Q&A Regarding Safety and Sanitation of Premises


Q. A six-year tenant complained that the carpet is dirty and requested that I replace it. I installed new carpeting at the start of her tenancy, and there are no holes, snags or tripping hazards. What is my obligation?

A. The answer to this question depends in large part on the provisions in the lease agreement governing the tenant’s responsibility to maintain a sanitary and safe premises, and the overall condition of the carpet.

Under California law, tenants have a duty to avoid waste by maintaining a safe and sanitary premises and to dispose of garbage. A tenant’s duty to avoid waste is held to the same standard of any present occupant with an interest in the property. The tenant cannot destroy the property and cannot consciously allow the premises to decay or become destroyed. Tenants also have a duty to make ordinary repairs. However, tenants do not have a duty to prevent or repair ordinary wear and tear that naturally occurs over the course of the tenancy.

Assuming the lease agreement does not have language that significantly limits or broadens the tenant’s duty to avoid waste or make ordinary repairs, the six-year tenant referenced in the above question at the very least has a duty to avoid waste by cleaning the carpet. Since the carpet was new at the beginning of the tenancy, the tenant is expected by law to regularly sweep, vacuum, and clean the carpet so as to maintain the carpet and avoid waste. If the tenant has accumulated dirt on the carpet over the last six years, it is the tenant’s responsibility, not the landlord’s, to clean the dirt from the carpet.

Since there are no holes, snags or tripping hazards, it appears that the landlord has no duty to replace the carpet. If there is nothing beyond accumulated dirt on the carpet, the landlord can encourage the tenant to clean the carpet. If the lease agreement has express conditions on the tenant’s duty to maintain a clean and sanitary premises, the landlord should reference those provisions in the lease agreement as well.

© 2019 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time

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