I'm a landlord with a duplex in CA. I live in one unit, have a tenant in the other with a 1 year rental agreement (not sure if that technically makes it a lease, but it is entitled 'rental agreement')

The tenant was solvable and looked agreeable and reasonable, but has been a pain since moving in, complaining about the smallest things.

We had a verbal agreement and plan with deadline proposed by the tenant for fixing one issue, yet before that deadline the tenant filed a complaint with the city without saying anything.

Now City code enforcement inspector is paying me a visit. The place is probably up to code from the 1990's, but I expect there might be (hopefully minor) renovations.

Seeing how much of a pain the tenant has been so far, I can expect the tenant might also cause me trouble for inconveniencing during renovations. Especially the tenant has always insisted to be present for the original attempts to fix the problem, but has an odd schedule and very different working hours than mine which has made it difficult.

If renovations could inconvenience the tenant, or even shut down the place for a few days, what are my and the tenant's rights?

Can I break the agreement if I am forced into heavy renovations by the city? Can the tenant claim damages?

Is there exceptions for breaking such rental agreement, like for example if I were to move into the unit? (I currently live in the attached unit)

In the rental agreement, I can only find a provision for termination of the agreement in case the place is partially or completely destroyed due to situation out of my control. Would city imposed renovations fit under this provision?

I have a land use consultant, and I'm eventually looking into hiring an attorney, but I thought I'd ask here first.

1 Answer 1


The government of California has an extensive manual that says what you can and cannot do. To terminate a lease (a rental agreement for a year is a lease), there would have to be just cause for eviction (p. 65), such as failing to pay rent, violating terms of the agreement, cockfighting, and so on, and that does not include being a pain in the neck. Nor would the need to make repairs justify terminating a lease. On p. 79 they clarify that retaliatory eviction for exercising their legal rights is prohibited per California Civil Code 1942.5, and will result in fines. P. 35 ff. covers landlords entering: you may enter to make repairs, but must give 24 hour written notice (6 days if mailed), entering between 8am and 5pm business days, but you can also arrive at alternative times orally.

If the local code-enforcers require you to do some modifications on the property, that is a separate matter and does not create a just cause for terminating the lease. For instance, if the electric service is not properly grounded and they require you to fix that, that does not constitute the structure "being destroyed". If the repairs make the building actually and certifiably uninhabitable, you might be on the hook for finding lodging for the tenant for the period of the repairs, so ask your attorney about that. Assuming that the tenant is not somehow responsible for the problem being repaired, then you will almost certainly have to keep the person for the duration of the lease.

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