Poodle In The Microwave: Three Common Tenant Misconceptions

Poodle In The Microwave: Three Common Tenant Misconceptions

Poodle In The Microwave: Three Common Tenant Misconceptions

Mama Cass choked on a ham sandwich. You won 400,000 euros in the Latvian lottery. Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Gerbils. Best of all, after giving her poodle a bath, a woman thought it would be a good idea to dry the dog in the microwave. Urban legends all, but some of them stick. Tenants have some too.

1.  I have a five-day grace period to pay my rent.

Not unless your lease says so. Many tenants believe there is a law that requires landlords to give them a five day grace in which to pay their rent. Not true. Other tenants are justifiably confused about a clause commonly found in leases that provides that a late charge will not be assessed if the rent is less than five days late. A clause like this does not change the due date of your rent. Certainly, the landlord cannot charge you a late fee if you pay during the five-day period, but the rent is still due on the due date stated in the lease. You don’t want the landlord to attempt to evict you for habitually paying the rent late. Pay your rent on or before the the due date, usually the first of the month.

2.  It will take six months to a year for the landlord to evict me.

Sometimes this is true, but this is the exception, not the rule. As I point out in my blog post, The UD Shuffle: Notice, if you do nothing after you get a notice to quit, the sheriff could be knocking on your door in two to three weeks. Even if a tenant timely answers an unlawful detainer, the landlord’s lawyer can move to set the case for trial within 20 days of the answer. Without a very spirited defense that includes propounding discovery, pre-answer and pre-trial  motions and legal representation, a pro se tenant (one who represents herself) will, if she loses, be evicted in about six weeks. In other words, it is not a good idea to assume that you can buy much time just because you go to unlawful detainer.

3.  The unlawful detainer case will settle at the mandatory settlement conference.

Yes, it’s true that most civil cases settle before trial, but unless a tenant has a slam dunk defense or she is represented by an attorney vigorously defending the case, what impetus does the landlord have to settle? I speak to many tenants who answered the unlawful detainer complaint, did nothing else and went to the settlement conference  hoping to resolve their differences with the landlord. They often express bitter disappointment that they are offered “don’t let the door hit you in the ass” move-out deals. In San Francisco, mandatory settlement conferences are set the week before trial. Trials are set to begin on Monday. Usually discovery is cut off, i.e. there is no more time to depose witnesses or get the evidence that the landlord plans to use against the tenant. In other words the tenant is walking into the court on Monday completely unprepared. If the landlord’s attorney knows this, why would he recommend that his client settle for anything other than a move-out? And I’m talking about a move-out where the tenant may have to pay. We receive many calls from tenants on Thursday or Friday seeking representation for trial the next Monday. Trial preparation takes hours and hours and a lawyer needs to know what kind of evidence is going to be used against his client. Unless your case is an obvious winner, it is unlikely that I will want to spend my weekend preparing to go into court to get blindsided. Don’t think that just because you answered a UD the case will settle, or if it does settle, the settlement will be at all satisfactory.

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Is It Too Late For Me To Sue To Get My Security Deposit Back?

Is It Too Late For Me To Sue To Get My Security Deposit Back?

Is It Too Late For Me To Sue To Get My Security Deposit Back?

by  | Jun 13, 2012 | Tenant Troubles Classics

I moved out almost 2 years ago. It will be 2 years on this June 1, 2012. Is it too late? I never received my deposit or, any of it. How do I represent myself to the judge. I’ve seen judges before. They throw out cases because the plaintiff did not have their stuff together. What do I say? Do I quote CA laws? Is it just as simple as walking in and saying here’s my typed, signed apartment lease? I did send letters about the deposit and made copies and calls…

I just don’t understand why some tenants wait so long to sue for security deposits. It seems to me that you’re either going to invest the time and energy to go after a landlord who stole your security deposit or not. Landlords steal security deposits because they can. They bank on the fact that many tenants will simply walk away. Remember the scene in the movie, Fight Club, when “Jack” (played by Edward Norton) describes his occupation to a fellow passenger on a plane?

