Q: My business rental is infested with fleas. It is uninhabitable. Am I responsible to pay rent?
We have bombed the location 3 times, treated 5+ and still infested from rodents living under the floor. We're paying rent though still unable to do business because of COVID. But the space has been uninhabitable regardless. Are we still responsible for paying rent if the space is toxic with Flea Bomb for the next month or longer?
A: So sorry to hear about this. The value of the rental directly corresponds to the quality of the Rental, and it sounds like the condition has seriously negatively affected the quality. A rental comes with a "Warranty of Habitability" and if the LANDLORD breaches that warranty, your obligation to pay rent is affected.
Is the Habitability Breach Substantial?
If a tenant raises a breach of the warranty of habitability, you must determine whether the breach is substantial. CCP §1174.2(a). In some cases you weigh the evidence, in others you are aided by some statutory guidance. For example, there is a per se substantial breach if the landlord has failed to comply with any building and housing code standards which materially affect health and safety. CCP §1174.2(c).
Habitability comprises a number of standard conditions relating to plumbing, heating, electricity, and other aspects of residential living, nearly all of which are set out in CC §1941.1(a):
1 Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
2 Plumbing or gas facilities that conform to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, and maintained in good order.
3 A water supply approved under applicable law capable of producing hot and cold running water, furnished through appropriate fixtures, and connected to an approved sewage system.
4 Heating facilities conforming to applicable law at the time of installation, and maintained in good order.
5 Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment conforming to applicable law at the time of installation, and maintained in good working order.
6 Premises clean at the time of commencement of the rental agreement, free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin, with lessor-controlled areas kept free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
7 Adequate garbage and rubbish receptacles.
8 Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair.
9 A locking mail receptacle for each unit in a residential hotel. See Health & S C §17958.3.
10 Door locks and window locks in certain circumstances. See CC §1941.3.
The first issue you need to address is how are you going to prove it? You will need a lot of photos and videos, probably some witnesses other than your family. You need to give WRITTEN notice to the Landlord and request that the LL remedy the situation. If he does not take appropriate action in an appropriate time, you can fix it yourself and use a "repair and deduct" to withhold the cost of the repairs AFTER NOTICE, from your rent. But I sense your question isn't about the cost of the flea bombs, but about whether you have to continue to pay rent at all. This is womething that cannot be determined without knowing all the facts.
You can take a proactive approach, and sue your landlord for the diminution in the value of the rental or you could withhold rent (rent strike) until it is fixed and defend yourself form an Unlawful Detainer (eviction action). If your LL tries to evict you for protesting uninhabitable premises and LOSES, he could be liable in your counter suit for wrongful eviction.
You need to speak to a local attorney or legal aid society.
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