Is Your Rental Property Considered Uninhabitable?

Did you know a tenant can legally terminate his lease/agreement without any prior notice at any time if the rental property is considered uninhabitable? Did you know a simple mistake of procrastinating on that slow kitchen drain can eventually cause a vacant rental property leaving you out of hundreds of dollars of rent?

Although not exactly law, there are guidelines that protect your renter from becoming a victim of a negligent landlord. Just as a landlord can expect the rent on time month after month, his rental property returned in the same condition as it was leased at the end of a perfect 2 year agreement; the tenant also expects the rental property to be “inhabitable.”

What is Considered Uninhabitable Rental Property?

Civil code 1941.1 is established to protect tenants from the former. How can you protect yourself from a tenant skipping out mid lease? Here are a few recommendations:

  • Always take pictures when your property is move-in ready, before the tenant moves in.
  • It’s always a good idea to have a walk-through of the unit with the new tenant. He may see something you might have missed.
  • All electrical work inside the unit must be in working order. Wall switches, light fixtures, and electrical outlets. This also includes hallways and common areas if applicable.
  • Heating and air conditioning must be in working order (if applicable). Thermostat must work, and the heating must be efficient.
  • Plumbing is essential; hot and cold water with decent water pressure to all faucets in the rental. Check for leaks and fast drains in shower and sinks. Does the garbage disposal work?
  • Are there any cracks or broken windows? Is your weather sealing in good condition? Do they open and lock correctly with properly installed screens?
  • Doors need to be solid in frame and need to have the ability to open and close securely. Exterior doors need to have properly functioning dead bolts and if you have any sliding doors, they need to be properly weather proofed and secure with working locks.
  • Flooring needs to be solid, without holes and tears in carpet. No exposed tact strips or concrete under tiled floor.
  • Common areas, if applicable, need adequate exterior lighting and adequate trash bins. If a parking spot is assigned, this also needs to be clearly marked with adequate lighting to safely reach the rental unit.
  • Gang activity and drug trafficking is considered a nuisance, and also considered a legal recourse to deem your rental property as “uninhabitable”. Keep a keen eye for any suspicious activity, and if any of your tenants reports something to you, report it immediately to local authorities.

Keep in mind that a color of a wall your tenant doesn’t like or the brand of stove is NOT considered to be an uninhabitable living space. Where a tear in a piece of carpet IS considered uninhabitable, a worn or used carpet is not.

If you are to offer your tenant with any type of appliances such as a refrigerator, dish washer, stove or washer/dryer, these also need to be in good working order. Otherwise, the rental property could be considered uninhabitable and you could be liable to unexpected vacancies.

In time of need, tenants can resort to desperate measures. Although these guidelines are established to protect the tenant, landlords must also protect themselves from bad tenants who could want to cop out of a lease prematurely by saying the rented property is uninhabitable. Save yourself the hassle and avoid any potential reasons your tenants may have to try to pull a fast one on you claiming uninhabitable rental property.

At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.

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