Tenant Rights California: No Hot Water

115 Replies

Hey guys, 

Just moved into a new place in Orange County. My landlord had the gas disconnected. When I moved into the place, I called the gas company to have the service set up. They cannot set up gas for another 16 days. That means, no hot water, no kitchen, and no heater (I know it's Socal, but still, it's December), for another 16 days. 

Is it legally right for me to pay rent on a rental in which I cannot live for another 17 days? 

In my mind, the landlord should have kept the utilities on, and in his name, until the time I move in and have them transferred into my name to ensure this exact situation did not happen. 

Thanks! 
Jonathan 

Updated 8 days ago

To @all, My 5 calls, 5 emails, and form submissions at the California Public Utilities Commission actually worked. They contacted me, and were able to get a call through to the Executive Office of SoCal Gas. They were able to expedite my service order to this Monday, praise the Lord! According to this call, SoCal Gas has measures for the LL to ensure that this does not happen. The LL chose to shut off gas service completely to the house to save a few bucks, and as a result, left me in this situation. They made a great argument: the fact that the LL shut off services means you (tenant) were not able to accurately check the condition of appliances and furnaces. For all I know, the water heater could be broken and I agreed to a lease without being able to check the function of appliances in the home according to my lease agreement. In the end: I learned my lesson (to have transition well in advance), I will have gas within the next 5 days, I know my LL a little better (watch out for that guy), and lastly, I have a bit of leverage if something comes up in the future. I'm more than happy with the result. Thank you all for your input!

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

Thats not how it works , the tenant arranges to have the utilities in their name at the time of move in . Now the landlord should have explained this to you , but it is probably in the lease .

In the mean time its cold showers , microwave , and blankets and sweaters

Hi Matthew, 

You're right. But that deems the property uninhabitable under California law, no? 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

That's not a habitable unit...

California Civil Code section 1941 states that when a landlord rents property to a tenant as a place to live, the property must be in a "habitable" condition. ("Habitable" means fit to live in; "uninhabitable" means not fit to live in.) Section 1941 also states that the landlord must repair problems that make the property uninhabitable – except for problems caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests, children or pets. In order for the property to be habitable, it must have all of the following:

  1. a) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
  2. b) Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system.
  3. c) Gas facilities in good working order.
  4. d) Heating facilities in good working order.
  5. e) An electrical system, including lighting, wiring and equipment, in good working order.
  6. f) Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds and appurtenances (for example, a garden or a detached garage) which are free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin.
  7. g) Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
  8. h) Floors, stairways and railings in good repair.
  9. In addition, the rented property must have all of the following:
  10. i) A working toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower. The toilet and bathtub/shower must be in a room that is ventilated, and that allows for privacy.
  11. j) A kitchen with a sink, which cannot be made of an absorbent material (for example, wood).
  12. k) Natural lighting in every room through windows or skylights. Unless there is a ventilation fan, the windows must be able to open at least halfway.
  13. l) Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway. Stairs, hallways and exits must be kept litter free. Storage areas, garages, and basements must be kept free of combustible materials.
  14. m) Operable deadbolt locks on the main entry doors of rental units, and operable locking or security devices on windows.
  15. n) Working smoke detectors in all units of multi-unit buildings, such as duplexes and apartment complexes. Apartment complexes also must have smoke detectors in common stairwells.

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/lt-8.shtml

@Matt K. thank you! This is exactly what I read through and what I was thinking... I am thinking of withholding rent for next month, for the amount I have not had hot water... 21 days in total. 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

Originally posted by @Jonathan Safa :

@Matt K. thank you! This is exactly what I read through and what I was thinking... I am thinking of withholding rent for next month, for the amount I have not had hot water... 21 days in total. 

 Off top of my head, I'm not entirely sure that would work because I think it has to be tied to a repair cost. Your repair cost would be low, but your unit is not habitable....

Its not your landlords fault, seems like its your fault. You didn't call the gas company until after you moved in and you want to blame your landlord? You should have started making arrangements from the time you signed the lease. I don't think you'll win this one, is this the hill you want to die on?

@Nolan Martineau I was thinking the same thing... but I signed the lease the day of move-in. The 15-day period was unavoidable until after I "moved-in." If I had signed the lease in the weeks prior, that would've been no problem, ya. 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

Originally posted by @Nolan Martineau :

Its not your landlords fault, seems like its your fault. You didn't call the gas company until after you moved in and you want to blame your landlord? You should have started making arrangements from the time you signed the lease. I don't think you'll win this one, is this the hill you want to die on?

 He says:

When I moved into the place, I called the gas company to have the service set up. They cannot set up gas for another 16 days.

So that reads the landlord turned off utilities.... if he had kept them on in his name (which is common) and then transferred service on the first of the month (which is normal) then it'd be fine. The landlord should of had them turned on prior to the lease then he could of gotten them switched over.

