Withhold the Rent?

Should you withhold paying rent if your apartment has housing violations?

Last week I wrote about the landmark decision by the California Supreme Court. The opinion in Green v. Superior Court stated the landlord has a duty to provide a habitable apartment.  Another crucial question in the case was whether the tenant had the right to withhold rent if the apartment is not habitable.

What the Court Decided

In an eviction for nonpayment of rent, the Court stated the tenant’s duty to pay rent is mutually dependent upon the landlord’s fulfillment of an implied warranty of habitability.  In other words, your requirement to pay rent every month depends on your landlord providing your with an apartment that does not have housing code violations.  If the tenant can prove the landlord failed to provide a habitable apartment, he may demonstrate his nonpayment of rent was justified and no rent was due to the landlord.

Despite the Court Decision

Despite this decision, in the years since this case, the Court of Appeal has generally have looked unfavorably upon tenants who withhold rent.

Therefore, the answer I give as an experienced tenant attorney as to whether you should withhold paying rent if your apartment has housing violations is: NO. I do not recommend it.

In my experience, if you want the landlord to correct your home’s housing violations, there are other avenues to take which will give you a greater chance of success on getting the housing code violations in your apartment repaired. You might want to talk to an experienced tenant attorney who can advise you on how best to act.

Source: Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal.3d 616 (1974)

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

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