I'm renting an apartment in a rural part of California where I've lived for about three years, on a month-to-month rental agreement. The landlord is responsible for providing / paying for the water, according to the rental agreement.

The water was tested and it turned out to be contaminated with E. coli. All the tenants were notified of this with a "Boil Water" notice on our front doors. After about five weeks, the water stopped entirely.

As far as I can tell, the water here is provided via a "state small water system" owned by the landlord.

Is there anything I can do as a tenant?

  • 1
    An update for anyone interested: it turns out that the landlord made an illegal modification to the water supply that caused the contamination, then the water was shut off entirely. The state and county authorities are now aware of it, but there's still no water for tenants.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


The relevant law regarding a landlord's obligation to provide a habitable premise is California Civil Code section 1941.1, which says

a) A dwelling shall be deemed untenantable for purposes of Section 1941 if it substantially lacks any of the following affirmative standard characteristics or is a residential unit described in Section 17920.3 or 17920.10 of the Health and Safety Code:...

(3) A water supply approved under applicable law that is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water, or a system that is under the control of the landlord, that produces hot and cold running water, furnished to appropriate fixtures, and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.

This does not say that water must be drinkable fresh from the tap (what has to be approved is the water system, not the water coming through the system). These legal professionals imply that a landlord is obligated to take care of the problem, but that could be advertising.

Although there isn't a clear requirement to provide bacteria-free water, you might prevail in a lawsuit. However, it still isn't possible under §1941 to compel the landlord to fix the problem, according to the Cal. Consumer Affairs blurb. In case it turns out that the condition of the water does put the landlord in violation of the habitability standards, a standard remedy is to give written notice of the "dilapidation" of the premise which renders it untenantable and which the landlord should repair, and after a reasonable time the landlord neglects to repair the dilapidation, they you can fix it yourself and deduct the cost up to one month's rent. Or, you can terminate the lease (not much use with a month-to-month). This is under §1942.

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