What is my recourse if the home I’m renting turned out to need major repair of a an entire wall from floor to ceiling?

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What is my recourse if the home I’m renting turned out to need major repair of a an entire wall from floor to ceiling?

It’s rotted from water damage. The landlord had his handyman come look at it and it was an old damage way before my family and I began renting the home. I have 4 small children and am 7 months pregnant. The handyman tore out the lower part of the wall below the bay windows. It’s been like that approximately 2 weeks. Now big bugs have been coming in through the hole in the wall. It’s infested with termites and possibly mold. What are my legal options that the landlord will be accountable for?

Asked on June 27, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

All residential leases contain somethignthat is known as an "implied warranty of habitability"; think off it as a guarantee. Basically, it means that a tenant is legally required to be given a safe and sanitary place to live. If they are not, then the landlord has breached the lease.

A bug  infestation and mold can be a serious health issues. So for one thing, you can call the Department of Health and see if they will send an inspector out to view it. Then, you can do 1 of 3 things:  

  1. repair the problem and deduct the cost from your rent;
  2. withhold your rent until the landlord repairs the problem;
  3. or, in certain circumstances, break your lease.

However, there are very specific steps reagarding each option. So you need to be very careful in pursuing them. If not, you may be liable to your landlord. At this point, you should consult directly with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant cases. Additionally, you can contact a tenants' rights organization for further information.

That all having been said, since its only been 2 weeks, you should inform your landlord (in writing) and tell him what you will do if the wall is not repaired ASAP (withhold rent, contacting the health department, etc.). If this fails to get any tangible response within about 72 hours, then proceed with taking action.


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