Tenants: Your rights in breaking a rental lease in California

You moved into a home, and you are disgusted by its conditions. You were not looking for perfection, but you feel unclean and unsafe at the property. Although the landlord deemed all elements of the home to be in working order, you want to break your lease terms.

In California, if you sign a lease agreement for a home that you cannot live in adequately, you may legally terminate your lease. You want to ensure that your claim is valid by hiring a committed and experienced landlord-tenant attorney who can provide you with advice on your specific circumstances. Know that if you sign a lease for a home that is inhabitable, you have the right to move without repercussions.

Valid reasons for early termination of leases

Though you understand that your leased property may not prove perfect, you feel as though the home cannot safety or legally provide shelter. According to California law, you may terminate your rental lease if your home lacks any of the follow items.

  • Weather protection, including broken windows
  • Plumbing or gas facilities
  • Adequate water supply
  • Working heat
  • Electricity
  • Sanitary building and grounds, free from garbage and rodents
  • Adequate number of garbage bins
  • Safe and intact floors and stairs

Your responsibility in leasing

You may want to discuss issues of habitability with your landlord before beginning lease termination. A landlord has the obligation and authority to fix inhabitable issues immediately, so that you can continue to live in the home.

As a tenant, you are also responsible for:

  • Keeping conditions sanitary
  • Properly using all electricity, gas and plumbing machines
  • Disposing of trash respectfully
  • Not destroying or damaging the property
  • Notifying the landlord of defects and lock issues

If you lease a home, and the conditions do not seem adequate, discuss your issues with your landlord. Most often, a landlord will be willing and able to hire a contractor to fix the issues, so that you do not have to move. However, if the landlord is unresponsive or does not want to amend the habitable issues, you want to speak with an attorney about how to proceed with terminating your lease early, so that you can collect evidence and avoid paying for the remainder of your lease in the inadequate home.

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