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CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10215
Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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I lease a SFR in Ventura, CA. Our lease states that the

Customer Question

I lease a SFR in Ventura, CA. Our lease states that the landlord will pay for pool service, but will not be responsible for pool equipment. The landlord did not notify us of the pool leak, which was evident when the water level dropped 5" in the first 3 days we occupied the home. We notified the landlord, who hired leak detection, which presented the issues needed to be fixed, of which the landlord authorized only the lesser of the work to attempt remediation. The work was done, pool filled; water level, again, dropped 5" in less than a week. The leak was "slower", but nonetheless, leaking. Water was disappearing at much faster rate compared to normal evaporation rates for our pool size/location/weather. We again notified the landlord. This time, the landlord was slow to respond - 6 months slow. Now, I have taken photos of the pool levels, coping changes, cement slab changes, cracks, ground openings etc since day 1 - so I have records. It was impossible to keep the pool clean, because the water pressure was altered and stayed too low for the filters to work adequately. It was "green" within 2 days of pool cleaning. Add to that the mosquitos that started. The water was stagnating. The landlord finally had leak detection report #2 completed, the necessary work presented, and again they opted to get by authorizing only the least possible work in their 2nd attempt to rememediate the issue. AGAIN, we filled the pool, and I immediately started measuring the water level drop. AGAIN, within 4 days the water level dropped over 5". We were instructed to bring water level up to normal AGAIN; AGAIN it was filled and the water dropped 4" within 3 days. This morning, an entire concrete slab popped above the ground in one area of the work they decided to forego. I spoke with both pool contractors, both of whom stated that the landlord would not authorize all the work necessary to stop the leaking.
Here are my issues: we were promised use of the pool; we weren't notified of the leak before signing (which was evident to is within our first 3 days at the house); we've lost months of promised possible pool usage due to unhealthful water conditions (pool equipment couldn't filter properly with chronically low water; algae = high bacteria; water couldn't circulate properly, so cloudy and stagnant) and the shut-down times during the two repair periods; our water bill is charged at the highest tier because of the amount of water necessary for us to keep filling the pool with, to compensate for the leaks - we are paying for their choice to not fix the issue ($200-300 extra per month) - if we don't keep the pool filled, the pool equipment cannot operate properly and that would be our fault. There are a number of habitability items that we have not bothered them about, out of fear of retaliation. We paid $1600 for the carpets to be replaced because they smelled of dog urine (landlord agreed to compensate us - but hasn't); we paid $350 to have interior shutters repaired because they were broken and had missing parts - we couldn't close them & people could see inside (landlord was notified so he could reimburse, but hasn't); there are no screens on any of the 10 windows/sliding doors on the home - meaning we can't open any of them due to bugs and mice trying to get inside. My daughter has a severe disability and needs the pool for physical therapy which is the main reason we chose this home - because of the pool - and the landlord knew that prior to us moving in.
What are my options?
If they don't want to pay the $8000 to completely fix the leakages, can we... make an agreement for them to pay the bill for the water necessary to keep it full while its in disrepair & have them release us of liability for any deterioration of the pool due to the leakages?
Are they mandated under any law/ordinance to actually fix this?
If they want to get rid of the pool & fill it in, can we request a lower lease amount? Can we request reimbursement for all the water we've paid to compensate for the state of the pool disrepair and all the time we've been unable to use it?
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 4 months ago.

Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

Your remedy is to sue the landlord for breach of contract (the lease agreement) - they failed to maintain the premises (specifically the pool) in a working condition, as it was advertised.

You can utilize the CA small claims court (The CA Courts have a helpful self help site that has information and all of the forms you will need here):

In addition to asking the court for an order requiring the landlord to repair the pool, you can also ask for monetary damages including the cost of additional water (or whatever other costs you have incurred due to their negligent repairs), and you can ask for money damages for the decreased value of the home (what the home would be worth with a pool as compared to without a pool for the time that you cannot use it).

(You can also include claims for your other disputes in the same breach of contract suit).

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
We have a severely disabled child (wheelchair), and finding a home to lease was very, very difficult. We don't want to leave, nor do we want the landlord to try to hike rent or refuse to renew the lease as he has promised (lease up in Aug).
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I'm looking for ways to work with the landlord - I need him on my side - not as an enemy.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 4 months ago.

While asserting your rights is not risk free, filing a lawsuit will entitle you to protections against "retaliatory actions and eviction" -see:

Short of filing a lawsuit, you can try to mediate the dispute with them - contact your local bar association and request referrals to mediators, a third party neutral can often help you reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Use the bar association's referrals to contact a mediator or two, the mediator will then contact the other party to set up a mediation session, and you can go from there - hopefully resulting in a formal or written settlement agreement, and save yourself the time and expense of litigation.