The information resource for tenants who need an attorney in San Diego

Welcome to Tenant Defenders

Tenant Lawyer – Marc D. Whitham

Represents Tenants and Consumers Throughout San Diego.

San Diego Tenants' Rights Attorney


My name is Marc D. Whitham and I’m pleased to welcome you to Tenant Defenders.  I am a tenants’ rights attorney that specializes in defending against wrongful evictions.  I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me directly to see if I can help you with your situation. Whether you are facing eviction, or need to know how to assert your rights as a renter, I am available to speak with you.

Many tenants mistakenly believe that they have no options when they run into a dispute with the landlord, or that they cannot afford a good lawyer.

Legal representation does make a difference, and while I cannot offer free consultations, I am happy to speak with you before you to commit to paying any fees.  If you are working with a limited budget, then let me know what you can afford.

Don’t despair.  Assistance is available and it will make a difference.  I am an experienced litigator who is not afraid to take aggressive action against landlords attempting to abuse the court system, or who refuse to live up to their obligations under the law.

Often times, a good tenant lawyer will help his clients to avoid facing a confrontation in court, and eliminate the risk of facing eviction. I have counseled thousands of tenants regarding their housing rights, and defended hundreds of renters facing trial.

Even if you are not facing a wrongful eviction, but simply need your landlord to take action and obey the law, you will benefit from the experience of an attorney who specializes in tenants rights.   When necessary, I will not hesitate to bring legal action against negligent and abusive landlords for damages.

Please take a look around the website.

If you would like to speak with a lawyer directly,

then Contact Tenant Defenders today.



Security Deposit Law in California

What Every Tenant Should Know about Getting Back Your Security Deposit

I am often contacted by tenants who have questions about their security deposits.  There is a very long statute in the California Civil Code at Section 1950.5 that describes in detail how landlords and property managers must handle security deposits.  The Code section has requirements about how much a landlord can charge as a security deposit.  It also explains what  a landlord must do with a security deposit when a tenant has vacated a house or apartment.   For a complete copy of Code Section 1950.5 click here.

No lease, nor rental agreement may call any deposit “nonrefundable.”

Landlords cannot escape this rule by charging a “cleaning” or “security” or “pet” fee instead of a deposit. Under the law, the security deposit rules apply to any “payment, fee, deposit or charge” that’s intended to cover damage and unpaid rent. It doesn’t matter how it may be labeled in the lease or rental agreement.

California law requires that landlord only use the deposit for specific purpose.

Deductions are allowed “in only those amounts as may be reasonably necessary” for the following four purposes:

1. For money owed towards the payment of rent (default).

2. To repair damage to the premises caused by the tenant (excluding “ordinary wear and tear”).

3. If needed, to clean the premises, after the tenant leaves.

4. When agreed to in the rental agreement, then to pay for the tenant’s failure to restore or replace personal property or furnishings.

Within 21 days after you move out—whether voluntarily, by abandonment or by eviction—the landlord has to do one of two things:

1. Return your security deposit, or

2. Provide you with an “itemized statement” in writing saying why he is keeping part or all of the deposit. Any portion that is unaccounted for must be returned to the tenant.

Request a pre-move out inspection in order to avoid unnecessary deductions.

If your tenancy began on or after January 1, 2003 then you have the right to request pre-move out inspection of your rental unit. This can help to learn whether the landlord intends to make any deductions from your deposit for damage or uncleanliness. During the inspection the landlord or his agent, must point out any reasons why they might deduct money from the deposit. You’ll then have an opportunity to remedy the problems before the final inspection.

Here’s how to request the inspection: Within a reasonable time after you or the landlord notify the other party of the end of your tenancy, the landlord must inform you in writing that you have a right to be present at the inspection, which must take place (if you request it) no sooner than two weeks before the end of the tenancy. The landlord must give you 48 hours’ notice before the inspection if you haven’t already agreed on a time beforehand. You can fore waive the right to demand 48 hours written notice of the inspection, but I don’t advise it.

After conducting the inspection, the landlord must give you an itemized statement of intended deductions, plus a statement with the language contained in Civil Code §§ 1950.5(b)(1) through 1950.5(b)(4) and 1950.5(d). If you’re not present at the inspection, he should leave the list in the unit. You can remedy the problems at your own cost and potentially save yourself a lot of expense. Make sure if the repairs that are listed are significant that you get your landlord’s written authorization to do the work. Get specific instruction about how to fix any noted problems.

After you leave, the landlord will re-inspect the apartment and if he still wants to do further cleaning or make other necessary improvements, then he or she must send you another itemized statement listing the deductions within three weeks after you’ve vacated. This statement must also include copies of any receipts for work he claims to have paid others to do.

Preserve your evidence.

If your efforts to fix or clean don’t measure up, the landlord can still argue that you didn’t clean well enough. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep receipts for all the materials that you use to clean, and to follow up by taking good, detailed photos of the condition of the apartment or house when you leave. Make sure to address all of the problems pointed out by your landlord.

If a landlord fails to return your security deposit within the three weeks or doesn’t otherwise follow the legal steps for itemization and return, then the request for the initial inspection and the follow up itemization of noted problems together with your photos of premises should provide you with a strong basis to bring a claim demanding the return of your security deposit. If you can show the court that the landlord kept the deposit in bad faith, then you could get damages of up to twice the amount of the deposit.

  • As with all communication between with your landlord, a tenant’s request for the initial inspection of the dwelling should be made in writing. Date the letter, sign it, and keep a copy for your own records. If you have a bad relationship with your landlord, or just a bad landlord, it is a good idea to send the request certified mail.
  • If you make a request for the inspection and the landlord refuses to give it, and still attempts to keep the security deposit, then you have an even better argument that he or she is acting in bad faith.
  • If more than three weeks have passed since you moved out and the landlord has not either returned the deposit or sent you an itemized statement explaining what happened the security deposit, then you should send a letter demanding that it be returned.
  • If the security deposit is not returned, then you should follow up with an attorney to learn more about making your case in small claims.

Feel free to call Tenant Defenders in order to discuss your situation.



San Diego Renters Rights 101

I have included below a list of questions and answers to problems that renters often confront.  It is important to understand that the information provided here is made available to educate tenants about their legal rights, and applies to tenants living within the City limits of San Diego.  Every situation is unique, and what may be the right solution for some will not be right for others.   For this reason, I encourage every tenant that is struggling through a dispute with his or her landlord to seek out and speak with an attorney that specializes in landlord tenant law, and can give you the specific attention your case deserves.

Call 619-573-9582 to speak directly with a lawyer.

Q: My landlord refuses to make repairs. What can I do?

A: Start by demanding repairs in writing from the property manager or landlord.  If the landlord does not fix the problem, contact the city’s Code Enforcement Division at (619) 236-5500.  An inspector should arrange for an inspection, after which the city should send a notice of violations to the landlord with a deadline for repairs to be completed.  Landlords who do not comply with the City’s notice are asking for trouble. Not only can the city fine these landlords, but tenants can sue for breach of the warranty of habitability.

There is also a state law, Civil Code 1942.4, which makes it illegal for the landlord to continue collecting rent where certain conditions remain unabated for more than 35 days after the landlord is cited by a city inspector.

Q: My landlord shows up and demands access to my home. What are my rights?

A: The landlord can only enter your home under certain circumstances. A landlord can enter to deal with an emergency (e.g., if a pipe bursts). The landlord can also enter, after providing 24 hours written notice, to make repairs or show the apartment. See Civil Code Section 1954 for more details. If your landlord insists on entering over your objection in violation of these rules, you can call the police.

Q: I’m a month-to-month tenant. My landlord is evicting me for no reason at all. Can he do this?

A: In San Diego, if you have lived within the City limits for more than 2 years at the same residence, then your landlord must provide a reason why he or she is terminating your tenancy.  Click here to see an explanation of the San Diego Tenants’ Right to Know City Ordinance. There are  number of reasons why a landlord is permitted to terminate a tenancy  under the statute, however, the notice must include one of these permitted reasons.

Most tenants that live outside of the City limits of San Diego can be terminated without a reason.  If a tenant has lived in a residence for more than one year, then they are still entitled to a written notice of 60 days, but it doesn’t have to include any reason for the termination.

The rules are different for Section 8 and other subsidized tenancies.  Most subsidized leases include protections against arbitrary terminations, but each program differs.

Q: My landlord verbally ordered me to move out of my place. Do I need to move?

A: No. Verbal eviction notice is invalid in California. Until you receive a written notice to terminate your tenancy that complies with California law, you do not need to move in response to the landlord’s verbal demands.

Q: The landlord is raising my rent. Can she do this?

