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Safety standards for residential landlords

Residential landlords must comply with safety regulations and ensure that their units are habitable.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when renting out your property in California.


  • Habitability – All housing units must be habitable or fit for human occupancy.  That means they must comply with minimum safety and sanitation standards as well as local housing and building codes.


Such residences have the following features:

  • Waterproofing and proper insulation on all doors and windows
  • Gas and plumbing
  • Hot and cold running water
  • Heating
  • Electrical lighting
  • Floors, railings and stairways where necessary

Landlords upon noticing, must remedy any situation in which unsanitary and unsafe conditions arise.  


  • Repairs – A lease agreement requires landlords to make necessary repairs and replacements before the tenant occupies the apartment.  Likewise, the tenant must report any defects that arise during their stay in the unit.


The landlord must make repairs in a timely fashion; if they do not, tenants can make the repairs themselves and the costs may be deducted from their monthly payment.  This process called the repair-and-deduct remedy has limitations – the costs of repair must not exceed a month’s rent, and the remedy may only be availed twice every 12 months.

Tenants can wait 30 days for the landlord to make repairs, after which they can take matters into their own hands, but not without giving the landlord notice.


  • On-site security


Landlords are obliged to prevent harm only on their property and within their control by exercising ordinary care in maintaining the site.  While they are responsible for security within the premises, they cannot be held liable for incidents that take place on the sidewalks that are used as ingress and egress to the property.


  • Fire and emergency safety


The property must comply with building codes and regulations with regard to fire safety and emergency.  Landlords must install operable carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in all units and shared areas. They must also fix or replace faulty detectors upon written or oral notice from the tenant.

However, if the tenant is unable to notify the landlord and the owner is not aware that there is a the problem, then they cannot be held liable for any safety hazard caused by malfunctioning detectors.  


  • Infestations


All units must be substantially free of pests like rodents and roaches to be considered habitable. Landlords are also required to present a bed bug notice to prospective renters when entering a lease agreement.


  • Pets


The landlord is responsible for monitoring tenants’ pets on the property, especially if they are aware of dangerous pets, like vicious dogs or aggressive breeds.  They can be held liable for any injuries resulting from animal behavior.  They may avert danger by serving a notice to the tenant to either remove the animal or vacate the premises. The landlord, however, is not liable for injuries caused by animals not owned by tenants.


  • Foreseeable danger


Landlords have the responsibility to protect tenants and their visitors from foreseeable harm. Unsafe conditions are considered foreseeable if:

  • There have been prior occurrences of robbery or assault because of unsafe conditions
  • Units lack standard security installments, like door locks
  • Building and housing codes mandate specific measures that the landlord must follow

“Reasonably foreseeable” is a fluid concept, and is decided on a case-to-case basis by the courts.