On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. I’m a recall coordinator. My job is to apply the formula. A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, do we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

Landlords calculate their risk in a similar fashion. Take the total amount of the security deposits you hold (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of tenants asserting their rights, (B), then multiply the average judgment in small claims court, (C). A time B times C equals X. If X is less that the total amount of security deposits you hold, you don’t bother to refund any of them. Of course, that practice could change if the rate of tenants asserting their rights increased. Or if the amount of statutory damages awarded by courts increased. But tenants can’t count on the courts to fight their battles. I’m glad you’re finally going to do something about recovering your deposit. I answered a similar question to yours almost three years ago in Tenant Troubles: Sue For Security Deposit Or SOL? You may still have time to sue the landlord:

Security deposits in California are governed by Civil Code §1950.5. The statute of limitations begins to run when the claim “accrues.” In security deposit cases, the claim accrues on the 22nd day after you move out because the landlord has 21 days to refund. There is a two-year statute of limitation on claims for the breach of an oral contract. If you do not have a lease or written agreement with your roommate or landlord, your claim may already be going down the drain. Speak to a lawyer immediately and/or file it! Generally, one has three years to sue for a liability created by statute which could include security deposit actions since they are governed by specific statute like Civil Code §1950.5. It is unlikely that a court would find that this could apply to an oral lease because any action on the lease would be barred after two years. On the other hand, the statute of limitation for a written lease is four years.

A judge will throw your case out if you don’t have your shit together. One way to avoid this is to prepare a brief outlining the facts of the case and the applicable laws to present to the judge with your evidence when he or she hears the case. Brief means brief–no more than a couple of pages. No, you don’t just bring in a copy of your lease. Think about it. What will that prove? Will it prove that you didn’t spray paint FUCK YOU! all over the walls of the unit before you left? You may hear an allegation like that from the landlord. “The place was a pig sty.” “The tenant owed rent.”… etc. Read my blog post, Grand Theft Security Deposit. Get a copy of Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court in California, from Nolo Press. Go to the San Francisco Tenants Union to discuss your case and how to present it.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
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Stop Wishin’ And Hopin’, Get Back Your Security Deposit

Stop Wishin’ And Hopin’, Get Back Your Security Deposit

Stop Wishin’ And Hopin’, Get Back Your Security Deposit

Our landlord ran off with our deposit more than 6 months ago. We try and call him but no luck. One big problem, we don’t even have a copy of the lease! We do however have quite a few witnesses who can attest to us living there. We’d like to not go to small claims court. Any ideas?

Let me get this straight, your landlord refused to refund your security deposit six months ago and you don’t want to go to small claims court to get it back? Yeah, I have an idea or two…

But first, let’s go back to 1964. Betty Friedan had already published her book, The Feminine Mystique in 1963. That same year, Gloria Steinem wrote her famous article about working in the Playboy Club. The “pill” had been marketed since 1960. Feminism had hit the ground running. In 1964 the iconic British pop singer, Dusty Springfield, released her hit song, “Wishin’ and Hopin.” Listen carefully:

Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms

So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share
All you gotta do is
Hold him and kiss him and love him (and squeeze him)
And show him that you care”

You gotta love her hair… and that eyeliner. Yet even in 1964 the message was, at best, a tepid assertion of feminine will. And unfortunately, the prize was some shitbag who required that you “do the things he likes to do” and “wear your hair just for him.” Like your landlord, perhaps?

I don’t claim to be the Betty Friedan of tenant law. There are many, many others who have worked in the trenches longer and harder than me. But I have to tell you the only way to show your landlord that you care is to sue him. Squeeze him where it counts. It is unlikely, after all this time, he’ll give you the time of day. After all, he’s moved on. He’s got a new abusive relationship.

Sheesh, what’s with the no copy of the lease? These days it’s easy to scan your lease as a pdf if you don’t want to carry around the extra paper. Do you have a canceled check to prove that you paid a security deposit? Did you take photos of the place when you moved out? Did you request a final walkthrough with the landlord?

The first idea I have is that you should gather together every possible piece of evidence to prove that your landlord absconded with your security deposit. Then take your evidence to the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee or any other tenants rights organization and ask them if they think you can prove your case.

Next, you need to become familiar with California Civil Code §1950.5. It provides, among other things, that a landlord who wrongfully withholds a security deposit can be liable for up two times the amount of the deposit in statutory damages. In other words, if the landlord wrongfully withheld your entire deposit you should ask the court for three times the amount.

