If my landlord has stopped by and given a letter titled “3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate Premises”, what are our rights?

UPDATED: Mar 22, 2012

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Mar 22, 2012Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

If my landlord has stopped by and given a letter titled “3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate Premises”, what are our rights?

We have been living in this 2 story home for 10 years. We live upstairs and the first floor has been converted into a gym as a family business. We refused to pay rent for the last 12 months because the landlord failed to meet our requests to fix the issues with the house (plumbing, holes in walls, mold). These issues were present when we moved here in 10 years ago. Now, after months of no communication, the landlord has stopped by and given a letter titled “3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate Premises”. What is the best thing to do?

Asked on March 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with a landlord-tenant attorney: with 12 months rent, on the one hand, vs. eviction and loss of your home and business on the other hand, at stake, you need legal advice; don't try to handle this situation yourself.

That said, some principals:

1) You can be evicted for not paying rent.

2) A landlord does need to address significant issues affecting use of the rental premises (though he may effectively ignore minor issues), since such issues would violate the "implied warranty of habitability," or the legal requirement that all rental premises be fit for  their intended purpose. Significant plumbing, structural, or mold conditions can violate this warranty, but this is a fact-based question--how serious are they?

3) If the implied warranty of habitability is violated, it can, depending on the circumstances, give the tenant the right to receive a pro rata reduction in rent, to reflect the dimunition in fair market rental value of the premises in their impaired condition; or to make repairs him/herself and deduct the cost thereof (but no more than that) from the rent; or to get an order forcing the landlord to make repairs; or to more out ("constructive eviction") without penalty. However, it does NOT give the tenant the right to simply withhold all rent; therefore, you are risking eviction.

4) To evict you, if you don't leave voluntarily, the landlord has to take you to court.

5) When taken to court, you can try to raise the habitabilty issues as a defense to eviction, BUT the court may require you to deposit some or all of the unpaid rent with the court--that is, you may need to be prepared to deposit up to 12 months of rent at once.

The short answer is, you have rights, and may be entitled to compensation, but in withholding a year of rent, you have likely exceeded what you are entitled to do and may be subject to eviction. That is why you need an attorney. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption