What are your rights as a renter when repairs are necessary?

SACRAMENTO - Less than 24 hours after a resident in a Linda mobile home park contacted News10, his electrical power, along with power at four other mobile homes has been restored.

STORY: Residents: Their mobile homes without heat for 4 weeks

Monday, Randy Flewellen said the property manager at the Casa Mia Mobile Home Park was taking way too long to restore full power to five units in the park.

Half of the power was out because one of the two 110 amp lines running to those homes was dead, leaving large appliances, like furnaces, inoperable.

"We put extra blankets on the bed. We have a little bathroom heater," Flewellen said.

Flewellen and others said the problem was close to four weeks old and the property manager and owner failed to, at the very least, get them a temporary solution.

After a phone call from News10, an inspector with the California Department of Housing and Community Development came Tuesday morning, and ordered that a generator be installed by the end of the day.

Less than five hours later, electricians were hooking it up.

"That's all I wanted," Flewellen said. "Just solve the problem so nobody has to suffer."

The solution came though, after two confrontations the day before. When News10 reporter Nick Monacelli tried to get answers from Casa Mia management, one said, "It's none of your business."

Fortunately, the state responded quickly to help.

"I wish they had called us sooner," Brad Harward, program operations manager for the housing department, said. "They called you guys, then we found out about it and sent an inspector out to remediate."

If Casa Mia management hadn't solved the problem by the end of the day, Harward said they could have begun the process to suspend the park's operating permit, "which would limit their ability to collect rent, and that usually gets things going pretty quickly."

What recourse do renters have in these situations?

Attorney David MacMillen, who specializes in landlord/tenant disputes, explained the "Warranty of Habitability." It covers every lease in the state of California. That document is several pages long, but here are the highlights:

  • Notify the landlord in writing if repairs are not complete within 30 days
  • You may fix the problem yourself, or hire a contractor, and the cost of the repairs can be deducted from your rent
  • If you're doing the repairs, get an estimate first so you know what to charge- You will need proof of what you're doing and what the costs are
  • Repair costs can't exceed one month's rent

These terms don't apply if the tenant caused the damage or was neglectful.

Another option is to break your lease and move out if the repairs haven't been made within 30 days.

"They can vacate the premises and not have any obligations to whatever lease they may have signed," MacMillen explained.


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