Failure to Repair Lawsuits

You may have grounds to file a failure to repair lawsuit if your landlord or property manager disregards their duty to repair or fix dangerous conditions that constitute a breach of the landlord’s promise to provide you with livable premises and/or cause injury to you or those you live with. This type of lawsuit can be part of a larger lawsuit related to tenant harassment and/or wrongful eviction, in which you can also recover damages for, among other things, loss of use of a rent-controlled apartment.

Failure to repair lawsuits can be complex, which is why you should consult with an experienced tenant rights lawyer to help you prove that the property owner and/or property manager failed to repair or remedy specific hazards at the rental property.

Implied in every residential lease is a warranty of habitability. Landlords must ensure that rental units substantially comply with state and local building and health codes that materially affect the tenants’ health and safety. Pursuant to California Civil Code section 1941.1, a dwelling is untenantable if it lacks any of the following affirmative characteristics or if it is a residential unit described in Section 17920.3 or 17920.10 of the California Health and Safety Code:

  • (a)(1) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls . . . .
  • (2) Plumbing or gas facilities . . . maintained in good working order.
  • (3) A water supply . . . capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system that is under the control of the landlord, that produces hot and cold running water . . . . or a system that is under the control of the landlord, that produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.
  • (4) Heating facilities . . . maintained in good working order.
  • (5) Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment . . . maintained in good working order.
  • (6) Building, grounds, and appurtenances at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, and all areas under control of the landlord, kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
  • (7) An adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in clean condition and good repair at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, with the landlord providing appropriate serviceable receptacles thereafter and being responsible for the clean condition and good repair of the receptacles under his or her control.
  • (8) Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.

Additionally, California Health and Safety Code section 17920.3 separately sets forth affirmative conditions, the presence of which constitute a “substandard building.” These conditions include any of the following:

  • (a)(1) Lack of, or improper water closet, lavatory, or bathtub or shower in a dwelling unit.
  • (3) Lack of, or improper kitchen sink.
  • (5) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a dwelling unit.
  • (6) Lack of adequate heating.
  • (7) Lack of, or improper operation of required ventilating equipment.
  • (8) Lack of minimum amounts of natural light and ventilation required by this code.
  • (9) Room and space dimensions less than required by this code.
  • (10) Lack of required electrical lighting.
  • (11) Dampness of habitable rooms.
  • (12) Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by a health officer . . . .
  • (14) General dilapidation or improper maintenance.
  • (15) Lack of connection to required sewage disposal system.
  • (16) Lack of adequate garbage and rubbish storage and removal facilities, as determined by a health officer . . . .
  • (b)(1) Deteriorated or inadequate foundations.
  • (2) Defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports.
  • (3) Flooring or floor supports of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
  • (4) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that split, lean, list, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.
  • (5) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
  • (6) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other horizontal members which sag, split, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.
  • (7) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other horizontal members that are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
  • (8) Fireplaces or chimneys which list, bulge, or settle due to defective material or deterioration.
  • (9) Fireplaces or chimneys which are of insufficient size or strength to carry imposed loads with safety.
  • (c) Any nuisance.
  • (d) All wiring, except that which conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation if it is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.
  • (e) All plumbing, except plumbing that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and has been maintained in good condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly, and that is free of cross connections and siphonage between fixtures.
  • (f) All mechanical equipment, including vents, except equipment that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and that has been maintained in good and safe condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.
  • (g)(1) Deteriorated, crumbling, or loose plaster.
  • (2) Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, foundations, or floors, including broken windows or doors.
  • (3) Defective or lack of weather protection for exterior wall coverings, including lack of paint, or weathering due to lack of paint or other approved protective covering.
  • (4) Broken, rotted, split, or buckled exterior wall coverings or roof coverings.
  • (h) Any building or portion thereof, device, apparatus, equipment, combustible waste, or vegetation that, in the opinion of the chief of the fire department or his deputy, is in such a condition as to cause a fire or explosion or provide a ready fuel to augment the spread and intensity of fire or explosion arising from any cause.
  • (i) All materials of construction, except those that are specifically allowed or approved by this code, and that have been adequately maintained in good and safe condition.
  • (j) Those premises on which an accumulation of weeds, vegetation, junk, dead organic matter, debris, garbage, offal, rodent harborages, stagnant water, combustible materials, and similar materials or conditions constitute fire, health, or safety hazards.
  • (k) Any building or portion thereof that is determined to be an unsafe building due to inadequate maintenance, in accordance with the latest edition of the Uniform Building Code.
  • (l) All buildings or portions thereof not provided with adequate exit facilities as required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof whose exit facilities conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and that have been adequately maintained and increased in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.
  • (m) All buildings or portions thereof that are not provided with the fire-resistive construction or fire-extinguishing systems or equipment required by this code, except those buildings or portions thereof that conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their construction and whose fire-resistive integrity and fire-extinguishing systems or equipment have been adequately maintained and improved in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.
  • (n) All buildings or portions thereof occupied for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes that were not designed or intended to be used for those occupancies.
  • (o) Inadequate structural resistance to horizontal forces.

To prove a claim for contractual breach of the warranty of habitability, a tenant must show (1) an uninhabitable condition, (2) actual knowledge by landlord or constructive knowledge, and (3) damages. Damages for contractual and tortious breach of the warranty of habitability include a refund of rent paid, out-of-pocket costs, and moving expenses if the tenant is constructively evicted.Who Is Liable in a Failure to Repair Case?

The property owner, landlord, property manager, and any of their agents can be liable for damages in a failure to repair lawsuit.

There are approximately eighteen million renters in California, and a claim for failure to repair a rental unit is probably the most common claim a tenant can bring against a landlord.

At Tenant Law Group, PC, we understand that failure to repair issues can be complex, which is why we are here to guide you through the legal process and ensure your rights are protected. Call (415) 915-7445 today to request your free case evaluation.

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