The “repair and deduct” remedy provides that a tenant may deduct up to the amount of one month’s rent, to pay for repair of defects in one’s rental unit. This legal remedy is found at California Civil Code Section 1942 and it covers defective condition that pose a threat to a tenant’s health and safety and that substantially breach the implied warranty of habitability (See California Civil Code Section 1941.1 and Calif. Health and Safety Code Section 17920.3).
A tenant must take the following steps to use the repair and deduct remedy:
- The defects must be serious and directly related to the tenant’s health and safety;
- The repairs cannot cost more than one month’s rent and it be used more than twice in any 12-month period;
- Tenants must not have caused the defects that require repair;
- The tenant must inform the landlord, either orally or in writing, of the repairs that are needed.
- The tenant must give the landlord a reasonable period of time to make the requested repairs. Civil Code Section 1942 interprets “a reasonable time” as 30 days unless “the circumstances require a shorter notice.” For example, if the heater breaks and it is the heart of Winter and very cold in the unit or a pipe bursts and is leaking and the landlord won’t address it, then a tenant may use the repair and deduct remedy in substantially less time than 30 days, possibly as little as a few days.
- If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs within a reasonable period of time, the tenant may either make the repairs or hire someone to do them. The tenant may then deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent when it is due. The tenant should keep all receipts for the repairs.
There is some risk in using this remedy if the landlord demands the full rent in a three day notice to pay rent or quit and the tenant does not pay. In that case, the landlord could attempt to evict said tenant(s).