only if the device is battery operated).

Owners’ Obligations

Under current law, only owners of multi-family rental units are responsible for testing and maintaining the devices, while owners of single family units are under no such obligation. However, as of January 1, 2014, owners of both, multi-family and single family rental units who rent or lease their property will be responsible for testing and maintaining the smoke alarms within all of the units in, or on, their properties. In the case of apartment buildings with two or more units, landlords will be responsible for testing and maintaining the devices in every unit, including vacant units.

In order to facilitate the owner’s obligation to test and maintain the devices, owners or their agents are permitted to enter the unit for the purposes of installing, repairing, testing, and/or maintaining the devices. However, owners are required to provide tenants with reasonable notice, in writing, of their intent to enter the unit prior to going in. Reasonable notice is generally considered to be 24 hours in advance of entering, and entrance may be made only during normal business hours, (generally, Monday

through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.). Of course, where a tenant grants permission or requests the landlord to enter on days other than those listed above, it is perfectly acceptable to do so.

Additionally, owners are required to ensure that smoke alarms are operable at the time a new tenancy is created. However, during the course of the tenancy, the tenant has the obligation to notify the owner once the tenant becomes aware of a problem with the smoke alarm and, of course, the owner is then required to correct any reported deficiencies in the smoke alarm.

Tenant’s responsibility for repairs

Tenants are required by law to take reasonable care of their rental units, as well as common areas such as hallways and outside areas. Tenants must act to keep those areas clean and undamaged. Tenants also are responsible for repair of all damage that results from their neglect or abuse, and for repair of damage caused by anyone for whom they are responsible, such as family, guests, or pets.101 Tenants’ responsibilities for care and repair of the rental unit are discussed in detail on pages 26-27.



Under certain circumstances a Tenant can make repairs to the rental unity, and deduct the cost of those repairs from his/her rent.


For a tenant to utilize this law, he/she must give the landlord written notice of the delapidation that renders the Unit uninhabitable. If the landlord fails to make the repairs within 30 days of the notice, then the tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from his/her rent. The amount of the cost cannot be more than one months rent, and the tenant can only use this provision twice in a 12 month period.

The 30 day period is a rebuttable presumption that that amount of time is reasonable. This means that the tenant can, under certain circumstances do the repairs quicker than the 30 days if the delapidation is so serious that he/she cannot live with it.

Instead of makeing the “deduct and repairs” the tenant can elect to vacate the premises and not have any further obligation for rent under the lease or rental agreement.

The tenant’s remedy under subdivision (a) shall not be available if the condition was caused by the violation of Section 1929 or 1941.2.



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