En Español

When the landlord has given you a notice (3-day, 30-day, etc.) and the time in the notice has ended, he/she can file eviction papers with the Courts.  This is called an “Unlawful Detainer” Complaint.  After the case is filed, the landlord will properly “serve” you with the Complaint and the Summons.  You should seek legal advice immediately

You will have 5 calendar days from the date you receive these papers to respond by filing your own “Answer” with the court.  To count the five days in which to file an answer, you do not count the day you are served, day one is the day after you were served, and you have until court closes on the fifth day.  Weekends are counted as part of the 5 days unless the last day falls on a weekend day, then you will have the next full court day.

What Happens If You Don’t Answer?

Your response to the Unlawful Detainer Complaint is called an “Answer.”  If you do not file an Answer within 5 calendar days, the landlord may take a default judgment against you.  This means that you will lose the case without the chance to go to court and tell your story to the Judge.  If a default is entered, the Sheriff will come out and post a “Notice to Vacate” on your door, giving you about 5 days to move out.  If you do not move out before the date given in the notice, the Sheriff will physically remove you and lock up your belongings in the premises.  If your belongings are locked inside the premises, you will have to pay the storage costs to get back your property, within 15 days.

What Happens If You Do Answer?

If you do file an Answer within the 5 calendar days, you will get a court hearing.  The trial will be set within 10 to 20 days from the date you file your Answer.  If you win the trial, you will get to stay in the premises.  If the court orders you to pay back rent, you will have five days to pay the amount.

What Happens If You Lose at Trial?

If you lose the trial, the landlord can have the Sheriff serve you with a “Notice to Vacate” that will set a date to evict you, usually in about 5 days.  If you do not move out within the 5 days, the Sheriff will physically remove you and lock up the premises.  If your possessions are locked inside, you may have to pay storage costs (but not back rent) before your property is returned to you.  It is best to remove all of your belongings before you vacate the premises. 

This is general information on the law, which may change.  For specific legal problems, you should consult with a lawyer.

En Español


Can I Make Repairs and Deduct the Costs from My Rent?

You have the right to ask the landlord to repair serious habitability problems.  If the landlord refuses, you may make the repairs and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent.  The cost of repairs (labors and materials) cannot exceed one month’s rent.

What Repairs are “Serious”?

The landlord does not have to keep your place in perfect shape.  A few cockroaches or a broken screen may not be enough to allow you to withhold your rent.  The landlord must provide:

  • Working plumbing;
  • Heating;
  • Hot & cold running water;
  • Electricity and lights that work and are safe (no exposed wiring);
  • Roof, walls and windows that do not leak and are not broken; 
  • Enough trash cans to keep trash from overflowing; and
  • Safe floors, stairs and railings.

What Is The Procedure For “Repair and Deduct”?

Before you can do repairs, you must give your landlord a written notice requesting repairs. You must wait a reasonable time - usually 30-days – for the landlord to make the repairs.  This time can be less for emergencies, such as a flooding toilet or a broken heater in the winter.  If the landlord tries to make repairs and you interfere, you may lose your rights.  Withholding your rent can be risky, because your landlord might try to evict you for non-payment of rent.  Remember, the cost of repairs (labors and materials) cannot exceed one month’s rent.  You can only use the “repair and deduct” remedy twice in any 12 month period.  It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you proceed.

What Steps Can I Take If The Landlord Does Not Make The Repairs?

If the landlord does not make the repairs in a reasonable time, you can:

  • Have the repairs made yourself and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent. Get 2 or 3 estimates for the job and select the one that is the most reasonable. Once repairs are done and you have paid the bill, deduct that amount from the next month’s rent. Include with your rent a statement of the amount deducted for repairs, as well as copies of all repair receipts. Keep copies for your records.
  • Sue your landlord in Small Claims Court to pay for repairs. Continue to pay your full rent until the court hearing. The court will decide if the repairs were for serious problems and what cost is reasonable. If you win, the court will order the landlord to refund part of your rent to pay the repair costs.
  • If a code enforcement agency ordered the landlord to fix violations and they are not done within the time specified in the report, you may sue in Small Claims Court for a repair order. If you win, the court will order the landlord to do repairs and may stop all rent payments until they are made.

Can the Landlord Try to Evict Me for Enforcing My Right to “Repair and Deduct”?

So long as you follow your duties and obligations under the rental agreement, for 180 days (6 months), the landlord may not retaliate against you by raising the rent, reducing services, or evicting you if you enforce your rights as follows:

  • You give written notice to the landlord to make repairs or you orally complain to the landlord about the condition of the place; or
  • After giving reasonable notice to the landlord to make repairs, you file a complaint with the local code enforcement agency, have the place inspected, and/or a citation is issued as a result; or
  • You file and/or win a court action about the poor conditions.

When Does Repair and Deduct Not Apply?

If you, your roommates or guests damage the property, or you violate your rental agreement, then you may lose your right to “repair and deduct.” For example, you must:

  • Properly dispose of garbage;
  • Properly use electrical systems, gas, plumbing and fixtures, and keep them clean;
  • Prevent anyone on the premises with your permission from doing damage; and
  • Follow your obligations under the rental agreement.

This is general information on the law, which may change.  For specific legal problems, you should consult with a lawyer.

En Español


Click here to see our Habitability slideshow.


What are the Landlord’s duties to a Tenant?

