Every apartment owner or a landlord has a legal responsibility to maintain and uphold a healthy and safe living environment in his/her rental unit. Unfortunately, some landlords, also known as slum lords, neglect their rental units, making their tenants subject to a substandard and uninhabitable living environment.
The audacity of these slum lords to subject their tenants to a substandard living environment while collecting rent is unacceptable and despicable. As a tenant, you have a right to live in a habitable environment, and the landlord has no right to evict you in his/her rental unit for complaining.
If you believe your landlord is violating your rights to live in a safe and habitable environment, you should retain the services of an attorney to explore your legal options. You don't have to live in an unsafe and unhealthy environment with the right legal experts in your corner.
Who is a Slumlord?
According to section 1941.1 of the Civil Code, every landlord must maintain his/her property in a safe and habitable environment to ensure their tenants are comfortable. A landlord becomes a slumlord, also known as a slum landlord when he/she fails to meet the required habitability requirements to ensure their tenants are comfortable.
Slumlords take advantage of many individuals living in economically underprivileged neighborhoods who lack the resources to fight back. They ignore their legal responsibility to ensure their apartments are livable and threaten their tenants with eviction or deportation once they complain about their living conditions.
Filing a lawsuit against your landlord or "slum lord litigation" can be intimidating and scary, especially after receiving some threats or any form of retaliation from your landlord. However, it might be the only way to achieve the justice you need to live in a habitable and tenantable environment.
If your landlord neglects his/her rental unit even after receiving your messages about the substandard conditions, you should take legal action against him/her as soon as possible. Do not agree to live in an unhealthy and uninhabitable apartment under the hands of a "heartless" slumlord.
How to Know if You Have Valid Claim Against a Slumlord
Various circumstances and conditions make a rental unit " uninhabitable and untenantable" under the law. According to section 1941.1 of the Civil Code, at minimum, every apartment or rental unit must have the following:
- No unnecessary lead paint hazards
- Well maintained stairways, railings, and floors
- Well maintained and functioning heating facilities that are compliant with the required regulations
- Well maintained and functioning gas and plumbing facilities, including a working kitchen sink
- Effective and well-maintained weather protection and waterproofing exterior walls and roofs, including unbroken doors and windows
- Deadbolt locks on particular doors and windows
- Well maintained and functioning electrical lighting system
- Sufficient water supply (both cold and hot water)
- Sanitary and clean grounds and buildings that are free from filth, debris, garbage, and rodents
If your rented house lacks the above requirements of a habitable home, you should inform your landlord before seeking legal action against him/her. Under the law, landlords might not be accountable for poor housing and substandard living conditions if they are unaware their rental units are unlivable.
You might have a valid claim against your landlord if your rented house lacks the above necessities and requirements of a comfortable and livable home. However, it is wise to notify your landlord about these conditions in writing before filing a lawsuit against him/her for the uninhabitable living conditions in his/her rental units or apartment.
Remember to keep a copy of this notice and any response from him/her because it might be necessary during the lawsuit to prove that the landlord was aware of the unlivable and substandard conditions in his/her rental units. If you are currently struggling with untenantable and substandard living conditions, you should talk with an attorney to know your legal options and rights as a tenant.
Additional Helpful Tips on How to Deal With a Slumlord
Before taking legal action against your landlord, it is vital to consider the following tips to avoid unnecessary complications with him/her:
Read and Understand Terms of Your Lease Before Your Put Your Signature on Any Paper
Before signing your lease agreement, it is wise to read and understand its content. It is advisable to read through your lease agreement keenly to identify and know when your landlord breaches its terms while you are in his/her rental units or apartments.
Additionally, reading and understanding your lease agreement allows you to see and identify potentially problematic issues with his/her rental units before making any significant commitments. If you are unfamiliar with specific terms of your lease agreement, you should speak with an attorney for legal guidance.
Know Your Legal Rights as a Tenant
Knowing your legal rights as a tenant or a renter is critical to identify when your landlord violates them during your lease term. If it is your first time renting an apartment, you should remember you have a legal right to live in a habitable environment, and your landlord has a legal right to ensure this happens.
If your rented house is uninhabitable, the landlord must provide an appropriate and immediate remedy to the issue as soon as possible. Under the law, a landlord should not collect rent from his/her tenants if the apartments or rentals they live in are uninhabitable.
If your landlord is still collecting rent from you after informing him/her of the unlivable conditions, you can continue paying to avoid eviction. However, the rent you will pay during this period is legally recoverable with the right attorney in your corner to prove your apartment was in a substandard condition during that period.
When dealing or interacting with your landlord, it is advisable to remain level-headed and rational. Although living in a substandard rental unit while paying your rent can be annoying, you should speak with your landlords respectfully because arguing is not the remedy for this issue.
Document All Your Communications
To preserve adequate evidence to help you in the lawsuit against the slumlord, you should document all communications with him/her, including any communications you had with him/her via email. Most communications with a landlord are in writing, especially any request for maintenance and repairs in your rental unit or other complaints.