Pick up a copy of Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court in California, by Ralph Warner for Nolo Press.

There are many online articles about recovering your security deposit. The security deposit section at Cal Tenant Law is instructive. The Tenants Union also provides good information. I have also written a blog post, Grand Theft Security Deposit.

I can’t stress this enough: Phone calls never, ever convince a landlord to refund a security deposit. To wait six months and think you might not have to sue is simply wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’. Get on it!

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Why Do You Assume All Landlords Are Rich?

Why Do You Assume All Landlords Are Rich?

Why Do You Assume All Landlords Are Rich?

I don’t want to argue the merits of rent control per se. But, what I would like to know is why does every single tenant advocacy group, person, attorney, legislator etc just assume that a landlord, just being a landlord, is rich?

Some are wealthy and some are not. Some large corporations are doing fabulously well today and some small businesses are suffering greatly.

Maybe we should means test landlords as a way to exempt some from the rent ordinances of SF & Berkeley? Would you consider that fair?

It’s interesting that your list of those who assume that landlords are rich practically encompasses the entire population. Could that assumption simply be true? Duh. In the Bay Area, all landlords are rich.

It’s very easy to come to that conclusion. If you’re a landlord, you own at least two units, right? (Generally, a landlord who rents a room to a boarder in his own house is exempt from rent control.)

According to HUD, for the 12 months ending March 2010, the median sales price was $647,300 in the city of San Francisco. I believe the price has increased in the last year.

But before you blow a gasket, I understand that the single family home sales price is not necessarily indicative of the value of a given unit. Those figures are harder to find. But is there a two-unit building in San Francisco that is worth less than $400,000? If there is one, it’s probably uninhabitable.

Is it fair to say that all San Francisco landlords have assets valued at least $400,000.00? Landlords who own more units than in this hypothetical San Francisco shack are worth considerably more.

Is that rich enough for you?

Anyone who didn’t come in with yesterday’s rain knows that rich people always complain about not having enough. It’s in their nature.

One of the reasons corporations do so well is that we subsidize them with tax breaks and write-offs. Interestingly, we also subsidize landlords the same way. Landlords can deduct their mortgage interest, maintenance costs, property taxes, property management costs and on and on.

I don’t even get my frickin’ $62.00 renters credit anymore.

I’m sorry. The poor landlord who deserves a means test to opt out of rent control is like the small company, say Bechtel with annual revenue of $30.8 billion, that deserves a tax break.

Of course you want to argue the merits of rent control–you want to argue the merits in a passive/aggressive manner so typical of apologists for landlords.

To paraphrase Bill Maher, “The next landlord who publicly complains about being vilified by tenant advocates for being too rich must be publicly vilified by tenant advocates for being too rich.

Update, December 1, 2013: Did I actually say $400,000 for an average value of two units? Just trying to be conservative…

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Tenant in San Francisco: What’s Wrong with Working in a Bookstore?

Tenant in San Francisco: What’s Wrong with Working in a Bookstore?

Tenant in San Francisco: What’s Wrong with Working in a Bookstore?

Several years ago I was speaking to a young woman at a party who had recently graduated from college. She moved back to San Francisco, her home town, and got a job in a bookstore. She was living with her parents but wanted to strike out on her own. She simply could not find an apartment she could afford. “What’s wrong with working in a bookstore?” she asked me. It’s a question that still haunts me when I speak to tenants.

Last week the SF Appeal reported that rents are dropping according to the San Francisco Controller’s Monthly Economic Barometer. The article also reported that San Francisco unemployment had risen to 10.3%. It still begs the question, even if rents are dropping, is housing becoming more affordable for those who make your cappuccino at Starbucks? Or teachers?  Or police officers? Or people who work in bookstores? The answer still seems to be no.

I recently happened on a post from the blog, LAist, which makes this quite clear, “Renter’s Market? LA Ranks as Pricier Than NYC.” The post relied on a study from the Center for Housing Policy for the fourth quarter of 2009, announced March 23, 2010.  When I clicked the link I already knew that San Francisco’s rents are higher than Los Angeles and, sure enough, even with rent control, we’re number one…again.

