The California landlord’s plumbing responsibilities is a topic we cover in this post. It also offers some tips on how to protect yourself as an individual when renting from a landlord.
Facing Plumbing Issues: Landlords And Renters In CA
No one wants to deal with plumbing issues. But unfortunately, they can affect both landlords and renters. If you’re a renter and you have a plumbing issue, it’s important to know your rights. And if you’re a landlord, it’s important to be aware of your responsibilities.
Tenant Plumbing Responsibilities In California
Let’s make sure you’re not at fault as the renter before we look at what the landlord is accountable for. This is essential because your landlord may be entirely or partly off the hook if you break your responsibilities as a tenant under California law, resulting in an unfavorable situation. “Tenant breaks, tenant pays” is the rule in these situations.
The landlord is not bound to pay if you or a visitor throw inappropriate objects down the sink or toilet, causing it to back up. While some landlords will execute the repairs and then bill the renter, others may need you to make your own plumbing arrangements and payments. Either method is OK, and the lease should specify it.
The Plumbing Rights Of Renters In CA
California landlords have their own set of responsibilities when it comes to providing safe and sanitary living conditions. The best way for renters to protect themselves is by understanding their rights as a tenant, including knowing what they can do if the landlord doesn’t take action.
What could be more frustrating than a blocked or leaky toilet or sink? Having a landlord that refuses to make repairs! Many plumbing repair technicians have been assigned to houses and flats where residents have complained about having to pay for plumbing repairs out of pocket because their landlord was unresponsive.
Despite the fact that plumbers are not lawyers, they will know enough to inform you that’s not the case. When it comes to plumbing, here’s what you should know about tenant and landlord rules in California.
Landlord Plumbing Responsibilities In California
Tenants in California have the right to live in a rental home that is livable, which means it fulfills basic structural, health, and safety criteria. This includes the plumbing system. The whole list of what defines “substandard living circumstances” in California may be found in section 17920.3 of the state’s Health and Safety Code.
When it comes to plumbing and plumbing-related problems in apartments, living conditions are deemed inadequate if:
- Toilet, bathtub, shower, or kitchen sink are missing or in poor condition.
- Plumbing fittings do not have hot or cold flowing water.
- The heating is insufficient.
- Ventilation equipment isn’t working properly or isn’t working at all.
- Dampness in livable spaces.
- Mold growth that is visible (excluding minor surface molds).
- Lack of access to the necessary sewage disposal system.
Because broken plumbing is considered an emergency, the landlord must schedule repairs as quickly as feasible. Please keep in mind that local governments may have their own construction and housing laws that are more comprehensive than California’s general housing legislation. If your landlord is unable to repair your structural, plumbing, or mold concerns, you should call code enforcement for your city in CA.
When The Landlord Refuses To Make Repairs, You Have Two Options
The first thing you should do if you have an issue with your rental property is to write it down. Even if you’ve previously discussed the problem with your landlord, this provides a written record in case things become heated. You’ll want to include the following information in your letter or email:
- In-depth analysis of the whole problem (if applicable, snap some photos of the problem too)
- What effect does it have on you, your quality of life, and/or your health?
- Steps you’ve done to fix the problem (note whether you paid for anything throughout your DIY efforts).
- What you believe needs to be done and when you anticipate doing it.
If your landlord is initially attentive and agrees to take action, make a list of what he or she intends to accomplish and the schedule for repair; give a copy to the landlord and preserve one for yourself. You’ll have a record of the agreed-upon course of action if they don’t follow through. If your landlord refuses to make repairs, you now have a few choices.
1. Deduct And Repair
Is your landlord refusing to fix the plumbing issue in your rental or not moving swiftly enough? According to California law, you may either hire someone to do the repairs and deduct the cost from your monthly rent, or you can buy the supplies yourself and deduct the cost of the goods. Before you fix anything, there are a few things you should do:
- First, notify your landlord in writing of the issue.
- Give the landlord a fair amount of time to correct the situation (usually 30 days, unless the issue is urgent, which is often the case when it comes to plumbing problems).
- Gather bids or price data from three different sources. For tasks that need a license, be sure you choose a licensed specialist.
Here are a few additional points to consider:
- The cost of repair or replacement must not exceed one month’s rent.
- Within a year, you may only “fix and deduct” two times.
- You can’t be the cause of the issue.
- Explain why you needed the repair in a letter or email to your landlord after the repair so they understand why your rent payment is lower; be sure to include copies of the invoice or receipt.
You can read more about California repair and deduct law in civil codes 1942 & 1942.5.
2. Rent Should Be Withheld
When the plumbing problem is a big one and repair or replacement parts will cost more than your rent, your other option is to withhold payment. This means that you stop paying rent to the landlord until the repairs are made. Of course, this option is not without risk. If you don’t pay rent, your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. If this happens, and the judge decides that you weren’t justified in withholding rent (i.e., you caused the problem, the problem wasn’t severe enough to warrant withholding rent, or there were other circumstances unbeknownst to you), you will be evicted.
So, before you withhold rent, be sure you can firmly answer yes to the eight questions below:
- Is the condition bad enough to put your health or safety in jeopardy?
- Was the issue caused by someone other than you or a visitor?
- Did you give the landlord written notice of the problem?
- Have you given the landlord a fair length of time to rectify the situation?
- Have you checked with a lawyer or someone familiar with tenant laws to see whether your rent withholding is legal?
- Due to the enormous expense, was “fix and deduct” not an option?
- Are you prepared to take the risk of being evicted if the court rules against you?
- Can you locate a decent place to live if you’re evicted?
Pro-Tip: If you decide to Rent should be withheld, consider putting the usual payment into another account (called an escrow account). While California law doesn’t require this, it does show the court, if you have to go before a judge, that you are not benefiting financially by withholding rent and that you have the money available to pay should the plumbing problem be corrected.
If you have a plumbing problem, a local plumber can provide you with a free estimate to help you determine if a repair or deduction is the best choice for you.
It’s important to know exactly what your landlord’s responsibilities are, and how you can protect yourself in the event of an uninhabitable condition.
If you are a renter, homeowner, or landlord, California’s new water restrictions will apply to you. To learn more, see California’s 2022 Water Restrictions (+ 25 Water Saving Tips).
Frequently Asked Questions
Are landlords responsible for plumbing in California?
A: Landlords are responsible for fixing any damage to the property that their tenants cause. This includes plumbing problems.
How long does a landlord have to fix no running water in California?
A: Under California law, a landlord is required to supply running water within four hours of receiving notification.
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