Failure To Repair

How To Get Your Landlord To Make Repairs

If a landlord is not responding to multiple written repair requests, the tenant must force the landlord to make repairs. Do not be fearful. The law actually protects a tenant that asserts rights against a landlord. In fact, Cal. Civil Code § 1942.5 creates extra protection for a tenant from eviction for 180 days after a repair request.

File A Lawsuit Against Owner

Depending on the severity of the repair issues, a tenant may have claims against a landlord that can be litigated in Superior Court. For major, ongoing violations, such as no heat, mold, sewage, rodents, leaks, holes in walls, security lapses, and electrical and plumbing issues, an attorney may take a case on contingency. When a case is taken on contingency, the client does not pay until money is recovered. Damages in an affirmative lawsuit can include return of rent paid, punitive damages (punishing the landlord), payment for emotional suffering, and damages for physical harm.

Under California law, tenants may have one or more of the following causes of action against a landlord:


Breach of Warranty of Habitability

Implied in every residential lease is a warranty of habitability. See Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. 3d 616, 638 (1974). California Civil Code § 1941.1 provides the minimum requirements for a habitable residential unit: a) effective waterproofing; (b) unbroken windows and doors; (c) working plumbing and gas facilities; (c) hot and cold running water; (d) proper sewage system; (e) heat; (f) working electrical lighting and wiring; (g)clean grounds; (h)no rodents and vermin; (i) an adequate number of garbage cans; (j)floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair; and (k) a locking mail box.

To prove a claim for breach of warranty of habitability, a tenant must show: (1) an uninhabitable condition; (2) actual knowledge by landlord or constructive knowledge; and (3) damages. Stoiber v. Honeychuck, 101 Cal. App. 3d 903, 918-19 (1980). Constructive knowledge means that a landlord should have known or could have known about the issue with reasonable inspection.
Damages for breach of warranty of habitability include return of rent paid and attorney fees. The statute of limitations for breach of warranty of habitability is two years for an oral lease and four years for a written lease. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 339 and 337. This means that a tenant can only claim a return on rent for two years back on an oral and four years back on a written lease.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Almost always, a failure to make repairs leads to emotional suffering by a tenant. Emotional suffering includes anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation, and shame. The damages for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress are calculated by how much suffering a tenant endured. It is difficult to measure. One thing a tenant can do to help with a damage calculation is to keep a log to track their emotional distress, eg. “May 1, 2010 at 1 a.m. – could not sleep because I could hear rats gnawing at the sofa.”

To prove a claim for negligent emotional distress, a tenant must show that: (1) the landlord negligently cared for the property; (2) the tenant suffered serious emotional distress; and (3) the negligence caused the emotional distress. CACI No. 1620. Serious emotional distress exists if an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with it. Id. The statute of limitations for negligent infliction of emotional distress is two years. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

In extreme cases of landlord neglect, a tenant may seek recovery for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Stoiber v. Honeychuck, 101 Cal. App. 3d at 921. The elements of the tort are: (1) outrageous conduct by the landlord; (2) intent to cause emotional distress or reckless disregard of the probability of causing emotional distress; (3) severe emotional suffering; and (4) actual and proximate causation. Id., citing Newby v. Alto Riviera Apartments, 60 Cal. App. 3d 288, 296 (1976). A tenant can be awarded punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Punitive damage claims are not covered by a landlord’s property liability insurance. A filing of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is likely to make a landlord very nervous because it is not covered by insurance. This increases the likelihood of settlement. The statute of limitations on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is one year. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340.

Constructive Eviction

When repair issues force a tenant to abandon a property, the tenant can file a cause of action for constructive eviction. Stoiber v. Honeychuck, 101 Cal. App. 3d at 921, citing Groh v. Kover’s Bull Pen, Inc., 221 Cal. App. 2d 611 (1963). The property must be in such ill repair that it is unfit for use. Id.

The statute of limitations for constructive eviction is two years for an oral lease and four years for a written lease. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 339 and 337. This means that a tenant must file a claim within two or four years of move out.

Negligence And Negligence Per Se

The landlord may also be liable for physical injuries, including illness. If the landlord has violated a state or local statute and the violation has caused injury, the landlord is presumed to be liable under California law. See CACI No. 418 and Cal. Evid. Code § 669. This means that a jury or judge must presume landlord liability. The landlord can overcome this presumption by showing that the landlord took steps to protect tenants beyond those required by state and local law. A claim for negligence must be brought two years from the date of injury. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.

Violation Of Local Rent Ordinance

Local rent ordinances often contain provisions that allow punitive damage awards against landlords. These provisions typically protect tenants against wrongful eviction or illegal rent increases. If the tenant can show that a landlord refused to make repairs because the tenant was paying rent controlled rent, then the tenant could get a punitive damage award against the landlord. The statute of limitations on a punitive damage claim is one year. Cal. Civ. Proc. § 340.

