Electrical Services and Tenant Rights
Express Electrical Services serves customers throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. Our electricians are trained and experienced in dealing with all sorts of problems. Occasionally, we receive a call by a tenant, when a landlord’s approval is needed prior to starting any work.
According to the California Civil Code, electrical lighting, wiring, and equipment conforming to applicable laws upon installation must be maintained to ensure they function. But the language, like in most state statutes, stresses the fact a system just needs to work, not meet current codes. Landlords may not fix any electrical problems unless it’s broken, so requesting electrical updates can be a challenge.
Check Your Lease
Whether you rent an apartment or house, the lease should cover some rights and responsibilities, including a clause on proper use of the electrical system and what the renter’s responsibilities are. The law will only require action if a significant hazard is created by an electrical problem. Outdated wiring, however, is not illegal as long as it works.
Tenant Rights for Electrical Safety
Landlords have a duty of habitability. That means it’s your landlord’s responsibility to provide a habitable unit that complies with state and local health/safety codes. A faulty electrical system can render a home uninhabitable.
Cities often have building codes outlining habitability requirements, particularly for electrical systems. Landlords are expected to ensure these minimum requirements are met.
If the landlord does not bring an apartment up to code, a tenant can cancel their lease.
Responsibility falls on the landlord for:
- Ensuring electrical outlets are working prior to renting the unit.
- Fixing outlets that fail due to faulty installation or maintenance.
- Arranging for repairs in a reasonable amount of time, if a tenant notifies them of a faulty outlet.
If the tenant, their children, or guests are responsible for an outlet issue (due to improper use, inserting foreign objects, or overloading it), the landlord may not be responsible for arranging repairs.
Repair and Deduct Remedy
California law offers a remedy should a landlord neglect to perform repairs. In this case, tenants can do the work themselves and deduct the cost from their monthly rent, as long as the bill doesn’t exceed one month’s rent. You would, of course, need to notify the landlord of your intent in advance of taking such action.
However, don’t automatically believe you can deduct repair costs from rent payments, or stop paying rent, as this can breach your Lease Agreement. If an electrical issue isn’t fixed in a reasonable amount of time, you can try contacting a local housing authority.
If the lease states that electrical repairs are the tenant’s responsibility, the following steps apply:
- A tenant can arrange for the necessary electrical repairs.
- A landlord can arrange repairs and send the tenant a bill.
- If the tenant does not repair the problem, the landlord can send a warning letter.
The last option permits the landlord to write a warning for the tenant to comply with their request. If the damaged outlet violates local housing codes and/or is an immediate hazard, the tenant can be asked to vacate the unit.
Making a Repair Request
You should notify your landlord of a need for repairs as soon as possible. At LawDepot.ca, you can draft a Repair Notice to inform your landlord. They have up to 30 days to respond from the day they receive the notice.
But that applies only to non-emergency situations. An emergency needs to be dealt with immediately and may fall under your responsibility, at least to arrange for cleanup and repairs.
Electrical Repairs: Tenant or Landlord Responsibility?
Generally, an electrical repair is the responsibility of your landlord to arrange and pay for, unless you, an occupant, or guest are at fault for the damage. If your landlord does not take appropriate action, they can be liable.
Time limits generally give landlords up to a month to respond to a repair request. But it’s a different story if you have no electricity or there is an electrical hazard. There are too many risks including a fire, having no heat, or falling in the dark. A residential landlord should be responsive in such a situation.