An Owner-Tenant Guide to Repairs and Maintenance
Generally, it is in both the tenant’s and the owner’s interest to address repair issues as soon as they arise. Tenants clearly benefit because the sooner a repair is made, the sooner s/he has full use of a safe and livable unit. Owners also benefit because the rental unit is a substantial investment and the sooner a repair is made, the less damage to the building and potential cost for making the repair. In addition, quick repairs reduce the owner’s potential liability to the tenant for damage or impairment.
We have found that, in most cases, tenants and owners are able to resolve issues of repair and maintenance without complications. The section below provides some tips for both owners and tenants about how to avoid habitability problems, and when they do arise, how to get the repairs made quickly. If a problem arises, you should not ignore it – instead, we recommend that you communicate directly and politely with the person responsible. In most cases, using the techniques suggested below will resolve the problem.
Initial Steps for Avoiding or Resolving Repair Problems:
1. Inspect the unit at the beginning of the tenancy and note problems to the owner in writing.
2. Keep the rental unit clean and sanitary.
3. Expect your unit to be inspected by the owner for compliance with the Rental Housing Safety Program by July 1st
every year. Review the certification; contact your building’s owner and the City of Berkeley if it is inaccurate.
4. Request repairs immediately when a problem arises.
5. Send the owner a written follow-up to document your request. Keep copies of all correspondence.
6. Allow the owner access to enter the unit during normal business hours to perform repairs.
7. Avoid making any alterations to the unit or any structure on the rented property without written permission from the
1. When contacted by the tenant, arrange for repairs right away.
2. Give tenants 24 hours’ written notice before entering a unit to make repairs.
3. Complete Rental Housing Safety Program certification
each year in a timely manner. Give a copy of to the tenant
by July 1st. You may wish to send it with a Certificate of Mailing for proof that the inspection was performed
4. Comply with the City Noise Ordinance when making repairs. Permissible hours for construction noise are 7 a.m.-7
p.m. Respect the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment.
5. Always get necessary permits when making repairs.
If the other party is not responsive or the problem persists, you may need to take more formal action to get the situation resolved. We have included some options if you find that you are unable to resolve a repair issue with your owner or tenant. Rent Board counselors are always available if you have questions about whom to call or what to do so that the appropriate repairs get made.
Possible Steps if You Are Unable to Resolve a Repair Issue:
1. Request a housing inspection
with Housing Code Enforcement (510-981-5444). Show the inspector all the
problems in the unit, and ask him/her to make note of each problem in their report even if it is not considered a
2. File a Rent Board petition
for a rent reduction if the owner has failed to provide adequate housing services, comply
with housing codes or the warranty of habitability, or if substantial deterioration of the unit has occurred.
3. Repair and deduct
in accordance with Civil Code 1942.
4. File a claim in Small Claims Court if the matter can’t be resolved directly with the owner.
1. Request that the City do Rental Housing Safety Program certification
if tenant will not allow entry in order for the
inspection to be performed.
2. Use the City Relocation Program
as a resource to determine your obligations when extensive repair work is
necessary and may require the tenant to move out.
3. If the tenant has made the repair necessary by causing damage to the unit, make a written request for payment for
the reasonable cost of repairing the damage. While deduction from the security deposit is permitted for damage,
consider filing a claim in small claims court for earlier restitution. If a tenant causes damage to the rental property
and refuses to pay for the repairs, this could constitute a good cause for eviction.
Note: Section 8 housing guidelines may differ. Contact the Berkeley Housing Authority for more information at (510) 981-5470.
According to State Law and Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.76, all rental units should have:
1. Smoke detectors
2. Operable windows
3. Appropriate door locks
4. A roof with no leaks
5. A functional sewer system
6. Hot and cold running water
7. Easy access to exits
8. A functional heating system
9. A functional electrical system
10. A resident manager (if the building has 16 or more units)
11. A working phone jack
Repair and Deduct
Step 1: Write a letter to your landlord requesting the repairs that are needed, and state that he/she must have them made within a reasonable time frame. Thirty days is standard for non-urgent repairs. If the problem requires a more immediate fix, the tenant should be prepared to justify a demand for quicker action.
Step 2: Make a photocopy of the letter for yourself and send the original to the owner after getting a certificate of mailing from the post office. Store the letter and the certificate of mailing in a safe place.
Step 3: If your landlord has not made the repairs within 30 days of your written request, arrange for the repairs yourself. Photograph the area needing repairs both before and after the repairs are made. Store the receipt for the repairs along with the original request and certificate of mailing.
Step 4: When your next rent payment is due, deduct the cost of the repairs you arranged for and include copies of the receipts.