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When can a tenant withhold rent in California?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2021 | Business law, Real Estate

If your tenant is withholding rent, they may have a right to do so. As the landlord, you are obligated by law to fix serious problems within a rental unit. Failure to do so, and your tenant has the legal right to withhold part of or all the monthly rent. Here is more about what you need to know when it comes to withholding rent under California laws.

  • Tenants must notify the landlord of the pending repairs. Such notice may be verbal or written. Landlords have 30 days to act and fix these repairs.
  • The issue that needs repair can’t be a minor fix, and it has to interfere with the tenant’s safety, health, comfort or convenience. It must meet the threshold specified by California’s implied warranty of habitability. Such a repair would include a leaking roof, broken windows, and even poorly maintained elevators.
  • Under particular circumstances, your tenant can deduct and repair some fixes themselves. However, such repairs should not exceed a month’s rent, and the tenant must not have taken similar action within the past 12 months.
  • Your tenant cannot withhold rent if they cause the problem. If the tenant was responsible for the damages, or even their guest or pet, they can’t legally withhold rent.
  • The tenant can decide how much rent to withhold, depending on the pending repairs. Usually, such a reasonable amount is arrived at using the value of repairs and the rent payable.
  • If the tenant withholds rent illegally, you can issue an eviction notice and legally evict the tenant.

Cordial landlord-tenant relationships are everyone’s dream, but it doesn’t work out like that in some cases. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the legalities surrounding your interests; it doesn’t hurt to be well-prepared. Contact Hart King for all landlord-tenant issues as we have nearly 40 years experience in this area.

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