The heat in my rented apartment broke, what can I do?

With colder months coming upon us here in California, if your heating system has failed, now is the time to take action. Heat may be a mandatory provision of the landlord under the implied warranty of habitability, regardless of your rental agreement.

Lack of heat in cold months can certainly affect your health and safety, as well as that of your family. As such, proper heating is implied part of your lease even if not noted expressly in that lease.

Notification to landlord

The first action you will want to consider taking is notifying your landlord of the problem. Ideally, you will call the landlord and give the landlord the details verbally, so he or she has the necessary information to take responsible action immediately. However, you then should follow up that phone call with a letter reiterating the details of the problem, confirming that you spoke to the landlord or the landlord’s agent, or left a voicemail, and the date you did so.

Although not mandated under the law, it is best to send that letter certified mail, return receipt requested. This way there can be no legitimate dispute that you did send that letter because you will have documentary proof that you did by the United States Postal Service. You will also have proof that the landlord received the letter once you get your green card back. Always make copies of the letter as well as your receipt and tracking number.

With any luck, you will find your landlord to be professional and take care of the business at hand.

If landlord fails to repair heat

However, if the landlord fails to repair this heating problem, you have a few options to consider:

  • Withhold prospective rent
  • Repair heat and deduct cost from rent
  • Abandon rental and move out

Each of these remedies come with their own set of rules to best protect yourself and risks as well, if your categorization of your repair need does not fit the legal standard to use one of these remedies. As such, you will likely want to review whichever remedy you pursue, in detail before you act.

This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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