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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 35795
Experience:  16 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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I live in a 4 unit building in San Francisco, CA. My

Customer Question

I live in a 4 unit building in San Francisco, CA. My apartment was swarmed by flying termites last week. After speaking with a pest control expert on the phone and sending him a picture of one of the termites, he determined that they were dampwood termites most likely coming from inside the building.
I told the building manager this and she said she would send the handyman to spot treat the area where they were most concentrated and call for an inspection of the building. The handyman came last week but the inspector has not. I have not heard from the building manager and she is unresponsive to emails and calls. We are getting swarmed again. Dampwood termites are not harmful to humans, but a dozen flying bugs the size of quarter that are attracted to light in the apartment is terrifying.
My specific questions are:
*Does this constitute and uninhabitable living space?
*Can I check into a hotel and deduct the cost from my rent until this is resolved?
*Can I take my building manager to court to force her to inspect the building and tent it if recommended by the inspector?
*What other recourse do I have against the building manager? She has a track record of refusing to repair issues in the apartment, being unresponsive to calls and emails, and a highly unpleasant disposition.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 6 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply,but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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*Does this constitute and uninhabitable living space?

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As a general rule, any type of insect infestation would violate the implied warranty of habitability inherent in every lease.

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*Can I check into a hotel and deduct the cost from my rent until this is resolved?

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According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, a rental property must be habitable when a tenant lives there. This means that it must comply with building codes, must not be in disrepair and must not endanger the tenant's safety. A bug infestation generally renders the property uninhabitable so you could vacate and hold the landlord liable if you have notified them of the problem and given them a reasonable time to cure the problem.

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You would need to notify the landlord that you will be vacating and staying in a hotel, holding them responsible for the cost, if they don't take action within a reasonable time, maybe 24 hours..

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*Can I take my building manager to court to force her to inspect the building and tent it if recommended by the inspector?

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Yes, you can sue the manager/landlord for breach of contract for failing to provide a habitable dwelling as required by law. You can also call the local Code Enforcement and Housing Inspector's office and request an inspection. They can inspect and cite the landlord for failing to meet Code.

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*What other recourse do I have against the building manager? She has a track record of refusing to repair issues in the apartment, being unresponsive to calls and emails, and a highly unpleasant disposition.

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You can sue for "diminished value" for the reduced value of the apartment with the bugs as damages to be determined by the judge in small claims court. But the manager is just the agent for the landlord, so that is who you would have to sue. The judge can basically order the landlord to pay you a retroactive reduction based on how long the problem has existed since you are paying full rent for a bug free dwelling

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thanks Barrister. Is there a legal definition of infestation? There have been about a dozen flying termites swarming the apartment at a time so just wondering if that would hold up in court in case the building manager contests my hotel bills
Expert:  Barrister replied 6 months ago.

You are very welcome. Happy to help any time.

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Is there a legal definition of infestation?

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No. More than one but it would be a subjective determination.... Is 10 an infestation? or 100? or 1000?

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But when I think of infestation, I am thinking over a hundred... A dozen is likely not going to be considered an infestation by a judge as someone could easily kill a dozen with bug spray or a fly swatter.

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Common definition: 1. To inhabit or overrun in numbers or quantities large enough to be harmful, threatening, or obnoxious

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So honestly, I think it would be very unlikely a judge would find a dozen to be an infestation so as to justify you moving to a hotel at the landlord's expense...

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You can still threaten to do so if the landlord doesn't have an exterminator cure the problem and that might be enough to "encourage" them to take action.

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thanks

Barrister

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