Saturday, December 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Suisun City landlord refuses to fix major problems, what can I do if I’m in a lease?

By
From page HSR2 | March 29, 2014 |

Q:  I’m a tenant and a weekly reader of your column. I’ve noticed that you seldom answer questions from tenants but I’m hoping you’ll answer this one. My family and I rent a home in Suisun City. It’s a very old house downtown. Over the past several months a number of problems have cropped up in the house that the landlord won’t fix. Or at least hasn’t fixed despite our numerous requests. As an example, the roof in my daughter’s bedroom leaks. Fortunately it hasn’t rained too much, but still it leaks. The linoleum in the kitchen is in really bad shape and impossible to really get clean. There are several electrical sockets around the house that just don’t work. My son has no electricity in his bedroom. I’ve threatened the landlord that we are going to withhold the rent and he says if we do he’ll evict us. We are in the middle of a three-year lease. What should we do and how do we do it? Thanks. 

A:  Well, the reason I seldom answer questions from tenants is that I seldom get them. It seems that homeowners are much more likely to write in. So I’m happy to field your question.

Tenants have a number of remedies available to them when dealing with landlords who won’t fix problems in the home or apartment.

All of these remedies presume the tenant has given the landlord ample notice of the problem and a reasonable time to fix it.

The least serious is simply to fix it yourself and bill the landlord for the cost of the repair. In practice, you’d deduct the amount of the repair from your rent and give the landlord an invoice and receipts.

For example, if the bathroom sink were clogged you’d inform the landlord. If he doesn’t get it fixed within, say, five days you could call a plumber, pay the bill, and deduct the amount you paid from the rent.

This works for problems that don’t technically affect the habitability of the property or the safety of the tenants. Deducting the cost from the rent also implies that the cost of repair isn’t much more than a month’s rent or so and that you can afford to pay the bill in the first place.

More serious problems, which translated, means more expensive problems, can also allow the tenant to simply break the lease and move.

Actually withholding rent until a problem is fixed has got to be the most misunderstood remedy in the tenant’s arsenal and frequently gets tenants in trouble with the courts.

Withholding rent is only available when habitability issues are at stake. In this context, the word habitability has a legal meaning. It doesn’t mean that the paint is chipping or the microwave doesn’t work.

A short list of habitability issues include a property with toxics (e.g. lead or chemicals), inadequate sanitation, ineffective waterproofing (e.g. leaking roof), lack of running water, bad electrical system, inadequate natural light and ventilation and any other serious safety issue.

The above list isn’t comprehensive, but you get the idea.

Certainly your leaking roof qualifies as does the lack of electricity in a bedroom.

If you decide to withhold rent the first decision you have to make is how much to withhold. Technically, you should only withhold the amount that would reduce the rent to the actual rental value of the property in its current condition.

If the rent is $1,500 per month and the furnace is broken during the winter, the rental value may be only $500 and you’d be justified in withholding $1,000 per month.

How do you know what the reasonable rental value is? I don’t know. Basically you make a good faith guess.

Once you’ve made your guess you notify the landlord in writing that you will be withholding, in my example, $1,000 per month until the problem is fixed.

Although the law doesn’t require it, it is good practice to then put the $1,000 per month into a special bank account you’ve opened for that purpose.

That’s because the landlord just might file an eviction lawsuit, called an unlawful detainer, to try to get you out for not paying the rent.

During eviction trials, judges hear from tenants all the time that they were just withholding rent, when in fact they just didn’t have the money to pay the rent.

If you can show the judge you weren’t refusing to pay the rent because you couldn’t, as demonstrated by depositing the money into the bank account, it will go a long way towards helping your argument.

Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have a real estate question you would like answered in this column you can contact him at SolanoScene@TJones-Law.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rich GiddensMarch 29, 2014 - 7:22 am

    That's excellent advice from Mr. Jones. There are too many irresponsible slumlords and slum tenants in Sewer Soon City. Responsible homeowners hate having renters and even homeowners move in next door who then drag down the appearance and value of the neighborhood down by neglecting homes. They typically bring in junk inoperative cars to work on for profit or park them in the street. They let the vegetation overgrow and die from lack of water. They set up basketball hoops in the middle of the street. Loose pit bulls and rap music along with publicly viewed sex, constant parties with loud profane guests, drug use and open alcohol consumption with underage truants is the icing on the rotten cake they bring to your community's undesirable neighborhoods. Daily Republic---please publish this comment for it needs to be said and discussed.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Creche collection grows in size, popularity

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Handmade Christmas display is man’s labor of love

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
Company competition a big win for charity

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Meeting a great role model at any age

By Murray Bass | From Page: B5

Fairfield police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Island park in San Francisco Bay closed for weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
No harm caused by flames at Northern California refinery

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Wetter than usual start to new year in California predicted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Hospital to pay $2.2M to settle false claims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Napolitano named as UC public policy professor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Man shocked 20 times during jail booking sues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Notorious California graffiti suspect arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Animal rights activists take California rodeo to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California’s bullet train settles 1 of 7 lawsuits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies in California at 95

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Bush officials gave CIA wide latitude

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Theater shooter’s parents plead for his life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Driver pleads not guilty in pedestrian deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
5 ways to make your email safer in case of a hack attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Celebrities react to latest Sony hack developments

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
2012 movie massacre hung over ‘Interview’ decision

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Sony on shelving ‘The Interview': ‘We had no choice’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Obama says North Korea hacked Sony, vows response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

AP Interview: Coelho says Sony hack threatens all

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Jury rules for Indiana woman in firing over IVF

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Bergdahl investigation wraps up; top leaders get briefings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Texas eatery worker gets mink coat from customer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Sugarland, promoter settle with state fair victims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NY police officer suspended after videotaped punch

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Prepackaged caramel apples linked to 4 deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Supreme Court won’t stop gay marriages in Florida

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Staples: Customer data exposed in security breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lava could reach Hawaii shopping center in 8 days

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Israel carries out airstrike on Hamas site in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Pakistan executes militants and bombards tribal areas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Franciscan religious order in ‘grave’ financial crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Australian woman arrested in deaths of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

.

Opinion

Yes, Virginia, the Santa wish list has gone digital

By Petula Dvorak | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
If you want to help the poor, fix the safety net

By Jim Tankersley | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Pampered pets that don duds move to the mainstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B11

Children from wife’s first marriage put father’s ashes in coffin

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B11

 
.

Entertainment

More than 4 million people watched 1st dog telethon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kim Jong Un game spoof ‘Glorious Leader!’ moving forward

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Marathon bombing survivor in ‘Yes to Dress’ finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kid Rock to perform pre-race concert at Daytona 500

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Actor Stephen Collins denies he’s a pedophile in interview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Dodge, Vaca grad Mason lead Southern Oregon to NAIA title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders haven’t needed much from Janikowski

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP sources: Peavy agrees on $24M, 2-year deal with Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

FIFA will not reopen 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Howe’s family reports rapid improvement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

2 Armstrong associates settle lawsuit with Landis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rays, Padres, Nats complete 11-player trade involving Myers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Vanden girls open Nike TOC with win on Arizona

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Things to know about Friday’s baseball news

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rookie receivers making their mark in NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former boxing champ Ernie Terrell dies at 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Gold medalist Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, avoids jail time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dodgers end Yanks’ payroll streak, owe most tax

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

CIF football bowl games headed to Sacramento

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

 
Cal men beat Eastern Washington 78-67 for seventh straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

California unemployment rate dips to 7.2 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Chrysler gives in to gov’t, expands air bag recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

T-Mobile paying at least $90M for unwanted services

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales for holiday shopping season comes down to the wire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Judy Zamora Rogers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Home Seller 12/20/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Ask a Designer: decorating with Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2