A: Not if you are within the term of a fixed-term rental agreement. In other words, if you are six months into a one-year agreement that specifies a $700 rent, the landlord cannot raise the rent until the agreement expires. But if you are a month-to-month tenant, the landlord can raise your rent any amount, as long as the increase is not in retaliation for your exercise of your rights as a tenant. The landlord must provide 30 days’ written notice of the rent increase, or 60 days’ notice if the rent increase is more than 10%. The rules are different for Section 8 and other subsidized tenancies.

Q: My landlord lost the property in foreclosure. Can the bank that acquired the place at the foreclosure sale make me leave right away?

A: No. If the bank wants you to move out, it will need to serve a written notice telling you to move out. In most cases, the new owner has to give you a 90-day termination notice, and if you have a rental agreement for a fixed term, like a one-year lease, you may be able to stay until it expires. There are some exceptions.  If you entered into the lease knowing that the property was already in the process of being foreclosed, or if you pay a rate of rent that is substantially below what would be a normal market rate, then the bank may argue to the court that you are not a “bona fide” tenant under the federal statute and may try to terminate you with a notice that is less than 90 days.

Q: I moved, and my landlord won’t return my security deposit. What can I do?

A: The landlord is required to return the deposit, or document legitimate deductions, within 21 days after the tenant vacates. The landlord can deduct for unpaid rent, costs to repair damages caused by tenant or tenants’ guests, cleaning of the unit to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy and other limited bases. Click here for more info on security deposit law under Civil Code 1950.5. The landlord cannot deduct for ordinary wear and tear. If your landlord fails to return the deposit, write a letter to the landlord demanding the deposit back. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can sue. The landlord may be liable not just for the amount of the deposit but for up to two times the amount of the deposit as a penalty for withholding the deposit in bad faith. Usually, security deposit cases are filed in small claims court where you can seek up to $7,500.

Q: I want to know about my rights as a tenant. Where should I begin?

A: The California Department of Consumer Affairs has tenant rights information on its Web site, Nolo Press puts out a book called California Tenants’ Rights. Tenants Together provides a free copy of the Nolo book to members who donate at least $25 to the organization. You can also look at Tenants Together’s Web site,, for more information about your rights as a tenant.

If you have a problem or concern that requires more than just information,

please don’t hesitate to contact us or to send me a comment.



When a tenant needs a lawyer

Prepare yourself with knowledge,


Defend yourself with expertise.

Most people want to avoid court. Especially when the dispute carries the risk of eviction. In an ideal world, everyone would work through their disputes by listening carefully and treating our neighbors as we would want to be treated. Unfortunately, Southern California is not an ideal world, and hundreds of people across the State are evicted every day. Many people could avoid being evicted if they understand that if you are a defendant in an unlawful detainer, then you need a lawyer.

My name is Marc Whitham, and I am devoted to serving tenants and consumers in defending against eviction and unlawful collections.  I offer consultations to help tenants gain the upper hand in disputes with the landlord, and I have represented hundreds of tenants at trial.  If you are in need of representation because you are facing eviction or your landlord has locked you out illegally, or is making illegal threats, or has even broken into your home without your permission, then call Tenant Defenders today.

Evictions are Civil Lawsuits.
They are not small claims court!

Rules of Evidence will apply.

Default will enter against tenants that don’t show up.

Your landlord will most likely have an attorney.

Money judgments are entered if you lose.

Find out how representation will make a difference.

Don’t be mistaken – A rental agreement is a contract; not a friendship.

I have encountered countless tenants throughout my career who are shocked and dismayed to find themselves in a difficult dispute with their landlord. The truth is landlords are not in the business of leasing for love of humanity.  They are in it for the business – pure and simple. Your landlord may act like he’s your buddy, but when it comes down to the brass tacks, what you have is not a friendship, but a contract.

When the relationship breaks down because a tenant begins to assert his or her rights, or the landlord isn’t willing to live up to his obligations, then many landlords won’t hesitate to make threats, harass, and then call their lawyers.  Many tenants think that if only they could make the landlord understand their situation, they could avoid trouble.

What the landlord often understands is that filing a lawsuit to evict a tenant (also called an unlawful detainer) can usually resolve his or her “problem” more quickly and more cheaply with the assistance of his attorney than listening and working through the dispute with you. Many tenants are surprised to find that the same is equally true for them.

Even if you aren’t defending a suit in court, it’s important to understand that landlord/tenant disputes almost always involve legal questions of rights and obligations.

Standing upon your legal rights as a tenant does not make you a troublemaker. To the contrary, it can help you and your landlord to have a clearer understanding and a better relationship in the long run.

