Rent Watch: Landlord must pay for a usable phone jack

Question: I moved into a new apartment recently. I was just about to call the phone company to order land-line service when I thought I should check out where the phone would be installed. When I looked around, I did not see any outlet for a phone. There was a “box” on the wall in the bedroom, but it had been painted over and clearly was not functional.

I went to the property manager’s office to ask about the phone line. She told me I was welcome to have the phone company restore the phone service but that the repairs would be at my expense. She said that I always have the choice of just using my cellphone. Do I really have to pay for my own installation if I want a traditional land line?

Answer: California law is very clear on this. California Civil Code Section 1941.4 requires a landlord to be financially responsible for installing at least one usable phone jack, with inside wiring in good working order. The wiring must meet applicable National Electrical Code standards. The landlord is responsible for the cost of any repairs required to bring the jack and the wiring up to standard.

The landlord’s duty is unconditional. That duty is not affected by the fact that you also may have a working cellphone. There are obvious features still unique to a land line, including safety and dependability benefits.


Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a Sunnyvale, Calif. -based mediation service. To submit a question, go to