When renting out an apartment, landlords maintain liability for dealing with mold, broken appliances and other problems with the facilities or apartment building. Landlords are bound legally to provide a specific standard of accommodation to renters. California law requires that tenants have the right to safe and decent housing, including roofing, walls, windows and doors without water leaks and holes, working plumbing, hot and cold water, a working sewage system, heat, electricity, clean common areas, no infestation or vermin, no overflowing trash, sanitary conditions and window screens.
Speaking with Landlord
When a landlord fails to comply with the terms of the lease agreement and California state law, a tenant may choose to complain about the landlord, which can be accomplished through city or state offices, depending on the nature of the complaint.
Address the nature of your complaint with your landlord by sending a letter. Make sure that you sign and date the letter, and that you keep a copy. Take photos of any problems and date the back of the photos. Keep a copy of the photos for your records.
Give your landlord time to deal with the issue that you have with your apartment. Landlords usually have 20 days to repair the issue.
Call for an inspection at Housing Tenant Resources and describe the problem if the landlord has not repaired it. Ask for the inspector's card and get a certified copy of the inspection report. (See the California Tenants Guide in Resources.)
Habitability Enforcement Program
Contact the Los Angeles Housing Department by phone or in person (see Resources).
Provide proof of the problem, such as an inspection report or photographs.
Complete a complaint form at the Los Angeles Housing Department if the landlord does not make repairs within 20 days of your written notice.
Attend a hearing held by the Los Angeles Housing Department and show proof of the problems. Bring any witnesses who know of the problem to the hearing.
Follow the decision made by the L. A. Housing Authority, which often reduces rent until a problem at the apartment is repaired.
Small Claims Court
Make sure you have contacted the landlord, as described in the steps in Section 1.
Go to the Los Angeles Small Claims Court office. (See Resources.)
Get a date set for small claims court.
Bring all of your proof to court with you, such as photos of the problems in the apartment building, reports from the inspection, witnesses and receipts if you tried to repair the problem yourself.
Review the terms of your lease agreement to ensure that the landlord is liable for the apartment problems. For instance, if the lease required that you bring your own washer or dryer, you would need to pay for any repairs of those appliances.
Make sure that you pay your rent on time or it may make it more difficult to deal with your landlord about your living environment.
Tenants have the responsibility to keep their apartment clean, fix damage they cause, not leave food out that attracts vermin, dispose of trash on a regular basis and make their rent payments on time.
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