What are my rights as a tenant if the promised repairs to my rental have not been done?

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What are my rights as a tenant if the promised repairs to my rental have not been done?

My husband and I filled out an application to lease a home. When we submitted the application we were assured certain repairs would be completed. A week later we did a walk-through and I signed the lease and submitted my security deposit and first month’s rent; the property manager said I had to or the rental would be given it to another tenant. When we did the walk-through, she wrote down all the repairs that needed to be done and I was told that they would be completed before I moved in last week. However, as of today none of the repairs have been done. Can I get out of the lease and have my money refunded? Also, my husband still has not signed the lease at this time if that matters.

Asked on November 7, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the list of repairs and the obligation to make them is part of the lease or a written addendum to the lease, then you'd have good grounds to consider the lease termianted by the other side's breach. But if you have a written lease, then any oral or verbal discussions do not become part of it, so the landlord is not in breach of contract. 
You could try to get out of the lease on the grounds of fraud--the landlord lied to you about making repairs, to get you to lease--but that requires 1) showing that the landlord lied, or that *at the time you were entering into the lease* knew she would not make repairs, which may be difficult; and also 2) that the repairs are material, or important, and not just relatively minor fixes or cosmetic work (e.g. repainting if large chunks of paint are peeling off; not just spackling and painting a few cracks).
That failing, you could try to get money or compensation from her under the theory of promissory estoppel, but that again requires that these be important repairs, critical to your decision to lease, which she promised you before you agreed to lease, to get you to sign the lease.
If the unrepaired conditions affect habitability (the ability to live there; e.g. no heat, no hot water, one of the bathrooms not working, mold, large leaks, etc.) the landlord may be obligated to make the repairs by the "implied warranty of habitability" and you could potentially withhold rent to make her fix things.


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