Dear Landlord
December 12, 2011 11:02 AM   Subscribe

YANML but let me hear your opinion anyway: If my family had to be unexpectedly temporarily relocated due to plumbing and flooring issues, what is my landlord required to pay? Lodging? Food? Anything?

Day after Thanksgiving, huge leak. Floors ripped up. Found mold. It's been a two week ordeal because it was poorly handled by landlords. If it wasn't for us stepping in, we still wouldn't have floors (they finally went in yesterday).

My landlord originally agreed to pay for hotel, food and said we wouldn't have to pay rent for the days our place wasn't usable. We thought this was very fair.

However, now they are saying they don't have to pay for food and we still have to pay for rent. Which is Not Good because during the second week we moved back (confined to the upstairs) to save THEM money even though it was tough on us (we have a 2 year old and 2 dogs).

We don't have anything clearly stated in writing although my wife, through e-mail, has been keeping them in the loop on expenses and nothing was ever mentioned of the food, etc., until yesterday.

So now I'm trying to find out what we are legally entitled to, if anything.

We're in Los Angeles.

posted by ryecatcher to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have apartment insurance? Read your lease and see if there are any loopholes about damage/inconvenience costs, etc.

I would say the first deal they offered was definately the best and I would push for that.

I'm not in CA but here are some quick resource I found:

Good luck. Landlords can be d-bags.
posted by stormpooper at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2011

More detail. Looks like a decent phone number to call for advice

County of Los Angeles
Department of Consumer Affairs
Information Sheet

Getting Your Landlord to Make Needed Repairs
Your landlord must keep your rental unit livable so as not to endanger your health and safety. If your unit needs repairs, notify your landlord in writing and keep a copy for your records.

Landlords’ responsibilities
Landlords have obligations to the tenants. The law requires landlords to keep the premises safe and in good condition and to:

Fix water leaks from the roof, doors, windows, or walls.
Repair plumbing, gas, heating, and electrical problems.
Keep the grounds outside your unit clean, safe, and free of pests such as mice and roaches.
Supply enough trash bins.
Tenants’ responsibilities
You must keep the unit clean and free of trash. You must use gas, electric, and plumbing fixtures correctly. You must also prevent guests from damaging your unit.

How soon does the landlord have to make repairs?
If your health or safety is threatened, your landlord must immediately make repairs. Urgent items include:

A broken heater during the winter
No hot water
Bad electric wiring
Toilets and plumbing that don’t work
Your landlord must make urgent repairs, like those just mentioned, quickly. Non-urgent defects that do not put your health and safety at risk should be made within 30 days.

What if my landlord does not make urgent repairs?
There are several things you can do:

File a complaint with a government enforcement agency, such as the County of Los Angeles Department of Health or your local Department of Building & Safety. Keep a copy of the inspection report.

Mediate the Problem – If you live in the County of Los Angeles, call our Dispute Settlement Service for help: (213) 974-0825.

Sue the Landlord – You can sue the landlord for the cost of urgent repairs in Small Claims Court. Call our Small Claims Advisors at (213) 974-9759 for assistance.

Repair and Deduct – You can have the repairs done yourself, and subtract the cost from your rent. Before you do this, call us for more information, or get legal advice because your landlord might try to evict or sue you.

Stop Paying Rent – You might not have to pay rent while waiting for the landlord to make repairs. Before you do this, call us for more information, or get legal advice because your landlord might try to evict or sue you.

Move Out – If your unit is dangerous to your health or safety, you may be able to move out without giving additional notice. Before you do this, call us for more information, or get legal advice. Otherwise, the landlord might sue you.

What if the landlord does not make non-urgent repairs?
The landlord must repair non-urgent items such as, carpets, draperies, dishwashers, security systems, air-conditioners, and washing machines.

Write a letter to your landlord about the needed repairs. If the repairs are not made, you can sue the landlord in Small Claims Court.

You cannot repair these things and deduct the cost or stop paying rent without the landlord’s permission.

Civil Code 1941-1942

Contact us for more information or speak with one of our counselors at (800) 593-8222. If you live outside of Southern California, call us at (213) 974-1452.

Updated Apr. 26, 2011
posted by stormpooper at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2011

I used to be a landlord, but in a different state. I am not a lawyer. Your landlord has to provide you with a habitable space, and you have to pay rent. If your belongings are damaged and it's your landlord's fault, landlord must reimburse. Inconvenience is generally not something you get compensated for, unless landlord has been really negligent.

So, by my rules, you pay rent, landlord provides livable space.
posted by theora55 at 2:36 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not in your state, but my secondhand understanding is that the landlord has to provide a livable space, as mentioned. If the apartment was uninhabitable, then you don't pay rent for when you were in a hotel and the landlord covers the cost of the hotel. Food expenses, I think, are your responsibility. I'm a bit confused though - is your landlord saying that you owe rent for the days you were in the hotel AND that they aren't going to pay for the hotel? Or just that they aren't going to pay for the food and that you still owe rent? Something is definitely off here.

It's unfortunate you don't have their original "deal" with you in writing, and I second that you should contact some sort of tenant's rights association before you pay anything.
posted by sm1tten at 4:32 PM on December 12, 2011

TINLA and IANYL (or qualified in the relevant jurisdiction) - if you start from the assumption that the Landlord has to put you into the position that you would have been in if the leak had not taken place, then the Landlord's later proposal basically seems fair (other than the bit about moving back in early and being confined to the upstairs).

If the leak hadn't taken place, you would have been paying rent and paying for your own food.

As a result of the leak, you couldn't stay in your place but had to be put up in the apartment. If the landlord pays for that hotel, then logically you should also be paying rent for that period, otherwise you are getting a windfall.

Obviously, if you've incurred other costs in moving, damaged property, etc. then that changes the position a bit, but as a basic premise what the landlord is proposing seems essentially fair (again ignoring the fact that you were confined to upstairs for a period - for which it may be possible to negotiate a discount).
posted by Mattat at 4:58 AM on December 13, 2011

This is the sort of thing that renter's insurance is for more than your landlord. I have been put out of my apartment both with and without it. Renter's insurance paid for my motel and reimbursed me for food when I sent in receipts. Without the insurance, I didn't have to pay rent for the 2 months I was out of the apartment, but otherwise I had to fend for myself on getting housing (I stayed with a friend) and food. My roommate at the time paid for her own hotel room and I think she had to talk the landlord into reimbursing her for the hotel room.

I think food is kind of going to end up your problem no matter what, but I'm wondering if they are asking for the rent because you moved back in, even if it's on the second floor.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:35 PM on December 13, 2011

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