Civil Code 1942.4 (CC 1942.4) Liability of Landlord in Certain Circumstances

 

Civil Code 1942.4 (also referred to simply as CC 1942.4) is a law in California’s Civil Code that discusses a landlord’s liability in demanding rent in certain circumstances, such as when the landlord is breaching the warranty of habitability or after a government agency has notified the landlord of substandard conditions.

The full text of Civil Code 1942.4 is long and difficult to read. I will quote the text, and then I will explain in lay terms, some of the more relevant portions.

Civil Code 1942.4.  

(a) A landlord of a dwelling may not demand rent, collect rent, issue a notice of a rent increase, or issue a three-day notice to pay rent or quit pursuant to subdivision (2) of Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure, if all of the following conditions exist prior to the landlord’s demand or notice:

(1) The dwelling substantially lacks any of the affirmative standard characteristics listed in Section 1941.1 or violates Section 17920.10 of the Health and Safety Code, or is deemed and declared substandard as set forth in Section 17920.3 of the Health and Safety Code because conditions listed in that section exist to an extent that endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants of the dwelling.

(2) A public officer or employee who is responsible for the enforcement of any housing law, after inspecting the premises, has notified the landlord or the landlord’s agent in writing of his or her obligations to abate the nuisance or repair the substandard conditions.

(3) The conditions have existed and have not been abated 35 days beyond the date of service of the notice specified in paragraph (2) and the delay is without good cause. For purposes of this subdivision, service shall be complete at the time of deposit in the United States mail.

(4) The conditions were not caused by an act or omission of the tenant or lessee in violation of Section 1929 or 1941.2.

(b) (1) A landlord who violates this section is liable to the tenant or lessee for the actual damages sustained by the tenant or lessee and special damages of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) and not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(2) The prevailing party shall be entitled to recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of the suit in an amount fixed by the court.

(c) Any court that awards damages under this section may also order the landlord to abate any nuisance at the rental dwelling and to repair any substandard conditions of the rental dwelling, as defined in Section 1941.1, which significantly or materially affect the health or safety of the occupants of the rental dwelling and are uncorrected. If the court orders repairs or corrections, or both, the court’s jurisdiction continues over the matter for the purpose of ensuring compliance.

(d) The tenant or lessee shall be under no obligation to undertake any other remedy prior to exercising his or her rights under this section.

(e) Any action under this section may be maintained in small claims court if the claim does not exceed the jurisdictional limit of that court.

(f) The remedy provided by this section may be utilized in addition to any other remedy provided by this chapter, the rental agreement, lease, or other applicable statutory or common law. Nothing in this section shall require any landlord to comply with this section if he or she pursues his or her rights pursuant to Chapter 12.75 (commencing with Section 7060) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code.

For purposes of this article, I will focus on a few key portions of Civil Code 1942.4. Basically, a landlord cannot collect rent from a tenant, or give a tenant a 3 day notice to pay or quit, or increase a tenant’s rent, under certain circumstances. For example, if the landlord is in violation of Civil Code 1941.1, then CC 1942.4 prohibits a landlord from demanding rent, collecting rent, or increasing rent. A similar prohibition applies if a government agency has notified the landlord of substandard conditions and the conditions have existed and not been corrected within 35 days, so long as the condition(s) was not caused by the tenant (see Civil Code 1941.2).

Many tenant law firms in the Los Angeles area, particularly BASTA, will raise this defense, claiming the landlord has breached Civil Code 1942.4, in an Answer to the landlord’s unlawful detainer (eviction) action. A tenant may also file a case in court against the landlord for breach of Civil Code 1942.4, even if the landlord hasn’t filed an eviction case against the tenant for non-payment of rent. There are several ways to combat and refute this tenant allegation. Keep good records and pictures! Have the tenant sign a pre move-in inspection before the tenant moves in. The tenant may very well be the cause of the damage or problem, and the tenant may be in violation of Civil Code 1941.2. The landlord can do periodic inspections and take pictures to make sure the tenant is maintaining the property and to inspect the overall condition of the property and proactively make any needed repairs. The landlord doesn’t have to wait for the tenant to notify the landlord of repairs, but can take proactive steps to inspect the property every 6 months after providing the tenant with a valid 24 hour written notice of entry.

Civil Code 1942.4 provides for liability to a landlord who violates the law. To be sure, the landlord could by liable to the tenant monetarily, and the tenant can also recover reasonable attorney fees and costs. The landlord can also be ordered to fix the problem.

As such, it is the landlord’s duty to maintain the property in a habitable condition and if the landlord knows that the property is not habitable, under Civil Code 1942.4, the landlord may not increase rent, collect rent, or serve the tenant with a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit.

The Law Office of David Piotrowski assists landlords with unlawful detainer eviction cases. Be sure to check out our reviews! We look forward to serving you. We offer a free consultation on most cases.

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