The more interesting aspect of the study poses this conundrum: “Who are among the ranks of America’s workers struggling to afford housing? In some high-priced communities, people who provide the bulk of vital services – teachers, firefighters, police officers, retail sales workers and restaurant workers – cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.” The Center for Housing Policy’s page, Paycheck to Paycheck, provides an interactive database that, among other things, allows you to compare how workers are faring in housing markets of 210 metropolitan areas of the United States.

For San Francisco, the study uses “2009 Fair Market Rent” of $1,406/month for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,760 for a two-bedroom apartment. Then it compares the hourly wage required to afford an apartment assuming that a maximum 30% of pretax income should be devoted to rent.

I checked the three categories for teachers, preschool ($30.21/hour), elementary ($30.15/hour) and secondary ($31.44/hour). None could individually afford a two-bedroom; all could afford a one-bedroom. A registered nurse ($37.27/hour) can afford both. While an LPN ($23.71/hour) or a nurse’s aid ($15.74/hour) can afford neither. A police officer ($29.80/hour) can afford one-bedroom, but not two. A carpenter ($26.21/hour) can forget it. If you work in a bookstore (retail sales, $13.24/hour), you’re screwed. If you work in a bookstore (and you are willing to commute) you still can’t afford a one-bedroom in Fresno.

Obviously, families with multiple incomes may fare better. Single renters deal with adversity creatively. They live with roommates or have three jobs. (A “uniquely American” attribute, as George W. Bush put it.)

Rents may be dropping in San Francisco, but that isn’t really the point. If the price of a Maserati drops by $50,000.00, does that mean I’m going to be able to buy one? San Francisco is fast becoming a city in the clouds, like Stratos, in the 1969 episode of Star Trek, “The Cloud Minders.” The city is held aloft in the sky by “sustained anti-gravity elevation.” Its inhabitants are devoted solely to the creation of art while the miners on the planet below, the “troglites” who create the city’s fungible wealth, are prohibited from living among or partaking in the intellectual pursuits of their masters. While the message  is still apt, the naivete of the episode is exposed because it assumes that the elite will be comprised of artists and intellectuals, rather than con-artists—bankers, stock brokers and real estate traders whose attempts at sustained anti-gravity elevation are limited to credit default swaps.

We all know that that the inflated real estate market of the recent past drove many artists, teachers, nurses and carpenters from San Francisco. Will they return because the rents have dropped a bit? Unlikely. Do we honestly believe that the Starbucks baristas will happily commute from Modesto to serve us our skinny cinnamon dolce lattes?

What’s wrong with working in a bookstore in San Francisco? Nothing, as long as you work in three of them.

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The Eviction Shuffle: Not Like Perry Mason

The Eviction Shuffle: Not Like Perry Mason

The Eviction Shuffle: Not Like Perry Mason

Perry Mason and all TV lawyer crime dramas would be boring as hell if they documented all of the steps between indictment (summons in unlawful detainer) and trial. These blog articles cannot take the place of a good practice guide. If you are in California and you want to check out an abbreviated guide to unlawful detainer procedure, go to the local law library and take a look at the California Practice Guide: Landlord Tenant, published by the Rutter Group. I say abbreviated because an unlawful detainer is overlaid with general procedural requirements as well.

Demand a jury trial.

Perry Mason didn’t really need a jury because the murderer always confessed, but Perry always had one. I think it is important to demand a jury trial. The demand should be served with the answer. It puts the plaintiff on notice that you’re willing to go all the way. I have found that jury trial demands are very useful when defending foreclosure cases, because the attorneys representing the banks are not used to defendants doing anything. Imagine their chagrin when they realize they might have to actually go to a jury trial in Fresno, when their firm is located in San Diego. The bean counters at the bank don’t want to spend any more money than they have to. A jury demand can be a good tool to begin settlement negotiations.

Interrogatories, requests for admissions, document production

The rest of the steps of the UD Shuffle mostly concern evidence gathering. An unlawful detainer defendant has the right to see the evidence that will be used against her. In civil cases one can gather the evidence using a number of methods in combination. Written interrogatories are questions that are submitted to the landlord that he has to answer in 5 days. There are specific forms for unlawful detainer questions (form interrogatories) and you can develop your own (special interrogatories). You can also serve requests for admissions. You ask the landlord to admit or deny certain facts. If he changes his testimony on the stand you can use them against him. You also want to demand inspect and copy relevant documents. While one can obtain valuable information from all of these methods, there are many landlord lawyers who simply object and refuse to produce anything. Certainly, you can go to court to compel production and we do that all of the time. But the best way to get evidence from a landlord is from the horse’s mouth.


