Five Things Renters Need to Know About Their Rights
Renting makes living in sunny California possible for families across the state. However, there are landlords who will try to take advantage of vulnerable tenants and their families. That’s why knowing your rights as a renter is a must. Here are five details about tenants’ rights and how you can exercise them:
- Civil Rights: A landlord cannot deny housing to a potential tenant based on their religion, race, nationality, sex, familial status or disability. There are both state and federal laws in place to keep this type of discrimination from happening. Landlords and property managers are also not allowed to make sexual requests or demands of their tenants and could face legal consequences under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
- Livable Conditions: California law requires landlords to provide rental units that are habitable. But what does habitable mean? In legal terms, “habitable” means that the rental property must be fit for human beings to live in while also complying with state and local building codes. If the roof is leaking, if the toilet isn’t working, if the electricity is out or the gas stove doesn’t work, a tenant could claim the apartment isn’t habitable.
- Tenants Have Responsibilities Too: Just because the landlord has to provide a livable property doesn’t mean a tenant can do whatever they want to the unit. Tenants are expected to keep the property clean and sanitary. They are not allowed to damage, deface or destroy the premises or remove parts of the structure. Landlords aren’t required to repair damages that are caused by tenants, so it is a good idea to keep everything in good working order. You should also keep records of everything you’ve done to keep your apartment in good shape. This could help protect you if the landlord accuses you of willfully damaging the property.
- Keep Good Documentation: Though everyone wants to avoid conflict with their landlord, it’s a good idea to be prepared. One of the ways you can be prepared is to document everything from the moment you move in. Take pictures of every room and note every repair that needs to be made. If you put in a repair request, document when you did it and what the response was. You should also note how many times it takes to fix a problem. Keeping these documents will provide you with solid evidence in case your landlord tries to charge you for damages that were there before you moved in.
- You Must Pay Your Rent: In California, a tenant may withhold some or all of their rent if a landlord does not fix defects that are making a rental unit uninhabitable. Such defects can include collapsed ceilings, persistent rat or mouse infestations, or exposed wiring. As long as the condition endangers the renter’s safety or health, the tenant can withhold rent, but there are some details to be aware of. The damage in need of repairs cannot be caused by the renter or a renter’s guest. The tenant must also notify their landlord about a problem and give the landlord enough time to repair the problem. That tenant should also save the withheld money because it will need to be paid once repairs have been completed. This option is a last resort and shouldn’t be undertaken without exploring your options with a trained legal professional.
Dealing with an uncooperative landlord can be tough, and a mistake could leave you without a home. This is why it’s important to contact an attorney if you have any questions about your rights as a tenant. California has protections for renters, and the lawyers at Castelblanco Law Group, APLC may be able to help learn about those protections. Give us a call at (213)893-8881.