Use reverse logic on this , if the tenant didnt pay the gas bill , and the gas was turned off , then the place isnt habitable .  Would the landlord be responsible to get the gas turned on ?     No

If you signed the lease the same day as move in, I think this is on the landlord. It should be easy for him to come to the conclusion and accept that it is his fault, and offer you some sort of relief. I wouldn't be expecting 100% of your daily rental rate, but at least 50% would be fair.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Safa :

@Nolan Martineau I was thinking the same thing... but I signed the lease the day of move-in. The 15-day period was unavoidable until after I "moved-in." If I had signed the lease in the weeks prior, that would've been no problem, ya. 

 If you signed the lease on move in day this is the landlords fault for sure. They should have had the gas on and you would have been responsible to transfer it to your name. If you didnt transfer they should have to back charge you for use days until you get it into your name. But the gas should have been on when you moved in. Most legal stuff goes to the intent of the laws and ideas behind them and of course past judgements. 

A few things I would recommend. 

1. Call back the utility company and get on their case about this. Talk to a manager. I dont know how it is over in California but in Michigan and Indiana you can get utilities turned on same day or next day if its an issue and you talk to the right person. Most people are not jerks, but you need to sell them on the fact that its not your fault and your just trying to deal with the situation. This should be as easy as turning a valve or installing a meter and turning on a valve. 

2. If that fails find some case law regarding this subject. I am sure there is an instance like this that has happened in the past. It may take some time but you will want this as backup. 

3. Have a conversation with you landlord. Let him know that it takes 16 days to get the utilities setup and since you called the same day or next day from signing a lease you are left with no hot water. He may feel terrible, apologize and come up with a beneficial solution.

4. If he says tough luck and that you still owe your rent then let him know that while you dont like to hold someones feet to the fire you think what he is doing is against the law and that you feel you shouldnt have to pay rent until the unit is habitable. Hopefully you found a case law around this subject and worst case you get a lawyer to write a letter on your behalf for a nominal cost. If a lawyer writes a letter letting him know what you will do and there is some fancy jargon in there I am sure you landlord will not push the subject further. 

Otherwise give me your landlords number and Ill give him a word or two of my opinion of what he did to you. I hate landlords that do really shady things. I have 31 units and I self manage and while this is a business, we deal with peoples lives and have legal and moral responsibilities that come with that. 

Originally posted by @Shaun C. :

If you signed the lease the same day as move in, I think this is on the landlord. It should be easy for him to come to the conclusion and accept that it is his fault, and offer you some sort of relief. I wouldn't be expecting 100% of your daily rental rate, but at least 50% would be fair.

 There should be no pro rated amount for missing some utilities. If a unit is considered uninhabitable due to the landlords fault the tenant shouldn't owe anything. Can I charge someone 20% of rent if there is no heat, water, electric but they have a roof walls and windows? This subject is black and white in my opinion. If the furnace goes out on a Saturday night on a holiday I have to provide my tenants heat so I will have to fork up the double time rates from my HVAC guy. If they cant get there right away or fix it right away I better pay for space heaters so they can keep the home warm. I cant just say hold on and tough it out until Monday afternoon. 

Originally posted by @Joel Florek :
Originally posted by @Shaun C.:

If you signed the lease the same day as move in, I think this is on the landlord. It should be easy for him to come to the conclusion and accept that it is his fault, and offer you some sort of relief. I wouldn't be expecting 100% of your daily rental rate, but at least 50% would be fair.

 There should be no pro rated amount for missing some utilities. If a unit is considered uninhabitable due to the landlords fault the tenant shouldn't owe anything. Can I charge someone 20% of rent if there is no heat, water, electric but they have a roof walls and windows? This subject is black and white in my opinion. If the furnace goes out on a Saturday night on a holiday I have to provide my tenants heat so I will have to fork up the double time rates from my HVAC guy. If they cant get there right away or fix it right away I better pay for space heaters so they can keep the home warm. I cant just say hold on and tough it out until Monday afternoon. 

Who said anything about no heat, water, and electric? The dude is in Southern California where it's currently 57*. That means he's out hot water and has to wear a t shirt, which is why I said it's more of an inconvenience than being deprived of a necessity. 

Originally posted by @Shaun C. :
Originally posted by @Joel Florek:
Originally posted by @Shaun C.:

If you signed the lease the same day as move in, I think this is on the landlord. It should be easy for him to come to the conclusion and accept that it is his fault, and offer you some sort of relief. I wouldn't be expecting 100% of your daily rental rate, but at least 50% would be fair.

 There should be no pro rated amount for missing some utilities. If a unit is considered uninhabitable due to the landlords fault the tenant shouldn't owe anything. Can I charge someone 20% of rent if there is no heat, water, electric but they have a roof walls and windows? This subject is black and white in my opinion. If the furnace goes out on a Saturday night on a holiday I have to provide my tenants heat so I will have to fork up the double time rates from my HVAC guy. If they cant get there right away or fix it right away I better pay for space heaters so they can keep the home warm. I cant just say hold on and tough it out until Monday afternoon. 

