1

Back story

Moved into an apartment in Santa Monica, California, signed lease, buy new mattress and place it on floor. Buy new bed frame a week later and lift mattress to find termites burrowing into mattress and moving in and out back into the floor. I decided to vacate and took photos and provided evidence. I was only in the property for 10 days by the time I left.

The landlord claimed to dispute this claim as upon "inspection" couldn't find the issue till I provided photos.

They said they would give me full deposit back and let me out of lease as an "informal settlement".

I moved the rest of my things out and left the infested mattress which I told them would be the case. No issues raised. I left a cabinet and told them I can collect it. No response on that. I've cooperated on every account.

Then I said I would accept the informal offer if they also included compensation for the new mattress worth $249. They did not respond for a while. I asked again.

They rejected the "counter offer" and are now telling me they will provide "final accounting", which sounds like they are going to try take from my security deposit.

What I Know

Now I'm not lawyer, but I've done my home work:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/landlords-obligations-termites-48037.html and other sources suggest that this is a health and safety issue in California and that they are indeed breaking the law. It would also seem they should have informed me of infestations if they knew about them, and also if they didn't then their inspections aren't good enough. They also told me they'd send the "maintenance guy" around to spray for termite. I'm also aware this needs to be handled by a professional in pests.

What I'd Like To Know

  • Can they try to claim damages and deduct from my deposit?
  • Am I at all in the wrong here?
  • Am I able to claim compensation for the mattress?
  • What about the damages to my business due to the time wasted dealing with this?
  • What about personal expenses and damages? I'm now homeless and it's costing me money and time.
  • Have they got any leg to stand on here? Or are they out of order to try claim damages?
  • Is it illegal for them to try lease the place out knowing there is an issue without getting a professional in?
  • The place is technically uninhabitable, surely this trumps all?
  • Offering an informal settlement, then revoking it seems rather brash, is this poor conduct?

I'd appreciate any advice on this as I am a foreigner and still getting to grips with my rights here.

Thank you!

2

I cannot speak to the particular jurisdiction and landlord -tenant relations are extremely jurisdiction specific. What follows is a basic common law position (California is a common law jurisdiction).

Can they try to claim damages and deduct from my deposit?

Anyone can claim anything from anyone at any time - that is the beauty of our system. I will introduce you to the "golden rule" - the person with the gold makes the rules. They have your money: therefore they can keep it. Whether this is legal or not is another question.

Am I at all in the wrong here?

Possibly, I haven't read your lease. It is likely that the lease (or the law) may have a habitability clause. It is possible that a termite infested property is not habitable. It is possible the property is termite infested - as you are not a qualified entomologist (I am guessing) this is something you would have to prove on the balance of probabilities.

Notwithstanding, even if the landlord is in breach then that is not necessarily grounds for you to terminate the lease. You could have moved out and found alternative accommodation while the termite infestation was dealt with, if you had done so you would have been entitled to recover your costs. It may be that you have repudiated the contract and the landlord is entitled to damages from you.

Am I able to claim compensation for the mattress?

Yes, see above. More specifically, if there is something about the landlord's breach or negligence that damaged your mattress then, generally, you would win. However, if the mattress could have been rehabilitated by e.g. sterilisation and cleaning then you would have only been entitled to the cost of this if it is less than replacement cost.

What about the damages to my business due to the time wasted dealing with this?

You would have to prove actual real costs e.g. time off work, lost clients etc.

What about personal expenses and damages? I'm now homeless and it's costing me money and time.

See above

Have they got any leg to stand on here?

Maybe, sue them and find out.

Or are they out of order to try claim damages?

See above

Is it illegal for them to try lease the place out knowing there is an issue without getting a professional in?

This is one of those jurisdiction things. If a fault in a good or service is disclosed or unknown to the vendor then at common law the purchaser has no come back.

The place is technically uninhabitable, surely this trumps all?

See above, jurisdiction.

Offering an informal settlement, then revoking it seems rather brash, is this poor conduct?

They didn't revoke it, you did by making a counter-offer. When a party makes a counter-offer then any previous offers from the other party is dead.

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