Your landlord must provide a safe and sanitary place to live when he/she accepts rent from you. In other words, it must be “habitable.” If the unit is not habitable when you move in, your landlord must make all needed repairs as long as he/she charges you rent. This is called the “implied warranty of habitability.” The landlord cannot legally terminate your tenancy because you complain that he/she has not provided habitable premises. 

What are My Duties as a Tenant?

As a tenant, you have a duty to keep the place clean and sanitary, remove trash, properly use plumbing, gas, and electrical systems, neither destroy nor vandalize the premises nor allow a guest to do so, and to use the housing as your living quarters (the purpose for which they were designed).

What is a Habitable Place?

A “habitable place” need not be nice looking or comfortable. However, it must be substantially in compliance with the building code and has to provide the “bare living requirements.” For example, the law does not require your landlord to paint your home every year or to give you new drapes or rugs. A place is “habitable” if it has the following:

  • Working plumbing and heating;
  • Hot and cold running water;
  • Electricity and lights that work and are safe (no exposed wiring);
  • Roof, walls and windows that do not leak and are not broken;
  • Clean common areas, free from trash and debris;
  • Enough trash cans to keep trash from overflowing; and
  • Safe floors, stairs and rails.

What should You do if Your Place is Not Habitable?

Notify the landlord or his/her agent in writing about the problems that exist. This notice should be given as soon as possible after discovering the uninhabitable conditions. Ask your landlord to make all needed repairs. You should state a specific reasonable deadline for the repairs to be made. A reasonable amount of time would depend on the severity of the problem. Keep a copy of this letter for your records. Take pictures of all the problems, date the pictures and keep them in case you need to go to court. You should also call the local code enforcement agency to inspect your home. The inspector will send your landlord a written report of any sub-standard living conditions found in your unit. You must allow your landlord or his/her repairman access to your unit during normal business hours to fix all the problems that exist. 

What if Your Landlord does Not make the Repairs?

If your landlord does not make the repairs, you can do one of the following:

  • Move out and sue your landlord in Small Claims Court for damages to you, your family, or to your property due to your landlord’s breach of the “implied warranty of habitability” if the total is less than $10,000. For damages which exceed $10,000, sue in Superior Court; 
  • Remain and pay full rent; sue your landlord for breach of the “implied warranty of habitability” in Small Claims Court for damages up to $10,000 or in Superior Court which exceed $10,000;
  • Remain and pay rent, sue in Small Claims Court for a repair order. Do this only if your code enforcement agency ordered your landlord to make the repairs and she/he has not done so for 60 days. The court can order him/her to make repairs and stop all rent payments;
  • Make the repairs yourself and deduct the amount from the rent. You have to give written notice first AND save receipts. The cost of repairs must be less than one month’s rent. This remedy is risky so consult an attorney to be sure to follow the proper procedure;
  • Withhold your entire rent and set it aside in a bank or trust account. This is the most severe and risky option, and it may result in you being evicted if done improperly. Before doing this, consult an attorney to be sure this is the right thing to do and that you use the proper procedure.

What if I want to Withhold My Rent?

If you consult with an attorney and decide to withhold all rent because your landlord has not made necessary repairs in your unit, the landlord may try to evict you for failure to pay rent. The landlord will give you a notice to pay your rent in 3 days or leave. If you do not pay or leave at this time, the landlord will file an “Unlawful Detainer” Complaint (an eviction lawsuit) with the court and serve you.

You must file your “Answer” in court within 5 calendar days of receiving the “Complaint”. In your defense you will state that the fair rental value of the premises is too high because your landlord breached the “implied warranty of habitability”. You can also request an order that the landlord make repairs, that your rent be reduced until they are done, and that the court monitor the case until that time. You will need proof that there was a problem and that your landlord was aware of it. (You may also sue in separate lawsuits). Be sure to set aside your rent money so you will have it to pay later. If you win, the court will subtract from the full rent the value of the bare living requirements that were lacking. You only have to pay the remainder, and you will be able to stay in the premises.

This is general information on the law, which may change.  For specific legal problems, you should consult with a lawyer.

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TEAM is funded by California Public Utilities Commission, in existence since 2008.

The goal of TEAM is to provide in-language telecommunications education and assistance with disputes to consumers who are non-English speaking or limited English proficient.  There are a total of 28 Community Based Organizations serving residents in 41 languages throughout California.

Consumers who are not fluent in English are more vulnerable to fraud.  TEAM provides education to limited English-speaking consumers regarding all aspects of telephones, cell phones, bundled packages (internet, cable, telephone, VOIP), California Life Line disputes, assistance with service provider disputes regarding: service contract plans, faulty equipment, unauthorized charges, in language contracts, and excessive charges.

For information about these services offered by CCLS, please contact Nora Salazar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (559) 570-1239.


Until he needed the court's protection to be reunited with his wife, Roland had never heard of legal aid. Faced with the daunting challenges of the legal system, Roland found the support he needed in the CCLS Conservatorship Clinic.

"They were very helpful to me," Roland recalls, "I couldn't have made it through without them."

Thanks to all of our supporters, Roland and his wife have a new sense of security. "I was happy that the justice system worked," confided Roland. He and his wife are enjoying the quiet comfort and happiness of their home, once again. The value of such a gift cannot be measured in dollars, but in the smiles they exchange.

When justice is given, the rewards are happiness and satisfaction that can be shared by all.

Please "Give Justice" on #GivingTuesday December 1, 2015.


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Ms. Luisa Medina
Development Director

P.S. Roland received the Client Award at the 2014 Champions of Justice Reception.