The following information comes from the renter’s rights group Tenants Together and the California Department of Consumer Affairs:
Rentals must be habitable, meaning landlords are required to provide safe, sanitary spaces. Landlords must make all needed repairs so long as you pay rent. By law, the landlord cannot evict you or raise your rent because you complain about living conditions.
Habitable spaces are in compliance with building, health and safety codes. The space does not have to look nice. For example, your landlord does not have to paint the walls or change the carpet every year.
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Tenants are responsible for keeping their rented property and common areas such as hallways clean and in good condition. That means repairing all damage caused by them, their guests, children or pets. Tenants can’t require the landlord to fix issues they created.
Some examples of what makes your residence not habitable
▪ Damp or leaking ceiling or walls.
▪ Holes in walls, floor or carpet.
▪ Falling plaster or peeling paint.
▪ Broken or faulty heater.
▪ Missing or broken windows.
▪ Broken or faulty hot water heater.
▪ Missing or broken smoke detectors.
▪ Rats, mice, roaches, bedbugs or other vermin.
▪ Piles of trash.
▪ Unsafe stairs or railings.
▪ Faulty locks or security.
▪ Defective electrical wiring.
What to do if your residence is not habitable
▪ Ask your landlord in person to make the repairs.
▪ Notify your landlord in writing, detailing all existing problems, as soon as possible after you discover them.
▪ Take pictures and date them.
▪ Contact code enforcement.
▪ Keep copies of all correspondence and evidence.
▪ Use certified mail and ask for a receipt for proof of delivery.
What if the landlord doesn’t make the repairs
▪ Small claims lawsuit.
▪ Repair and deduct: California law allows you to repair certain conditions and deduct the cost from your rent.
▪ Rent withholding: This method should be used as a last resort because the landlord will likely try to evict you. Often more successful if all tenants in your building work together.
Who to contact about housing issues
City of Fresno
Staff who speak languages other than English are available upon request. Housing issues also can be reported by downloading the FresGo smartphone app: Click “new request,” then “code enforcement issues,” then choose the “other” option under “code enforcement problem.”
Information from those who report issues is confidential but required to process a case. Code enforcement is at 2600 Fresno St., third floor, room 3076, Fresno.
Unincorporated areas of Fresno County
Other resources and guides
California landlord and tenant responsibilities outline (other languages available at the bottom of the page): fblinks.com/outline
Central California Legal Services housing information (English and Spanish): fblinks.com/housing
Central California Legal Services YouTube videos on tenants rights (English and Spanish): fblinks.com/videos
Central California Legal Services, free legal assistance for low-income residents: 2115 Kern St., Suite 1 in Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org, 559-570-1200 or toll free 800-675-8001; fblinks.com/ccls
California Apartment Association, a trade group providing education and customer service to apartment owners, managers, investors, developers and suppliers of apartment communities: email@example.com, 559-221-2533, fblinks.com/caa