Many landlords in San Diego think all they have to do is collect rent and that ends their obligation to you. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, California holds landlords to an extremely high standard when it comes to the welfare and safety of their tenants. Unfortunately, many landlords think tenant health and habitability complaints are a nuisance and refuse to make the repairs the law requires.
The implied warranty of habitability covers all of the residential premises of tenants, including the tenant’s own dwelling unit and all common areas, including hallways, stairways, parking lots, roofs, and common grounds. Civil Code §1941.1. Thus, a failure to remedy a prohibited condition on any part of the premises may amount to a breach. Civil Code Section 1941.1 enumerates eight “affirmative standard characteristics” required to render a dwelling unit “tenantable” (meaning “habitable”). If the unit “substantially lacks” any of these characteristics, it is deemed “untenantable” and hence in violation of the landlord’s duty to render and maintain a residential building “fit” for residential occupation. Civil Code §1941; Friedman, et al.,
California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant (The Rutter Group) (1999), Section 3:13 at p. 3-5. One specific “tenantability” characteristic which is very much at issue in most cases is “weather protection.” Civil Code Section 1941.1(a) lists this as one of the eight characteristics and requires effective waterproofing and weather protection of the roof, exterior walls, windows, and doors.
California law is very strict about the obligations it imposes on landlords. A landlord cannot eliminate these responsibilities simply by hiring someone else to act as the property manager or by hiring an independent contractor to make repairs. For instance, when a landlord hires someone else, such as a property manager, to perform maintenance or repair obligations, the duty at issue is “non-delegable” for purposes of legal liability. See, e.g., Srithong v. Total Investment Co. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 721, 726. “A landlord cannot escape liability for failure to maintain property in a safe condition by delegating that duty to an independent contractor….[T]he duty which a possessor of land owes to others to put and maintain it in reasonably safe condition is non-delegable.” Srithong, supra, at 726 (quoting Brown v. George Pepperdine Foundation (1943) 23 Cal.2d 256, 260). See also, Friedman, et al., California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant (The Rutter Group) (1999), Section 6:9.1 at p. 6-3. By law, landlords are vicariously liable for the negligence of their independent contractors (such as property managers or maintenance employees) in performing work involving “non-delegable duties” such as maintenance and repair. See, e.g., Srithong, supra; Aceves v. Regal Pale Brewing Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 502, 509.
Most San Diego mold cases are about the duty of due care owed regarding the repair and maintenance of the tenant’s rental home. They are also about how the landlord breached his or her duty of due care in preventing and responding to moisture buildup and water damage into the home. While toxic mold growth is one of the consequences of a landlord’s failure, these cases are basically about how the landlord failed to prevent and failed to properly respond to indications of water damage, leaks and foul odors in tenant’s rental home and how such failures violated applicable codes and standards.
If you believe your landlord has violated your rights call the experienced personal injury lawyers at Thompson|Wedeking for a free comprehensive consultation. Don’t try and fight your landlord on your own. He or she will have powerful insurance company lawyers on their side that will vigorously defend mold and water damage claims. Contact us today at 619.615.0767 or email Anthony Thompson at ADT@ThompsonWedeking.com.