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One of the major issues between a landlord and tenant is the question of maintenance and who is responsible.

The majority of rental complaints involve repair issues, and despite regular attempts at judicial intervention, it remains a pretty basic concept –as long as you are familiar both your lease agreement and the exact state and local codes governing your neighborhood.

The state and municipal codes outline the basic details and rights regarding repairs and maintenance between a landlord and renter. Because profit is to be made from a rental property, it must be in a safe and proper working condition for its tenants in order to justify the exchange of money.

But what if the landlord fails to deliver?

Your rights (and next steps) are largely dictated by state and local law, in addition to any additional provisions given through the signed lease agreement.

What is The California Law For Rental Property Maintenance?

California has its own civil code, the California Civil Code, in order to provide state-specific protections to both landlords and tenants.

More specifically, it provides that in exchange for rent, a landlord will provide a renter with basic, habitable conditions. This involves working utilities in good condition, to include electric, gas, and plumbing, as well as working locks and/or a security system.

There are additional protections, as well, that are specific to California landlords and renters.

  • Upon notification from the tenant, the landlord has a period of 30 days to survey and make any necessary repairs to the property.
  • If the landlord fails to make the repairs within 30 days, California law then holds the tenant responsible. 

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 To avoid tenant liability, a burden of proof must be submitted. Otherwise, the tenant must make the repairs and then deduct it from the following month’s rent payment. No proof of receipt is required for repairs under $125. The amount of the repairs may not exceed one month’s rent and is limited to one time per the calendar year.

  • The lease agreement becomes null and void if the landlord fails to establish contact and rectify the issue within a specified amount of time, so there is no longer any forced commitment on the tenant’s behalf.

The tenant may not vacate the same rental property more than once per year.

  • Properties must be used exclusively for the purpose in which they were rented.

With the legalization of marijuana and its growing markets, many landlords are having problems with tenants posing as renters in order to use the premises as a grow facility. Lease agreements have evolved to include additional provisions against this.

It is illegal for any landlord to engage, or attempt to engage, in the lease of any property with the knowledge of pests within the property. Tenants must be advised of any prior or ongoing treatments to the property.

  • Residential buildings with more than five units can be referred to the local health department for further inspection; for example, in Los Angeles, all inquiries would be directed to the Environmental Health Division.
  • Become well-versed in your town’s municipal codes. For example, Santa Cruz code allows renters to accumulate interest on their security deposit!
  • If the tenant is the victim of domestic violence, he or she may provide a copy of the court order in order to have the locked changed on the unity(Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6)
  • Landlords are prohibited from punishing the tenant through increased rent or any other retaliation that affects the “tenant ability” of the property (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5).

However, the tenant isn’t without expectations as well. Should he or she fail to keep the property clean and free of trash or cause specific damages to the property or its contents, the landlord is free from any responsibility and the lease is dissolved.


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Most times, these issues can be avoided with some extra diligence. The lease agreement will ultimately dictate the specific policies and procedures involving a rental. If not, it is important to consult your local laws for next steps. The California Civil Code law specifically assigns responsibility to the tenant when the landlord fails to act, which is not common practice in most states.


What Are Some Solutions to Rental Property Maintenance?

There are also many agencies that can provide assistance. For instance, the local health department can help substantiate and document claims regarding mold, and with their added weight behind your case, a resolution will likely be more immediate than forging ahead on your own.

And finally, try to be as proactive as possible by scheduling both move-in and move-out walk throughs. The purpose of these meetings is to establish a common understanding on the state of the property, so responsibility can be delegated appropriately. Document these visits in writing and have all parties sign off.

Some minor prep today can save a LOT of time and money when disaster strikes, so you can focus on what is really important.



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