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We are currently renters at a, motel/apartment complex that

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has sold. the previous owner...
We are currently renters at a, motel/apartment complex that has sold. the previous owner, never repaired are heat for 6 months, until I withheld the rent, then he refused are money, when we asked him to repair are heat, he said that the place was sold and wanted to give us ,$1000, and to be out by 2/15/16. we have four children, one disabled with autism, and $1000 would not be sufficient to get a place, along with the time limit, to move. there are countless problems here, not with just myself the entire complex, not sure if its a motel or residential, because they change it, depending on who they are speaking too..Also some tenants were offered money to move others nothing, but my biggest worry is the lead count here, I was informed that I should have my kids tested, I am taking them this week for testing. We were never informed properly about this, also asbestos, is that here to? this place was built in 1935, health inspector checked 3 units and found over 30 violations here in those 3 units and on the premises. I along with other tenants are upset and want to take further action, any advice?
Submitted: 1 year ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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1/21/2016
Real Estate Lawyer: Christopher B, Esq., Lawyer replied 1 year ago
Christopher B, Esq.
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A tenant this option: filing a lawsuit against the landlord to recover money damages if the landlord does not repair serious defects in the rental unit in a timely manner. Civil Code Section 1942.4. This kind of lawsuit can be filed in small claims court or Superior Court, depending on the amount demanded in the suit. The tenant can file this kind of lawsuit without first trying another remedy, such as the repair and deduct remedy.

If the tenant wins the lawsuit, the court may award the tenant his or her actual damages, plus "special damages" in an amount ranging from $100 to $5,000.Civil Code Section 1942.4(b)(1). "Special damages" are costs that the tenant incurs, such as the cost of a motel room, because the landlord did not repair defects in the rental unit. The party who wins the lawsuit is entitled to recover his or her costs of bringing the suit (for example, court costs), plus reasonable attorney's fees as awarded by the court.Civil Code Section 1942.4(b)(2), Code of Civil Procedure Section 1174.2.

The court also may order the landlord to abate (stop or eliminate) a nuisance and to repair any substandard condition that significantly affects the health and safety of the tenant.Civil Code Section 1942.4(a),(c). For example, a court could order the landlord to repair a leaky roof, and could retain jurisdiction over the case until the roof is fixed.

In order for a tenant to win such a lawsuit against the landlord, all of the following conditions must be met.Civil Code Section 1942.4(a). See Health & Safety Code Sections 17920.3, 17920.10.

  • The rental unit has a serious habitability defect. That is, the rental unit contains a lead hazard that endangers the occupants or the public; or substantially lacks any of the a nuisance endangers the health, life, safety, property, or welfare of the occupants or the public; and
  • A housing inspector has inspected the the minimum requirements for habitability listed in the eight categories or has been declared substandard because, for example, a structural hazard, inadequate sanitation, or premises and has given the landlord or the landlord's agent written notice of the landlord's obligation to repair the substandard conditions or abate the nuisance; and
  • The nuisance or substandard conditions continue to exist 35 days after the housing inspector mailed the notice to the landlord or agent, and the landlord does not have good cause for failing to make the repairs; and
  • The nuisance or substandard conditions were not caused by the tenant or the tenant's family, guests, or pets; and
  • The landlord collects or demands rent, issues a notice of rent increase, or issues a three-day notice to pay rent or quitafter all of the above conditions have been met.

To prepare for filing this kind of lawsuit, the tenant should take all of these basic steps:

  • The tenant should notify the landlord in writing about the conditions that require repair. The rental unit must have serious habitability defects that were not caused by the tenant's family, guests, or pets.
  • The notice should specifically describe the defects and the repairs that are required.
  • The notice should give the landlord a reasonable period of time to make the repairs.
  • If the landlord doesn't make the repairs within a reasonable time, the tenant should contact the local city or county building department, health department, or local housing agency and request an inspection.
  • The housing inspector must inspect the rental unit.
  • The housing inspector must give the landlord or the landlord's agent written notice of the repairs that are required.
  • The substandard conditions must continue to exist 35 days after the housing inspector mailed the notice to the landlord or landlord's agent. The landlord then must collect or demand rent, raise the rent, or serve a three-day notice to pay rent or quit.
  • The tenant should gather evidence of the substandard conditions (for example, photographs or videos, statements of witnesses, inspection reports) so that the tenant can prove his or her case in court.
  • The tenant should discuss the case with a lawyer, legal aid organization, tenant program, or housing clinic in order to understand what the lawsuit is likely to accomplish, and also the risks involved. Civil Code Section 1942.4

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