The toilets overflow. What’s a renter to do?

Mark’s daughter had a nasty experience. The toilets in her apartment building backed up and her unit was flooded with, well, you know.

The building manager tried to fix things by pulling up the carpets and spraying them with Lysol. That didn’t do much.

Mark wants to know: What responsibilities do landlords have in such situations?

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions


According to state law, a landlord has to keep a dwelling “habitable.” That means things have to be sanitary.

I think most people would agree that sewage-soaked carpets don’t meet that definition, and that Lysol isn’t the most effective remedy.

If a landlord or building manager doesn’t do enough to address a problem like this, take your case to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversses disputes between tenants and property owners.

Here’s the bottom line (pun intended, for those keeping score): Renters have rights. Don’t be shy about asserting them.

For more check out Friday’s Ask Laz video.

If you have a consumer question, email me at or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.