Code section 1941 states that when a landlord rents property to a tenant as a place to
live in, the property must be in a "habitable" condition. ("Habitable"
means fit to live in.) Section 1941 also states that the landlord must repair problems
that make the property uninhabitable -- except for problems caused by the tenant or the
tenant's guests, children or pets. In order for the property to be habitable, it must have
all of the following:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and
exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
- Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and
cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system.
- Gas facilities in good working order.
- Heating facilities in good working order.
- An electrical system which is in good working order with at
least 2 outlets, or 1 outlet and 1 light fixture, in every room. (The bathroom requires
only 1 light fixture.) Common stairs and hallways must be lighted at all times.
- Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds and appurtenances which
are free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin.
- Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
- Floors, stairways and railings in good repair.
- A working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower. The
toilet and bathtub/shower must be in a room that is ventilated, and that allows for
- A kitchen with a sink, which cannot be made of an absorbent
material (for example, wood).
- Natural lighting in every room through windows or skylights.
Unless there is a ventilation fan, the windows must be able to open at least halfway.
- Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway.
- Smoke detectors in all dwellings with more than one unit, and
in common stair wells in apartment complexes.
These are minimum requirements.
Other conditions may make the rented property not habitable.
A tenant must take reasonable care of the
rented property and the common grounds. This means that the tenant must keep those areas
in good condition. A tenant also must repair all damage that he or she causes, or that is
caused by the tenants' guests, children or pets. California Civil Code section 1941.2
requires the tenant to do all of the following:
- Keep the premises "as clean and sanitary as the
condition of the premises permits."
- Use and operate gas, electrical and plumbing fixtures
properly. (Examples of improper use include overloading electrical outlets, flushing
large, foreign objects down the toilet, and allowing any gas, electrical or plumbing
fixture to become filthy.)
- Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.
- Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises, or allow anyone
else to do so.
- Not remove any part of the structure, dwelling unit,
facilities, equipment or appurtenances, or allow anyone else to do so.
- Use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for
their proper purposes. For example, the bedroom must be used as a bedroom and not as a
If the tenant does not perform
these duties and causes the property to become uninhabitable, the tenant cannot require
the landlord to repair the property to make it habitable.
Similarly, the tenant cannot
require the landlord to repair the property if the tenant substantially interferes with
the landlord's ability to repair defects (for example, by not allowing the landlord's
electrician to enter the apartment to fix faulty wiring).
In addition, the landlord is not
obligated to repair damage caused by the tenant's own carelessness (for example, a toilet
that will not flush because the tenant's child flushed a sock down it).