| Read Time: 4 minutes | Slum Housing

When an individual or company rents out residential property, the landlord has certain obligations. For example, if you are renting an apartment in Los Angeles, it must be “habitable.” Also, while you are renting the property, your landlord is responsible for making necessary repairs and normal maintenance in order to keep the property livable.

In 1941, California passed laws that force landlords to keep residential rental property in a condition that is fit for each tenant’s use. Landlords must also follow federal and state laws and regulations about tenant civil rights and protections. To find out more about your landlord’s responsibilities, read further.

What Obligations Does a Landlord Have in California?

Landlord responsibilities in California include a legal obligation to provide tenants with premises that are safe, clean, and fit for human habitation and to follow certain laws that protect tenants’ rights. Obligations regarding both can vary depending on the rental unit in question and attendant circumstances. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney who can answer your questions and walk you through your rights. However, the following are a handful of the most common landlord obligations.

Landlord Obligations Related to Tenant Rights

Comply With Anti-Discrimination Laws

Landlords must follow fair housing laws when advertising and renting a unit. This includes the type of questions asked on rental applications and how landlords interact with tenants who rent from them. For example, California landlords can legally reject applicants based on negative references or bad credit history, but it is illegal to discriminate based on a prospective tenant’s race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, receipt of public assistance, familial status, or physical or mental disability, among other things. These are “protected categories” under California law and the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. Failure to follow federal and California law can give rise to discrimination complaints and lawsuits.

Follow State Rent Rules

Landlords wanting to raise the rent or evict a tenant must comply with California law. California law also dictates rules such as how much a landlord can charge for a bounced check and how much notice a tenant must be given to either settle unpaid rent or move out.

Meet State Security Deposit Limits and Return Rules

California sets the rules regarding security deposit limits and any local interest requirements. This includes how much a landlord can charge, when a deposit must be returned, and how much a landlord can deduct. It also dictates rules such as telling the tenant in writing that they have the right to ask for a pre-inspection after giving their notice to move out and giving them a chance to repair things before docking their security deposit.

Make Legally Required Disclosures

Under California law, landlords must disclose certain issues to tenants. These issues include things such as whether a tenant is paying for another renter’s utilities, whether there is lead-based paint on the property, or whether the rental property poses a mold threat. Failure to disclose specific issues can result in hefty financial penalties.

No Retaliating Against Tenants Who Exercise a Legal Right

Retaliating against a tenant for exercising a legal right in California is illegal. For example, evicting a tenant or raising rent because the tenant complained about unsafe living conditions violates state and federal law.

Landlord Obligations for Habitable Premises


Your apartment or house must be free from water leaks and weather. This means that all doors and window must be in reasonable working condition. If you have a broken window that is allowing water to come into your home, then your landlord must fix it.


All of the plumbing in your home must work properly. You should have both hot and cold water available and the connections to drainage and sewage systems must be properly connected and free from obstruction. In addition, your sink, bathtub and shower must work. The bathroom should include both privacy and ventilation.

Electrical, heating and gas

Your landlord must also ensure that your electrical, heating, and gas systems work. In addition, they must be up to code and free from any dangerous temporary fixes. You should not be in danger due to any exposed wires, improper gas connections or any other hazards that could cause an injury.

Building, common areas, and trash receptacles

Not only is your landlord responsible for ensuring your apartment is habitable and safe, he or she must also attend to the building in general. For example, all stairways and handrails must be safe and functioning correctly. In addition, common areas such as a garden or parking lot must be clean and free from obstruction, debris or trash.

Fire safety and smoke detectors

Your apartment building must have emergency exits that lead outside. Your landlord is responsible for keeping these areas clear in case of a fire or other emergency. Also, in duplexes and apartment buildings, the landlord must provide smoke detectors in all units as well as in any shared stairwells.

Reach Out to Us with Questions

If you are renting an apartment, duplex or house in Los Angeles, your landlord has certain responsibilities. If your landlord fails to provide a habitable space for you, your family and guests, then you might be able to take legal action to protect your rights as a tenant. Some of the things a tenant can do may include making repairs and deducting the cost from the rent, withholding rent, or even terminating the lease agreement. However, tenants should consult an attorney to ascertain the best course of action.

At Riley | Ersoff LLP, our lawyers are dedicated to helping tenants protect their rights, and we have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about how we can help with your situation.

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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