Avoiding the problem you face with your landlord will seldom bring about a positive result, and will usually end up costing you more in the long run. Whether it is trouble making the rent payment, or the landlord’s refusal to fix the problems with the plumbing it is better to take the situation in hand.  Getting the assistance of a lawyer early on can save you in the long run in a variety of ways.

Tenant Defenders offers affordable legal assistance throughout San Diego & Southern California.

Tenants who do not take the situation in hand right away often suffer unnecessary hardships.

Sometimes a lawyer can help to resolve your problem with a consultation, or by communicating on a tenant’s behalf directly with the landlord.  Many times my clients need someone who can help to get the landlord’s attention.

If your landlord or property manager refuses to listen, and continues to make unlawful demands, or refuses to live up to his or her responsibilities, then we can advise you about what is the most prudent and effective course of action to pursue.  When you need a forceful voice to speak to your concerns, then I’m there for that too.

If your landlord has already broken the law, or is trying to use the legal system to take away your rights, then call right away.  Sometimes even when you try to avoid problems with your landlord, trouble finds you. Unfortunately, many landlords and property managers mistake flexibility and cooperation as an excuse to take advantage of those who rent from them.

I am available to speak with you directly, today, without any further obligation.  I strive to give my clients the very best counsel and advice, by providing legal services personalized to meet your needs.

Don’t hesitate to call 619-573-9582 today to speak directly with an attorney 

Get help from a professional

California tenants right to privacy

Do tenants have a right to keep the landlord from entering their home?

The answer to that question is yes, but… you need to know the details.  California tenants right to privacy in the properties they rent is subject to a landlord’s right of entry.  Landlords cannot just walk into your home whenever they feel like it.  For a landlord to lawfully gain entry into a tenant’s residence they must observe certain requirements.

Tenants often contact me wondering what to do when the landlord demands to be let into the house without advance notice and without cause. In those cases, generally speaking, the landlord has no right of entry.   If he wants in, then he must make the request correctly.

California law requires that landlords and their agents give the correct written notice before attempting to enter into a residential property. When they give notice, they must follow specific procedures.

The Notice must be in writing.

Any landlord or property manager that wants to get into the rental must give advance written notice at least 24 hours before the attempted entry.  The notice must be served at the property.

The Notice must explain why the entry is needed.

The landlord, and the agents working on his or her behalf, cannot simply ask to come into your home because they feel like it, or based upon unfounded suspicions.

These requirements are explained in detail in California Civil Code Section 1954.   The full text of the statute section is as follows:


California Civil Code Section 1954

(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:

(1) In case of emergency.

(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees,tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of  Civil Code Section 1950.5.

(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.

(4) Pursuant to court order.

(b) Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other than normal business hours unless the tenant consents to an entry during other than normal business hours at the time of entry.

(c) The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.

(d) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (e), or as provided in paragraph (2) or (3), the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable age and discretion at the premises, or, left on, near, or under the usual entry door of the premises in a manner in which a reasonable person would discover the notice. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice may be mailed to the tenant. Mailing of the notice at least six days prior to an intended entry is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

(2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above.

Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.

(3) The tenant and the landlord may agree orally to an entry to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services. The agreement shall include the date and approximate time of the entry, which shall be within one week of the agreement. In this case, the landlord is not required to provide the tenant a written notice.

(e) No notice of entry is required under this section:

(1) To respond to an emergency.

(2) If the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry.

(3) After the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit.

As is the case with most statutes, there is a lot of exceptions to the general rule requiring notice.  Unfortunately, many landlords, property managers and real estate agents attempt to take advantage of these exceptions in ways that can quickly become overbearing and harassing.

That’s why it pays to know your rights as a tenant and to speak with an attorney that can help you to assert those rights.  Most tenants are unaware that their lease agreement has a number of  implied promises between the tenant and landlord. These promises are common law rights known as covenants.   Covenants predate California statutes, but they are still good law that landlords must observe.

One of the most important of these covenants is known as the covenant of quiet enjoyment.  Simply put, it means that you as the tenant have the exclusive right to possession of the property you rent.  Your landlord cannot take this covenant away.

If your landlord is acting in a way that deprives you the full use and benefit of your rental property, then he or she is likely violating the tenants right to privacy.

To learn more about your privacy rights as a tenant, you should contact an attorney that specializes in helping renters to assert their rights.


Before you take up the situation with your landlord on your own, feel free to call today to speak directly with a lawyer.


