California has specific rules regarding tenants’ rights to a safe and habitable rental property to use for their quiet enjoyment.

Bay Area Tenant Rights Attorney

Tenant rights include specific rules that govern landlord and tenant conduct as well as remedies available to each when one party is in breach of the lease agreement. In addition to remedies for dispute and conduct imposed on both the tenant and the landlord, there are two inalienable implied “covenants” that define all rental agreements. These rights cannot be waived even by a lease.

The following outlines pertinent remedies available to tenants when their landlord does not hold up their end of the bargain.

California and the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

The covenant of quiet enjoyment grants all tenants the right to peacefully enjoy their rental unit without disturbance, harassment, or security concerns and it further entitles them to the right of use. In cases where a landlord must access the premises, the landlord must give the tenant fair warning unless there is a serious emergency.

However, a landlord may remove a tenant from the premises (eviction) if that tenant is posing a security risk, creating a noise disturbance, or otherwise interfering with other tenants’ quiet enjoyment.

California and the Implied Warranty of Habitability

The implied warranty of habitability entitles all tenants to a premise that has functioning plumbing, running water, heat, and electricity. In addition, the dwelling unit should be free of pests, mold, lead paint and be sanitary. The properties should be secured against outside disturbances and there should be locks on the doors and no way to easily access the premises without a key.

Additionally, the tenant is expected to keep the interior of the apartment clean and free of garbage that would draw pests. Landlords must provide garbage disposal units for tenants to dispose of garbage.

Tenant Remedies in the Case of a Breach of Covenant

In cases in which the tenant fails to uphold his or her end of the bargain, the landlord has one remedy — eviction. In cases in which the landlord fails to uphold his or her end of the bargain, the tenant may have several remedies, such as:

  • Pack up and leave;
  • Withhold rent until the problem is remedied;
  • Repair the problem and deduct rent;
  • File a complaint with local health inspectors; or
  • Sue the landlord.

Under California law, the landlord has 30 days to repair a reported problem, or less if the problem requires urgent attention. Depending on where you live, the rules for withholding rent differ. You may not be able to withhold the entire amount of rent and in some cases, you will be required to pay the portion withheld to a city escrow account that the landlord will receive upon remedying the situation.

Owner Buyouts

Under some circumstances, landlords in rent-controlled markets can offer tenants a buyout – a settlement that requires them to leave their apartment and give up any future rights regarding the unit. Buyouts are only allowable in under specific conditions, and tenants have the right to negotiate or refuse their settlement amount. A well-crafted and fair settlement can be beneficial for both parties. But unfortunately, some buyout offers are little more than an attempt to raise the rent by going around local restrictions designed to protect tenants. In other cases, tenants who are able or willing to move accept a buyout offer that seems like a large sum at the time, when in reality the value of the unit they are giving up, and the additional profits the landlord will make, should have resulted in far more compensation than they walked away with. The number of years the tenant has lived in the apartment, the age of the tenant and other factors can lead to a higher buyout.

Receiving a buyout offer from your landlord can be intimidating, but as a tenant, you have options for how to respond. The best course of action will depend on many factors, including your ability to find a new home, the amount of the settlement, and the purpose for the buyout, among others. The knowledgeable tenants’ rights attorneys at Bogaards Law understand the complex San Francisco housing market and its regulations, and they can provide customized legal guidance for renters who are considering a buyout.

Talk to a California Tenant Rights Attorney

In addition to the laws outlined above, a landlord may not retaliate against you for filing a good-faith complaint or requesting repairs. If you are dealing with a landlord who does not comply with California law, Bogaards Law may be able to help. Contact our office today to discuss your case.

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