Mar 6, 2020

Renter’s Rights and Court

Most renters don’t realize they can take their landlord/property owner to court and it is not that difficult when it comes to important issues like Health and Safety. For those that do realize it they may think it is an insurmountable task that cost lots of money. That is not necessarily true.

For example; if there has been some type of leak in your home and it has not been properly taken care of you can take them to court for ‘Breach of Contract and Implied Warranty of Habitability’. Let’s explain this a bit more.

California Senate Bill 655 (which passed over 4 years ago) requires property owners to ‘ maintain the property free of dampness and mold’. If either of these conditions exist in the home after the owner has been duly informed then they become in ‘Breach of Contract’ as stated above.

One reason dampness is in the bill is that it leads to mold growth within a day or two of the moisture being present. In addition it also leads to harmful bacteria growth within about 3 to 5 days of moisture (left untreated) which is called ‘gray water’ or category 2 water as mentioned in a previous post. Then within about another 5 days it becomes ‘black water’ or category 3 water due to more extensive bacteria growth.

Both of these is listed as a ‘Health Hazard’ per the CDC and every health department in the country. But before rushing to court you want to make sure you have the proper ‘evidence’ to do this. Keep in mind that ‘safety’ is paramount and the primary issue we all have to be concerned with.

Depending on what action your landlord has taken on the problem to your home you likely will need an inspection of the affected areas or property by a professional such as a ‘Mold Inspector’ or other similarly certified person who can evaluate the issue and put it into a written report that can be used in court. The inspector would also have to be potentially available to testify to the report in court. The inspector being present to testify is especially important as he/she would be considered the expert on the issue and to ‘validate’ the report.

In this example I am referring to using ‘small claims’ court in California. In small claims neither side can have a lawyer and the judge may tend to favor the tenant when there is a violation by the landlord. So there is no lawyer expense. However, I do recommend you consult with one in the specific health and safety issue and they can recommend how to proceed. I would also recommend have a ‘Legal Shield’ policy which provides unlimited consultation on the phone for a basic monthly fee of about $25/month. And you don’t have to keep the policy in force for more than your consultations if you don’t want to. I will write more in the next post.

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