I like to try to get as much information as possible using all the methods of discovery, but then I want to sit down with a court reporter and talk to the landlord. In a deposition the landlord is testifying under oath and all of his contradictory statements can be used against him in court. I don’t want to grill the guy at this stage. I just want to find out stuff. As much as I may want to make the landlord “confess” I know that admissions of bad acts are rare. It’s not like “The Case of the One-Eyed Cheese Ball.” So I’m polite and friendly and conversational. In a deposition I can see how credibly the landlord will testify and get him pinned down on his version of the facts. The landlord will really get the point—if we got this far, we’re probably going all the way to trial. It is also important to depose any witnesses the landlord is going to call to testify. Sometimes the landlord claims there are witnesses and there aren’t any. Sometimes they’ll chicken out.

Motion for summary judgment

You can get the judge to throw out the case if you can show that the landlord can’t prove his case. If you can show that there are no disputed facts as to an element of the landlord’s case you can win right here. Here’s an example: If the landlord claims that you didn’t pay your rent and you can show the court a verified copy of a cancelled check for the rent in question, there is no reason to go to trial. The judge will rule for you. Summary judgment motions are rare because facts are usually disputed by the parties. The written papers also have a slew of procedural requirements and take a lot of time to prepare.


Many California jurisdictions require some form of mandatory settlement conference before unlawful detainer trial. Check your local rules of court. If you are representing yourself, imagine an episode where Perry isn’t familiar with the rules, the judge hates him and Hamilton Burger has a perfect record. In San Francisco, the settlement conference is scheduled the week before trial.  By that time, it is often too late to get more information that could help you defend your case.  You better be ready to convince the landlord and his attorney that they cannot prove the landlord’s allegations. If you cannot, there is no reason for the landlord to settle. Unfortunately, if the tenant is unrepresented, many negotiated settlements at this stage require the tenant to move out

You may have a fool for a client.

In San Francisco, if you did not settle your case, on the Monday morning after the settlement conference your case will be assigned a judge and sent to trial. You gathered all your evidence. You prepared all your motions. You have all of your jury instructions. You have all of your witnesses ready to go. Now all you do is walk into the courtroom pick a jury and go to it like Perry Mason.  Right? Lawyers have a saying, “If a lawyer represents himself, he has a fool for a client.” I do think it is important for tenants to understand the process. But I also think that nine times out of ten you should be represented by a lawyer in an unlawful detainer. The landlord will almost always have one. If you are representing yourself, imagine an episode where Perry isn’t familiar with the rules, the judge hates him and Hamilton Burger has a perfect record. This process is hard enough for professionals. It’s nearly impossible for amateurs. If you truly want to save your tenancy, the business decision you make to defend your eviction should include an allocation of funds to hire a tenant lawyer. Unlawful Detainer Flow Chart

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Every Tenant Has One–An Implied Warranty of Habitability

Every Tenant Has One–An Implied Warranty of Habitability

Every Tenant Has One–An Implied Warranty of Habitability

No, not a rat or a rat-like landlord (although you may have both). Every tenant has an implied warranty of habitability. In last week’s post I listed several conditions in a unit that constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability. If you find an electrocuted rat in your kitchen stove, odds are that your landlord has breached the implied warranty of habitability in your lease. What if he won’t fix the problem? What can you do?

Believe or not, one of the most common strategies for tenants is to do nothing. Many tenants are willing to put up with significant breaches of the warranty of habitability like no heat or mice partying in the kitchen all night because the rent is cheap and they don’t want to make waves with the landlord. Besides, the Cheese Ball landlord won’t fix the problem correctly anyway. “Here’s a space heater and some rat traps and some buckets.” Or worse, the landlord’s “contractor” who will tear the place up for weeks on end only to leave a gaping hole in the bathroom. So tenants do nothing or repair some conditions themselves.