The warranty of habitability in California

California tenants have a right to insist that the landlord guarantee certain features of  the rental property in safe and sanitary condition.   This is a legal obligation that requires landlords and their managers to provide and maintain basic features in all the rental housing throughout the State.  It is called the warranty of habitability.  Landlords cannot make you agree to accept substandard and dangerous conditions.  No matter what your lease agreement says, your landlord must fix certain kinds of problems.

The law imposes the warranty upon landlords whether they like it, or not. This is why it is known as the warranty of habitability. Landlords and property managers cannot get out of the obligations included in the warranty by clever language in the lease agreement, or because the repairs are expensive, or because the property has been a dump for a long time.  It is this  “no excuses allowed”  feature of the law that makes it an implied warranty.

Habitable means more than your landlord may be willing to admit.  It means your landlord cannot simply tell you to put up with the leaking roof and broken windows.  Your landlord cannot make you responsible for the cost of maintaining the plumbing that constantly backs up.

Tenants are not required to just put up with the rubbish the landlord refuses to move out of the backyard.  None of these situations will literally stop a tenant from being able to live in the property, but they are each an example of a breach of the warranty of habitability.

California cases that affirm the right to habitable homes

The Court decision that recognized the implied warranty of habitability in residential rental agreements has been around for four decades.  In Hinson v. Delis the Court held that when a landlord fails to “substantially obey the housing codes and make the premises habitable” then that landlord was in material breach of the rental agreement with his tenant.

In Green v. Superior Court the California Supreme Court expanded the warranty and affirmed that when a landlord´s maintenance of a rental property fails to keep the home or apartment in decent and livable condition, then a tenant is justified in withholding the payment of rent.

“[A] landlord’s breach of a warranty of habitability directly relates to whether any rent is “due and owing” by the tenant; hence, such breach may be determinative of whether the landlord or tenant is entitled to possession of the premises upon nonpayment of rent. Accordingly, the tenant may properly raise the issue of warranty of habitability in an unlawful detainer action.”

 Green  v. Superior Court compares the implied warranty of habitability to the warranty of fitness that is implied whenever a product is placed into the market for public consumption.

“In most significant respects, the modern urban tenant is in the same position as any other normal consumer of goods… Through a residential lease, a tenant seeks to purchase “housing” from his landlord for a specified period of time. The landlord “sells” housing, enjoying a much greater opportunity, incentive and capacity than a tenant to inspect and maintain the condition of his apartment building. A tenant may reasonably expect that the product he is purchasing is fit for the purpose for which it is obtained, that is, a living unit.”

 The decision explains why the conditions within a rental unit are relevant to the issues a court must decide when hearing an eviction lawsuit.

Today the habitability of the dwelling unit has become the very essence of the residential lease; the landlord can as materially frustrate the purpose of such a lease by permitting the premises to become uninhabitable as by withdrawing the use of a portion of the premises.


Standards that establish what is habitable

The California Civil Code Section 1941.1 requires that the landlord provide all of the following to any residential rental property.

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of the roof and exterior walls, including unbroken
  • windows and doors.
  • Plumbing, electricity, and gas facilities maintained in good working order.
  • Hot and cold running water and a sewage disposal system.
  • Sufficient heating facilities maintained in good working order
  • Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment which is maintained in good working
  • order.
  • Working electrical outlets in each room.
  • Floors, stairways and railings maintained in good repair.
  • An adequate number of containers for garbage, kept clean and in good repair.
  • Building and building grounds free of trash, rubbish, rodents, and other pests.
  • A working toilet, washbasin, and bathtub or shower, in a room which is ventilated.
  • An operable dead bolt lock on each main swinging entry door.
  • At least one working telephone jack and phone line.


Section 1941.1 also incorporates Health and Safety Code Section 17920.30 and 17920.10.  This portion of the Health and Safety code defines “substandard building.”  A building can be substandard if it has inadequate sanitation, structural hazards, any nuisance, faulty wiring, faulty plumbing, or faulty mechanical equipment.  This section is very detailed.   Click here if you would like to read the entire text.

If the problem you have with your rental falls within one of the categories of defects described in the Civil Code Section 1941.1, or if it a substandard building as defined by Section 17920.30 of the Health and Safety Code, and it prevents you from enjoying the property, then you have good reason to complain, and every right to expect that the situation will be taken care of.

How many times have you heard from the landlord that you are the only tenant that complains?  That everyone else seems to have no problem with the cockroaches, and that the good tenants understand the heating system just doesn’t work.   The fact is many landlords and management companies are under the impression that tenants need to be able to tough it out.  That is not the law in California.  Landlords do have a responsibility to their tenants.


