Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in California

My tenant in a CA house reported water coming from an upstairs bathroom into the ceiling and drywall below. He called a plumber, who removed a large clog mass from plumbing inside the house (sent me a photo). Do I hire someone to dry out the room below, repair the drywall and bill the tenant? Cost estimate so far is $2000 just for mold mitigation work, which is half the security deposit. Lease says "Tenant shall be charged for any repairs due to drain blockages or stoppages". Does this include charges for mitigation and replacing water-affected sections of walls or ceiling?

Asked on 2/08/22, 11:13 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP

That clause is unlikely to hold up in CA. The property owner has a "non-delegable duty" to maintain plumbing in residential properties. If you try to enforce the clause your tenant is likely to consult a plaintiff's attorney who will latch onto the mold and file a fat lawsuit for having an uninhabitable dwelling. Defending those kinds of shake-down cases is a big chunk of my present case load. The only exception to this would be if you can conclusively prove that the tenants put things down the drain that don't belong down a drain and that caused the clog. And even then you risk that lawsuit, even though you could win it.

In any case, to fend off that un-habitability claim, get that place dried out and repaired IMMEDIATELY. Then sort the rest out later.

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Answered on 2/09/22, 7:56 am

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