Who said anything about no heat, water, and electric? The dude is in Southern California where it's currently 57*. That means he's out hot water and has to wear a t shirt, which is why I said it's more of an inconvenience than being deprived of a necessity. 

 I say the other utilities as an example. If we are allowed to charge portions of rent for missing some utilities what is to stop that from going to an extreme? Its the idea of having black and white lines vs. having grey lines. In his case hot water under the law is considered a necessity and if deprived of it because of the action or inaction of the landlord then the tenant has certain rights, including not paying all of the rent during the period. 

@Jonathan Safa  it is ridiculous to have to wait 16 days to turn on gas. In my city they would be out the next day. Your landlord is responsible for keeping the plumbing and gas facilities in good working order, but it seems like everything works fine. The shut off valve is owned by the gas utility, not the landlord. Once the gas is turned on, everything will work. It is not the landlords fault that your utility company has slow response. Call your local Public Utilities Commission to complain. They should be regulating response times.

16 days to get someone to turn your gas on? that's frickin ridiculous..... I would start with riding the utility company to get someone sooner....

My advice.... take it up with your landlord in a nice and professional manner....don't start throwing out a bunch of legal threats and plans to "with hold rent"...be cool but firm about it. You come into this with gun blazing of legal threats and it will start you off on the wrong foot with someone you want to have a cordial and professional relationship with over the course of your tenancy. Talk to them about it.....give them a chance to help fix things before you start throwing legal precedents and lawyers into it They may very well proactively do something with the rent or offer some help to get the utility taken care of faster. If you are cool with me, I will be cool with you....come out swinging at me and it will not help....

Based on the above referenced civil code, I think this would fall on the landlord since the lease was signed the day of move in.... the tenant probably couldn't change the utility until the lease was in place anyway. But is going to court over this the way you want to start your relationship with your new landlord?,,,,hope not....

If it were me I would be all over the utility company to get their *** out and turn it on....its a10 minute job...... and get the landlord to ride them too...talk to supervisors/managers etc......

Around my are its within 24 hours typically......

Hello everyone, I have an update: 

@Joel Florek thank you for the kind words, and for the great attitude you have towards being a landlord. I have talked to several supervisors, to no avail. They keep citing the "winter" and the crazy wildfires we've been having in southern California... although, in my opinion, this begins to fall into a Health and Safety concern and they should be willing to foot the bill. 

I will definitely be searching more for a legal case to back me. This will be crucial, you are right. 

I had a conversation with my landlord, he came by the property (without informing me first), and actually proposed that I tamper with the gas meter and turn it on myself. His words were, "it's better to ask for forgiveness, than for permission." He also then said be thankful we're not in LA, where they are dealing with wildfires. WHAT. Hahah oh man. 

Tampering with the meter is a criminal offense, including trespassing... needless to say, I will not be heeding the advice of my landlord.  

This is turning quite shady, especially with the advice to tamper with the meter. 

I will keep you informed as I continue my search. 

@Shaun C. now I know I'm not in Michigan, but habitability is not in question. It does get into the 40s in my city, but I shouldn't even have to defend that. I have no kitchen, no hot water, no heater. Your comment has no logical consistency. Your comment is probably better left on some other forum... may I suggest Youtube comments, or Reddit? 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

@Ned Jackson this is exactly my thought process and approach. I had a conversation with him, asked him for solutions, and the one solution he came up with was an illegal one. He did call to the gas company as well... But nevertheless, I am still in this situation, paying for rent on a place I cannot live. 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

Originally posted by :

Hello everyone, I have an update: 

@Shaun C. now I know I'm not in Michigan, but habitability is not in question. It does get into the 40s in my city, but I shouldn't even have to defend that. I have no kitchen, no hot water, no heater. Your comment has no logical consistency. Your comment is probably better left on some other forum... may I suggest Youtube comments, or Reddit? 

Yes it is your landlord's fault for the gas not being able to be turned on. Yes he is a slumlord for advising you to tamper with a gas meter and commit theft. My comment having no logical consistency?Take a shower without hot water. Order out. Yes it will suck. Does it warrant 100% of your rent money back? In my opinion no. In California probably yes, thank god I don't live there. Since your landlord already seems like a scumbag I would ask for 100% of rent back but if it was an honest mistake by an honest person, I wouldn't have started a tenancy off on that foot. I'll leave my post/vote count here instead of YouTube and Reddit.

@Matt Bacenet haha that would be nice. In the meantime, do you have any ideas as to how to address this matter? Back to topic...? 

Jonathan Safa, Henry Hinds Realty - Licensed Agent | [email protected] | (918) 701‑0997

They change utilities into someones name in a max of 3 days in my area . I did have to schedule to be there 1 time because the previous tenant didnt pay the electric bill and the gas and electric company wanted to verify it was vacant . 

I still say its not the landlords responsibility , because if it were left in his name , the tenant could refuse to put it in their name , and then the landlord is stuck paying utilities .  Nobody gets to move in one of my places till I verify utilities are in their name