Hot water is a critical part of modern life.
Not only is it essential for personal hygiene, it plays a key role in cleaning and disinfecting household items, clothes, and kitchen utensils, which in turn promotes a healthy living environment.
If your hot water is no longer available, one of the most pressing questions on your mind is going to be how long your landlord has to fix it.
In this article, I am going to answer that question in the context of California law. I will provide an overview of what the law states, and what you can do if you feel like your landlord is not complying with legal requirements.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
In California, landlords must repair hot water issues within a reasonable period of time. Although the law does not specify exactly how long that is, a common interpretation is that a landlord has 30 days to comply, although a shorter period may apply depending on the circumstances. A key exception to this rule is if the tenant is at fault for the issue
Ok, let’s get into it!
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Under California Law, Hot Water is Essential For Habitability
Under the California Civil Code, tenants are entitled to a habitable dwelling, which includes the provision of hot water. Source.
As such, landlords are required to maintain hot water and make needed repairs. As referenced above, however, there is a notable exception for when the tenant is at fault in causing the hot water issue through misuse or other similar conduct. Source.
Obviously, a tenant must properly notify a landlord of a hot water issue (more on that later) before a landlord’s duty to repair comes into play.
How Much Time Do Landlords Have to Fix Hot Water Issues?
Unfortunately, California laws don’t specify an exact time frame for essential repairs.
However, the California tenant guidelines state that a “reasonable period” is allowed to make the repair, How long is “reasonable” will depend on the circumstances. They do note that the law usually considers 30 days to be reasonable.
Obviously, hot water is an important facet of life as we discussed above, so landlords should move quickly to fix it.
What Steps Should I Take When the Hot Water Fails?
According to the California Tenants Guide, if the issue requires urgent attention, you should do the following:
- Contact the landlord orally (i.e., telephone or in person)
- Send a written communication to the landlord memorializing the discussion immediately after.
- You should describe in that communication the issue and the required repair and should date the writing and always keep a copy of it.
- The written communication should be sent via certified mail (recommended even though law doesn’t require it). Personal delivery to the landlord works too (you should ask for a receipt to prove that notice was delivered and keep it)
Once you’ve given the proper notice to the landlord, then the ball is in their court to address the issue promptly.
What Can I Do If My Landlord Refuses to Fix the Hot Water?
If you’re in a situation where your landlord won’t fix problems affecting habitability (like hot water) promptly, California law has a number of solid remedies that you can pursue.
The three main ones are (i) abandonment of the property, (ii) paying for the repairs yourself and deducting the costs from your rent, or (iii) withholding rent until repairs are made. All three require that the defect threaten the health and safety of the tenant. Source.
We’ll cover each of these in turn.
Repair and Deduct
Tenants may use a “repair and deduct” remedy when the landlord is not being responsive. Under this solution, a tenant may pay for the repair himself and deduct the cost from the rental payment.
To do this, you must meet a variety of requirements, including that the repair cannot cost more than one month’s rent, the tenant is not at fault, and the landlord was notified of the issue and had a reasonable opportunity to fix it, but did not do so.
In extreme circumstances you may have the right to abandon the property. Similar requirements apply to this remedy as the repair and deduct remedy.
Typically, this is used when repairing the issue would cost more than one month’s rent. It is a drastic measure, though, so you should carefully consider alternatives before pulling the trigger on this.
A tenant may choose to withhold some or all of the rent if a landlord fails to make timely repairs to the hot water.
As with the prior remedies, the condition has to be a threat to the health and safety of the tenant, the tenant must not be at fault and the landlord must have received notice and failed to repair in a timely way.
So there you have it – a clear answer to how quickly landlords must fix hot water issues in California and tips on how to deal with a landlord who does not comply with legal requirements.
Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!