Claim For Uncured Building Inspection Violation Under Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.4

Where a landlord has failed to correct a building inspection notice within 35 days, each tenant is entitled to actual damages, plus a penalty of $100 to $5,000 as determined by a court, Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.2. These damages are in addition to any other claims the tenant may have. The term “actual damages” includes damages for emotional distress. McNairy v. C.K. Realty, 150 Cal. App. 4th 1500 (2007). The statute also mandates an award of attorney fees to the prevailing party. Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.2(b)(1)(2).

All of the following elements must be shown: (1) the building has a substantial defect that violates Civ. Code § 1941.1, Health & Saf. Code § 17920.10, or Health & Saf. Code § 17920.10 17920.3; (2) the landlord received a notice of violation from the building inspector; and (3) the landlord did not make the necessary repairs within 35 days.

Unfair Business Practices

A tenant may also recover retroactive rent under a claim of unfair business practices. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200. The damage award is cumulative, so an award for unfair business practices does not reduce an award under alternate causes of action. Id. § 17205. A tenant must be in possession to proceed with a claim for unfair business practices. Stoiber v. Honeychuck, 101 Cal. App. 3d 903, 928, citing Barquis v. Merchants, 7 Cal. 3d 94, 110 (1972).

File A Petition With The Local Rent Control Agency

Several cities allow a tenant to file a petition against a landlord to have rent payments reduced until repair issues are resolved. See San Francisco Rent Board Decrease in Services Petition; City of Oakland Rent Adjustment Program Decrease in Housing Services Petition; and City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Individual Rent Adjustment.

The tenant must show a substantial decrease in housing services. This could include no heat, mold, sewage, rodents, leaks, holes in walls, security problems, and electrical and plumbing issues.

Rent control agencies have the power to reduce rent only, which means the tenant must continue to live in the substandard unit to recover. Tenants can recover up to three years back rent. Since a tenant must live in the unit, this is not always the best avenue. But, if a landlord does not have money to pay a judgment in a lawsuit at Superior Court and does not have property liability insurance, a petition with a local rent control agency may be the only way for a tenant to recover.

Report To The City Building Inspector

Nothing gets a landlord moving forward with a repair faster than contacting the department of building inspection. The building inspector will force the landlord to make the repairs by issuing fines for non-compliance. Even though the inspectors tend to be very good at their jobs, it is advisable for tenants to be present on the day of inspection to point out repair issues to the inspector.

Do not call the building inspector if a unit is illegal. The building inspector may require the landlord to destroy the unit.

Robbed and Trashed

Hey guys,

So as I’ve told you my spot was trashed and robbed  the second to last time I was in the ER.

I When Alon broke in back in August 2020 II had been locked out by Mike a couple days before and Danny  had me me call a late night locksmith. i

A couple days later Alon breaks in with no notice, determined to replace the locks I just bought with new fire hazard locks. 

  1. Can you tell me what the urgency was and why you’re so obsessed with the fire hazard locks? I not even want the ability to lock someone. It’s creepy and it bothers people..

So lately you were  putting 24hr notices and I tried to tell you that inspections are illegal.

But when I go to the hospital there’s suddenly an urgent need to break in, replace the fire hazard locks you put  in 15 months ago with fresh fire hazard locks. and you kick out my roommate.

2. What was the urgency here? 

So then when I’m released from the hospital after almost dying… I can’t go back to my place for two nights because I don’t have keys.

Then when I do get in every area is trashed. Much of my stuff gone. Guitar, snowboard, two full sized slot machines, smart watch, money, etc,  etc,  etc.


  • leaking floor
  • locked out of mailbox, no key FOB and my door code screwed up for 15 months

Police want to know who had keys as far as I know  it was just you guys.

There’s only one door and no other way in and no sign of forced entry.

3. Did anyone else have access to the keys but you guys ? If not those locks must be really easy to pick.

  • Whoever trashed my place  had malicious intent.
  • There was a bottle  broken right under where I sit.  I was in the hospital  for two very dangerous leg infections and someone purposefully breaks glass under where my feet usually are?
  • Paperwork completely rearranged. My daughter’s immunization records now in a file with pizza cheese packets. File box pulled off a high shelf and those files mixed in with files from the living room.
  • Futon cover ripped for no reason.
  • They actually brought in junk to throw around that wasn’t here before.
  • This had to be more than one person. One person and a dolly would not be enough to handle slot machines especially with the stairs.
  • This took a fair amount of time


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Keys (15 months) 15%
Burglary / damage 1%
Plumbing 1%
Loose step 1%
Dishwasher 1%
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Covid Relief Act



The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act – SB91 (Act) was signed into law January 29, 2021. The Act extends eviction protections to COVID-19 impacted tenants and establishes the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.


