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Can I sue my landlord for unsafe conditions?

As a tenant in California, your landlord must ensure that your living space is safe and habitable for all. So what happens when a property owner refuses to uphold those basic requirements necessary to create a safe home? Knowing your rights as a tenant is essential to this end, particularly when a landlord neglects a property to the point that it becomes dangerous.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs spells out what sort of conditions constitute an unsafe living environment. Lack of protection from outdoor elements (such as weatherproofing) can quickly lead to leaks and the formation of mold or unhealthy drafts that cause you and your family illness. Utilities must also be in working order, and your landlord is required to keep your dwelling secure by way of locks on doors and windows.

Your landlord is obligated to uphold an implied warranty of habitability, which is defined as ensuring that your rental unit offers you and your family a livable space. This space is established by performing regular maintenance and repairs. All leases in California contain this implied warranty, and as a result your landlord must make repairs to correct any serious defects within your living space, unless those defects were caused by you. Your landlord is also obligated to perform regular maintenance to your rental unit, although in some cases rental agreements will place the burden of this on you, the tenant.

If your landlord neglects to create a livable environment, it is within your rights as a tenant to file a lawsuit, particularly if an injury results. However, there are limitations on your landlord’s responsibilities to you. Your duties as a tenant must be fulfilled, which can include maintaining a sanitary home, disposing of trash as necessary, refraining from damaging the property, using the utilities in the proper manner and many other requirements.

These statements are for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. 

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