I understand the dilemma. As an ex-house painter, handyman, there are many repairs I can make myself. In a former tenancy I did that, until the back stairs separated from the house and raw sewage filled the garage twice in one week. I had to communicate more effectively. That tenants are still afraid of reprisal because they ask a landlord to do his job is a disgusting state of affairs, indicative of a system of law and enforcement hasn’t improved much over a thousand years. If you are a tenant you are still a villain.

Inform the landlord in writing.

If you are starting to feel raw at the backside from taking it from the landlord, start by complaining to the landlord in a letter. No phone calls. If you ever have to enforce your rights, the landlord will lie and say he was never informed. You can’t prove that you informed him with a phone call. Include photos of the offense if you can. You’re being helpful by including photos and you’re also implying that you are documenting the offenses and that he better get his ass over there pronto. Be polite. Nobody will read a letter that is over a page long so make it short and sweet. Remember to ask the landlord for a reduction in your rent for the time you had to put up the sewage, rats, leaks, mold, etc. Also ask for the value of any personal property that was damaged by the sewage, rats, leaks, mold, etc.

Don’t make any threats in the first letter unless you have been calling the landlord about the same problem. If you have already informed the landlord or if you are writing your second letter, tell the landlord that you will be calling the appropriate authorities if he doesn’t fix the problem immediately.

Call a housing inspector.

In San Francisco you can call a housing inspector from the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) or the Department of Public Health to report substandard conditions in your unit. You can arrange for a housing inspector to visit your unit. If they find violations of the housing or building codes they will issue a Notice of Violation (NOV). Usually the landlord will have 30 days to correct the defective conditions. NOVs are public records and copies are available at the DBI. You can also view complaint and permit details online.

In other counties, code enforcement is usually the purview of city government. You can find out how to request an inspection by checking your city’s website and searching for “code enforcement.” I have provided a list of links for selected cities on this site. NOVs make great evidence if you need to file a Rent Board petition or sue later.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs

If you have a small child and you have peeling paint and paint chips call your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program overseen by the California Department of Public Health. Don’t wait for the landlord to perform shoddy and unsafe repairs.

File a petition at the Rent Board.

If the landlord will not decrease your rent or replace your damaged belongings, gather your letters, photos and NOVs and, if you have one, file a petition at the Rent Board for decreases in services. You should check with your local Rent Board to find out what you need to do to file a petition. I will also be writing about that in a future post.

Repair and deduct from rent?

If the landlord refuses to correct the problem after receiving an NOV (believe me, many of them refuse despite the threat of fines) should you repair the problem yourself and deduct the cost from the rent? In fact Civil Code §1942 only requires that you notice the landlord of the substandard conditions and that you are presumed to have given the landlord sufficient notice after 30 days. However, you can only deduct an amount up to the value of one month’s rent. I rarely recommend this course of action because you could find yourself in an eviction action for nonpayment of rent which could be very expensive to defend. Never, ever just stop paying rent without consulting an attorney or discussing it with your local tenants union.

Move out?

If you or your loved ones are truly endangered by conditions in your unit, and you can prove it, sometimes the only alternative is to get out. This is called constructive eviction—even though the landlord hasn’t given you a notice to quit (move out) his negligence has forced you to move. The obvious example of constructive eviction is when the roof caves in after you warned the landlord about the leaks. You have no choice but to move. It is likely you will have to sue the landlord for your damages, so you must be certain that the landlord’s failure to repair caused the unsafe conditions that forced you to move. Consult an attorney about this, if it’s not obvious to you and everybody else that you simply must move.

Sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

If your damages are $7,500 or less (California) you can try to sue in small claims court. Marshall all of your evidence, then before you file check out Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court in California, by Ralph Warner for Nolo Press.

If you feel your case is worth more than $7,500 and that it will be worth the time and effort to sue the landlord in superior court, consult a lawyer. Sometimes it’s a good idea to join with other tenants in the building to make the case attractive to an attorney who will consider representing you all on a contingency basis. If you live in San Francisco join the San Francisco Tenants Union and get a copy of their list of lawyers who only represent tenants.

Call the district attorney?

Only if the conditions in your unit are bad, I mean criminally bad—violations up the wazoo with serious, life threatening injuries and rats the size of cows. Usually you have to be dead to warrant any attention from district attorneys because they have real criminals to catch, you know, like pot smokers.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060