Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

I have a single unit condo rental, the tenant has removed the staircase railing without my permission. It is against building code, I have requested them to put it back into its place which they agreed but have still left undone If anyone gets injured on these stairs can I be held liable? Also what steps can I take to absolve myself from liability?

Asked on 11/29/17, 9:22 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Fred Valentine Law Offices of Fred L. Valentine

Before renting a rental unit to a tenant, a landlord must make the unit fit to live in, or habitable. Additionally, while the unit is being rented, the landlord must repair problems that make the rental unit unfit to live in, or uninhabitable. All residential leases and rental agreements contain an implied warranty of habitability. That is, the landlord must repair substantial defects in the rental unit and substantial failures to comply with state and local building and health codes. However, the landlord is not responsible under the implied warranty of habitability for repairing damages that were caused by the tenant or the tenant's family, guests, or pets.

In addition to generally requiring a tenant to take reasonable care of the rental unit and common areas (see above), the law lists specific things that a tenant must do to keep the rental unit liveable.

Tenants must do all of the following

Keep the premises "as clean and sanitary as the condition of the premises permits."

Use and operate gas, electrical, and plumbing fixtures properly. (Examples of improper use include overloading electrical outlets; flushing large, foreign objects down the toilet; and allowing any gas, electrical, or plumbing fixture to become filthy.)

Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.

Not destroy, damage, or deface the premises, or allow anyone else to do so.

Not remove any part of the structure, dwelling unit, facilities, equipment, or appurtenances, or allow anyone else to do so.

Use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for their intended purposes. For example, the bedroom must be used as a bedroom, and not as a kitchen.

Notify the landlord when dead bolt locks and window locks or security devices don't operate properly.

If a tenant violates these requirements in some minor way, the landlord is still responsible for providing a habitable dwelling, and may be prosecuted for violating housing code standards. If the tenant fails to do one of these required things, and the tenant’s failure has either substantially caused an unlivable condition to occur or has substantially interfered with the landlord’s ability to repair the condition, the landlord does not have to repair the condition. However, a tenant cannot withhold rent or has no action against the landlord for violating the implied warranty of habitability if the tenant has failed to meet these requirements. The Landlord should notify tenant in writing of breach of agreement and as this is a major safety issue take steps to repair or inspect after tenant repair.

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Answered on 12/01/17, 2:17 am

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