There are many kinds of defects that could make a rental unit unlivable. The implied warranty of habitability requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for the “occupation of human beings.”136 In addition, the rental unit must “substantially comply” with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants’ health and safety.137
A rental unit may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it contains a lead hazard that endangers the occupants or the public, or is a substandard building because, for example, a structural hazard, inadequate sanitation, or a nuisance endangers the health, life, safety, property, or welfare of the occupants or the public.138
A dwelling also may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it substantially lacks any of the following:139
• 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 electric system, including lighting, wiring, and equipment, in good working order.
• Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds, and appurtenances (for example, a garden or a detached garage), free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
• Adequate trash receptacles in good repair. • Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair.
in addition to these requirements, each rental unit must have all of the following:
• A working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower. the toilet and bathtub or shower must be in a room which is ventilated and allows privacy.
• A kitchen with a sink that cannot be made of an absorbent material such as wood.
natural lighting in every room through windows or skylights. Windows in each room must be able to open at least halfway for ventilation, unless a fan provides mechanical ventilation.
• Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway. stairs, hallways, and exits must be kept litter-free. storage areas, garages, and basements must be kept free of combustible materials.140
• Operable dead bolt locks on the main entry doors of rental units, and operable locking or security devices on windows.141
• Working smoke detectors in all units of multi-unit buildings, such as duplexes and apartment complexes. Apartment complexes also must have smoke detectors in common stairwells.142
• A locking mail box for each unit. the mail box must be consistent with the united states postal service standards for apartment housing mail boxes. 143
• Ground fault circuit interrupters for swimming pools and antisuction protections for wading pools in apartment complexes and other residential settings (but not single family residences).144
136 Civil Code Section 1941.
137 Green v. Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 616 [111 Cal.Rptr. 704].
138 Civil Code Section 1941.1 paragraph 1, Health and Safety Code Sections 17920.3, 17920.10.
139 Civil Code Section 1941.1.
140 Health and Safety Code Sections 17900-17995; California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities, page 186 (NOLO Press
141 Civil Code Section 1941.3. See this section for additional details and exemptions. Remedies for violation of these requirements are listed
at Civil Code Section 1941.3(c). See California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 3:21.5-3:21.10 (Rutter Group 2009).
142 Health and Safety Code 13113.7.
143 Health and Safety Code Section 17958.3; Civil Code Section 1941.1(i).
144 Health and Safety Code Sections 116049.1, 116064.
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