Having these pieces of evidence during slumlord litigation is very crucial in proving your landlord's failure to keep your apartment in livable and habitable conditions.
Retain the Services of a Credible Attorney
If you believe your apartment is uninhabitable, you should retain the services of an attorney to know if you have a valid claim against your landlord. The attorney you will choose to hire will assess your current apartment situation and environment to determine if you have a valid legal cause of action against your landlord for violating your rights as a tenant.
A rented apartment should be comfortable and habitable all the time. Do not let a slumlord deprive you of your legal right to live in a conducive and habitable environment that we all deserve for a comfortable and happy life.
How to Deal With Landlord Retaliation After Complaining About the Uninhabitable Issues in Your Apartment
Once you know and are familiar with your constitutional rights as a tenant, you need to beware of what your landlord can do and not do in response to your actions of fighting for your rights to live in a habitable apartment. Below are examples of retaliation acts by the landlord in response to your habitability complaints:
- He/she may increase your rent
- He/she may refuse to renew your lease or terminate your tenancy
- He/she may decide to decrease services in your apartment, for example, by draining the pool or locking the laundry area or room.
Many tenants live in uncomfortable and substandard conditions in their apartments because they are afraid their landlord might subject them to the above types of retaliation acts if they complain about the uninhabitable conditions. However, making complaints to the regulatory authorities or your landlord about the substandard conditions in your apartment is legal.
Under the law, if your landlord threatens you with eviction or any other kind of retaliation acts, you can fight back. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can hold the landlord accountable for retaliation eviction, which is unlawful.
Retaliation eviction is typically a process whereby a slumlord evicts a tenant in revenge for exercising his/her legal rights to fight for habitable and tenantable conditions. If you are an object of retaliation by your landlord, your attorney can help you file a cause of action against him/her.
Taking a legal cause of action against your landlord is the only reliable way you might be able to recover damages for your losses associated with the uninhabitable living environment in your apartment.
Damages You Might Recover for Living in Uninhabitable Condition in the Hands of a Slumlord
If your defense attorney can prove to the court that your apartment was uninhabitable and your landlord was aware of it, you might recover the following damages:
- Moving expenses
- Emotional trauma
- Cost of your stay in a hotel because your apartment was uninhabitable
- The rent you had to pay while living in the untenantable apartment
- Attorney fees
- Medical expenses associated with the filthy condition of your apartment
- Psychological stress
- The stress associated with finding a new apartment or home to live
- Lost wages due to time off work
- Long-term injuries
- Damage to your credit
- Breach of contract or warranty of habitability
- Punitive damages
Do not be afraid of taking legal action against your landlord for making you subject to untenantable living conditions. With the help of your tenant attorney, you can file a habitability lawsuit against your landlord to recover damages for the above type of losses and other possible losses associated with living in a substandard apartment.
Even if your apartment was uninhabitable the entire period you had to live in it, and your landlord was aware of the situation, you may recover all the rent you had to pay during your lease in this lawsuit. Ensure you find an attorney who understands your rights as a tenant and how to convince the court your apartment or rental unit was untenantable.
Finding a Reliable Attorney for Slumlord Litigation
If you want to sue your landlord for habitability issues in your apartment or a rental unit, you must find a reliable attorney to help you on the way forward. Here are tips that can help you reduce your options during your "hunt" for a reliable tenant attorney:
Consider the Attorney's Experience
First and foremost, you should know the length of experience your prospective attorney has in this area of law before making any significant commitment with him/her. To know your prospective attorney's experience, you should check his/her website or ask him/her directly during your first consultation or interview with him/her.
An attorney with prior experience on slum lord litigation issues can increase your chances of winning your case to receive adequate compensation for your losses associated with living in an untenantable apartment.
Consider the Attorney's Availability and Compatibility
Although an attorney could be experienced and qualified, he/she may lack sufficient time to dedicate to your habitability case if he/she has a tight schedule. Consider the flexibility of your prospective attorney's schedule to know whether he/she will be available for your case or not.
Your attorney's character is also an important aspect to consider before settling for the services of any attorney. Take your time to find a friendly and courteous attorney for a trustworthy relationship and to avoid unnecessary conflicts as your case continues.
The Attorney's Communication Skills
In every lawsuit, you should expect some back and forth kind of communication in court. Therefore, it is critical to retain the services of an attorney with excellent communication skills. Hiring an attorney with excellent communication is also important because you need someone to explain various legal issues about your habitability case in plain English that you can understand.
Find a Tenant's Rights Attorney Near Me
Tenant attorneys at Los Angeles Eviction Attorney are ready to help you or your family member seek adequate damages for losses associated with living in an uninhabitable apartment under the hands of a slumlord. We will aggressively and relentlessly fight for your legal rights to achieve a desirable outcome throughout the litigation process.
Call us today at 310-695-5536 to discuss your habitability issues with our tenant attorneys to know your options as a tenant.