The L.A. Times had an article today regarding a lawsuit by a tenant of Invitation Homes, a Blackstone subsidiary. Blackstone purchased tens of thousands of homes across the United States for the purpose of renting them out and (potentially) later securitizing the rents into bonds (similar to how mortgages were packaged for investors to purchase). There has been much interest in how a large company would handle renting thousands of single family homes, a business that has almost been exclusively performed by mom and pop landlords and small business flippers. The L.A. Times article, Blackstone unit Invitation Homes sued over rental house’s condition, provides an interesting glimpse into how the rental business is going.
A tenant has sued Invitation Homes claiming the home that she and her husband rented in Sun Valley was uninhabitable. The tenants claim that the day they moved in, the house was a mess, and soon after the plumbing leaked, there were cockroaches, the air conditioner failed, tap water turned brown, and a bathroom flooded. The landlord claims all maintenance requests were handled reasonably and in a timely manner; however, the tenants claim that repairs caused more problems as asbestos filled walls were ripped open.
This article brings up a very important example for landlord s to maintain their rental properties in a habitable manner. Every rental contract has an implied warranty of habitability that cannot be contracted away. Essentially, a landlord is required to repair conditions that affect the habitability of a rental unit.
California law, in California Civil Code Section 1941.1, provides a list of essential items that if lacking could make a unit uninhabitable:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
- Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system.
- Gas facilities in good working order.
- Heating facilities in good working order.
- An electric system, including lighting, wiring, and equipment, in good working order.
- Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds, and appurtenances (for example, a garden or a detached garage), free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
- Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
- Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair.
It is also important to note that a tenant also has a responsibility to care for a unit in a reasonable manner by keeping a unit in a clean and sanitary condition. Section 1941.2 provides some relief to landlords from tenants who do not maintain their units. Habitability claims can be costly and should be addressed quickly before snowballing into litigation. Contact Attorney Anthony Marinaccio at (818) 839-5220 if you have any questions regarding a habitability dispute between a landlord or tenant.