Effective and early communication is critical

It is important to remember that the relationship with the landlord is centered upon a contract.  It might be a friendly relationship, but that doesn’t change the fact that your landlord expects you to pay the rent.  Tenants also have a right to insist that the landlord live by his or her legal obligations.

Some tenants fear that their landlord will be put off by complaints about the property , and it is true that a few landlords do react negatively.  But whether your landlord likes it or not, certain kinds of problems are his responsibility to fix, and you have both a legal right and responsibility to make the landlord aware of the problem.

If you do not make a complaint to your landlord about the problem, then he or she will always have an excuse to leave it alone.  It may be the case that the landlord knows that the roof leaks, but maybe not.  Don’t be shy about asserting you right to habitable housing.  It is also important that you make your complaints known as you as the problem arises.

By waiting to make the complaint, the situation may grow much worse.  If the leaking plumbing in the wall is not taken care of promptly, it will lead to mold growth, rotting away of the wood and other building materials and may even create conditions that can later damage the entire building.

When you make a complaint, then you should make the it in writing.  Make sure to sign and date the letter or email, and make sure you include your address.   Keep a copy for your records.  If the landlord doesn’t act on the problem , then follow up.  If you get nothing but excuses, or are told to stop being difficult, then you shouldn’t hesitate to contact a lawyer.  Nothing says “you need to pay attention” like a demand letter.  It lets your landlord understand that you are serious about your contractual and legal rights, and often results in a degree of respect from your landlord that is all too frequently in short supply.

Preserving and preparing your evidence

Hopefully, your landlord will respond to your complaints with enthusiasm and take care to make the needed repairs to his or her property.  Sometimes, a landlord will not be happy with your complaints, and will compel you to take further legal action, or in some cases they may even try to bring a case for eviction.  It is for this reason that tenants should prepare for the worst case scenario, and imagine what they would need to show to convince a judge of their story.

Once you have made complaints concerning the conditions that violate the warranty, make sure that you have lots of photographs.  Don’t just keep them on your phone.  Print the photographs out, or save them to the hard drive of a computer, or put them on your Google Plus page, but make sure you don’t lose them.  If your landlord wants to make some arrangement to change the rental agreement, or offers some concession or explanation why the problem cannot be fixed, then ask them to put these into written form.

In Green v. Superior Court  the California Supreme Court summed up the law over three decades ago with the following:

“Thus, in keeping with the contemporary trend to analyze urban residential leases under modern contractual principles, we now conclude that the tenant’s duty to pay rent is “mutually dependent” upon the landlord’s fulfillment of his implied warranty of habitability.”

 Rent is not the only responsibility arising out of the rental contract.  Your landlord has to do more than simply provide a roof to sleep under.  In California, tenants that rent their homes have every right to demand that the landlord assure that the rental property is in decent and suitable condition.  It doesn’t matter if your house was a dump when you moved in, or has just slowly deteriorated over the course of many years.  Once your landlord is put on notice that the house falls short of the standards outlined in the Statutes, then he or she needs to take some action.

If the landlord or property manager refuses to act, then you have legal rights, and remedies to either enforce the terms of your rental contract, or to be released from your obligations under the same.  For those tenants faced with recalcitrant and indifferent landlords, it is important that you talk to a lawyer.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that legal services are too expensive, or that you know enough about the law to take care of it yourself.


Get professional assistance

Just like any contract, when rental agreements and the parties to them are in dispute, then it will ultimately fall to the court system to decide who is in the right under the law.  A good lawyer can help you to chart your own destiny, and if contacted early on when you first face a conflict with the landlord, I can often help tenants to avoid court.

If your landlord refuses to fix your problems, then you may have to withhold rent in order to get her cooperation.  This should only be done after you have prepared an appropriate record of the problem, advised the landlord  or her agent about the problem, made your demand that it be fixed, and preserved all relevant evidence about the landlord’s efforts, or lack of effort, to remedy the situation.

Even after doing all this, every situation presents unique facts and questions that need to be addressed, and legal advice from a tenant rights specialist can prevent tenants from making mistakes.

Parties that go to court without a lawyer should expect the worse.   Eviction lawsuits are not small claims cases, and it is not a good idea to defend against one without an attorney.  It is equally unwise to assume that simply because the law requires your landlord to live up to the warranty of habitability the process to getting the problems in your house or apartment resolved will be straight-forward.   Click here contact an attorney today that will listen to the facts of the situation.  I will help you to get your landlord’s attention and get the problems resolved.


Call today to speak directly with a lawyer about your situation.