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Ask Dimitry Esquire Your Own Question
Dimitry Esquire
Dimitry Esquire, Attorney
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 41221
Experience:  Licensed in PA & NJ, Experienced attorney.
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I live in an apartment in Santa Monica, CA. On the day that

Customer Question

I live in an apartment in Santa Monica, CA. On the day that our landlord agreed to let us move in (as specified in the lease), he chose to install laminate flooring in two of the three bedrooms. He chose the flooring on his own and his installers spent the entire day installing it. We had to stay in a hotel that night.
He also failed to have the apartment cleaned before we took up residence the next day, so we had to pay for the cleaners ($350 for two people to work for 5 hours, given that it was a post construction cleaning).
I was suspicious of the flooring he chose (in light of the Lumber Liquidators thing going on) so I took a sample and had it tested, at my own expense, by the ESML lab in Garden Grove for formaldehyde off-gassing.
The result was 1.0 ppm, which is about 10x the maximum allowable limit set by CARB standards here in California (0.11 ppm).
He doesn't seem to understand the gravity of the situation and is treating me like I'm crazy, which is odd considering how much of a public health issue MDF flooring and formaldehyde off gassing has become in the last year.
Couple of things:
- Is the building supply company that sold the toxic flooring at any kind of legal or regulatory fault?
- Are the installers liable?
- Is the landlord?
He has offered to remove and reinstall the flooring if I can find a suitable replacement offered by the same supply company, but I'm not confident that I'll be able to find a flooring that isn't bad.
In that event, I'm trying to understand my options. I'd like to be able to present him with a document that a makes a strong case for us to 1) break the lease without penalty 2) recoup any and all deposits, including the two months rent we paid up front (given we've only lived here a week).
Any advice is appreciated. Feel pretty helpless here, especially since he's not recognizing the nature of the problem.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Dimitry Esquire replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.
First of all, no, you are not crazy and you should not be treated as such. You, as tenant, are entitled to live on property that is deemed to be 'habitable', so if the material is deemed to be toxic, you have every right to demand that the landlord replace and remove the items, reimburse you for testing, and permit you to leave if you wish without penalty. That is because since the property is not legally habitable, it is the liability of the landlord to make it habitable. As far as replacement, it is a viable option but you can demand that the costs and replacement be supervised by you at this point, and if it takes more than 14 days, that you be permitted to terminate the lease without penalty. You already can terminate, but if he argues that he can repair, the 14 days is the limit to do so. As far as the installers, they are probably NOT liable and neither is the supply company unless they were barred from selling this item in the state outright. Without extensive review that I simply cannot answer for you. But there the suit would likely be from the landlord as he would be the victim of a deceptive sales practice and for a products liability claim.
Please do not feel helpless, you have a very legitimate basis here to pursue recourse.
Dimitry, Esq.

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