The Act extends tenant protections included in the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 (AB 3088) to June 30, 2021. These protections were originally set to expire on February 1, 2021. The Act includes the same eligibility and program rules as before including:

  • Prevents evictions for nonpayment of rent by tenants experiencing a COVID-19 hardship.
  • Available to any tenant who timely attests under penalty of perjury that he/she has not been able to pay full rent due to COVID-19-related circumstances.
  • If a tenant pays at least 25 percent of his/her rent owed between September 2020 and June 2021, they are permanently protected from eviction for not paying their full rent during this period; however they will still owe their landlord all unpaid rent.
  • Landlords may still proceed with certain other types of “just cause” evictions unrelated to a tenant’s failure to pay rent.


  • Available for households with incomes at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income, with a priority on helping households at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income as well as households unemployed for the preceding 90 days at the time of application.
  • Prioritizes the payment of rental arrearages.
  • Landlords can choose to accept 80 percent of any unpaid rent owed from April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. If a landlord accepts this funding, the landlord agrees to forgive the remaining unpaid rent for that covered period.
  • If a landlord chooses not to participate, the tenant can still apply for relief valued at 25 percent of unpaid back rent they owe for the covered period.
  • Qualified tenants will also be able to access funds to cover 25 percent of prospective rent for the months of April, May, and June of 2021, subject to funding availability.
  • Utility arrearages will also be eligible to be paid, subject to funding availability.
  • The State will directly administer $1.5 billion through either the State Rental Assistance program or through block grants to qualifying local jurisdictions.
  • Emphasis on multilingual, local outreach, fraud prevention, and customer service.
  • Program will be stood up to begin accepting applications in March 2021.


  • Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
  • Protects low-income tenants from landlords assigning or selling their rental debt to a third-party debt collector.
  • “Pay or Quit” Notice period for nonpayment of rent extended from 3 to 15 days.
  • Protects tenants from being evicted for “just cause” if landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19 related nonpayment of rent.
  • Landlord may not charge late fees for nonpayment of rent between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 to tenants who have attested they are experiencing a COVID-19-related hardship.
  • Require landlords to notify all tenants who owe back rent about the availability of their rights and the rental assistance program via an informational notice by February 28, 2021.

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Oakland: Two dead, dozens displaced from apartments in fire

OAKLAND — Two people are dead and dozens of people were left without a home after a fire ravaged an apartment building early Saturday in West Oakland, a fire official said.

The two adult victims were found dead inside one unit of the building and about 30 others have been displaced, Oakland fire Battalion Chief Geoff Hunter said. The fire broke out about 3 a.m. at a former armory now divided into live/work units in two separate buildings, stretching from 669 and 671 24th St. to 674 23rd St., between San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Hunter said.

As the fire grew to a three-alarm blaze, it quickly spread through the roof, which the buildings share, Hunter said. Fire crews also had trouble accessing the fire, he said. Firefighters had the fire under control at 4:10 a.m.

The brick building is home to activists and artists and to AK Press and 1984 Printing, which are both located on the first-floor, 23rd Street side of the building. Both companies suffered significant water damage to their book collections and to the businesses. Employees of AK Press and 1984 Printing were busy Saturday morning pushing water out with brooms.


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Weeks Later, Fatal Fire in West Oakland Still Hurts


Oakland's deadliest fire in nearly three years continues to have an impact on the friends of the two artists who died in the blaze, dozens of displaced residents, and several businesses that have been forced to shut down for weeks.

Investigators believe the March 21 three-alarm blaze at 669 24th St. in West Oakland was probably caused accidentally, after one of the men found dead in the unit where the fire started fell asleep while smoking, said Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Darin White.

Fire officials want to know if one of the men was intoxicated. "We do believe it's possible that alcohol or other drugs could have played a part in the individuals' inability to find themselves able to remove themselves from the situation," White said in an interview.

The fire department got word of the blaze at around 3 a.m. but did not see smoke or fire when they arrived minutes later. However, as crews searched the two-story brick building, a smoke alarm began to sound and smoke started coming out the top of the door leading to Apartment D on the second floor, White said.

Firefighters broke into the unit and "encountered an apartment charged with black smoke all the way to the floor," White said. "Heavy flame was coming from the back of the apartment."


Letona was a digital videographer. "His main passion was cinema," said Ramos, who organized an online fundraising campaign to pay for a recent memorial. Some of his work can be seen on his website,

Thomas, the second victim, had artwork featured in a number of exhibitions and collections in Oakland and San Francisco over the last six years, including the McLoughlin Gallery in Union Square.