Everyone deserves a clean, safe place to live with dignity. Slum housing is a widespread issue in California. Manipulative and dishonest landlords often take advantage of people, especially those living in lower-income areas. Some landlords neglect their legal responsibilities to provide the safe and decent housing that their tenants are paying for. If you are one of the many people who is struggling with a negligent or unavailable landlord, you need a tenant rights attorney who will fight to protect your rights. This guide is meant for traditional renters, but much of what it contains also applies to most lodgers and long-term hotel/motel residents. Different laws apply to single lodgers living in an owner-occupied house, transitional housing residents, RV park and mobile home park residents, and hotel/motel residents in certain situations. Contact an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer for more information.
What Is Slum Housing?
“Slum housing” is generally defined as a run-down dwelling that is not fit to live in. It can also refer to an entire area, usually urban, that is overcrowded, generally unsafe, and in poor condition. The law lists conditions that would label a building unfit and substandard. The most common issues are usually vermin infestations, moisture and water intrusion, cleanliness and structural hazards.
Some examples that constitute a sanitation problem include:
- Lack of proper shower or sink,
- Lack of hot and cold running water,
- Lack of adequate heating,
- Lacking proper ventilation,
- Insect or vermin infestation,
- Lack of required electrical lighting,
- Visible mold growth,
- Lack of effective weather-proofing,
- Lead hazards,
- Lack of fire or carbon monoxide detectors,
- Lack of sewage system connection, and
- Lack of adequate garbage disposal.
Structural hazards include:
- Inadequate foundations,
- Defective flooring,
- Deteriorating walls, and
- Sagging ceilings.
Other issues include such conditions as unsafe wiring, improper plumbing, accumulated debris, or any other inadequately maintained building item.
What Landlord and Tenant Laws I Should Know?
There are so many sources of information for tenants in California that it can be overwhelming. Here is a short guide to tenant rights to live in habitable housing. In addition, you can reference California Tenants—A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities, a booklet provided by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, for more detailed information. You can also call an experienced California landlord-tenant attorney to help you find answers to questions about your legal rights as they pertain to your particular situation.
Under California law, landlords must make sure that rental units are habitable, meaning structurally sound, sanitary, and safe. They must follow certain health and safety codes enforced by the state and also each municipality. They must perform necessary repairs during your occupancy to ensure that the unit remains habitable. They must provide all tenants with lead paint disclosures and disclose any known lead hazards. They are not responsible for any damage you or other tenants cause.
Tenants have the right to inspect the premises before renting and to request repairs that the landlord is legally obligated to do. Tenants must reasonably maintain their units and common areas in clean and undamaged conditions, and they must repair any damage they caused by neglect or abuse. If the defects are severe enough to affect someone’s health and safety, and landlords do not make repairs they are legally obligated to do in a timely fashion, tenants have several options:
- Repair and deduct—if repairs do not cost more than one month’s rent, the tenant may do the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their monthly rent;
- Abandonment—the tenant can move out of the rental unit; or
- Rent withholding—not paying some or all of the rent if there are defects in the dwelling.
There are risks to each of these options, however. The defects must be severe enough to truly cause a risk to health and safety. The tenant must give the landlord notice and a reasonable opportunity to cure the defect. If not, the landlord can sue the tenant for unpaid rent or attempt to evict the tenant. If you are considering any of these options, it is important that you first speak to an experienced tenant attorney.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have a Slum Housing Claim?
First, you must notify your landlord of any conditions that make your unit uninhabitable. This does not mean that it must be impossible to live there, but that there are circumstances outside of your control that cause your living situation to be adversely affected. They must have a reasonable opportunity to be able to correct the situation before you can take legal action. Next, you should call an experienced and qualified tenant lawyer to discuss your situation and options. It may not be necessary to file a lawsuit. Your attorney will discuss your claim with you and tell you about your best options. It may be enough to send a letter to your landlord or negotiate an agreement. However, if you have the damages necessary to justify a lawsuit, your tenant lawyer will go to court on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.
Why Riley | Ersoff?
If you think your tenant rights have been violated, call Riley | Ersoff to discuss your case. We have represented hundreds of tenants in slum housing situations and achieved millions of dollars in damages for our clients. We have a proven track record of success. Some of our recent settlements were for nine million dollars for a case of lead poisoning and slum housing and three million dollars for slum housing and vermin. You can view more of our results on our website. We are San Francisco tenant lawyers—we pride ourselves on defending tenants against negligent landlords, and we will aggressively defend your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.