Do Landlords have to Replace Lightbulbs in California?

25 May, 6:16 am

A property is usually handed over to a new tenant with all light bulbs working. However, during the course of the tenancy, a light bulb may need replacement.

In that case, are the tenants or the landlords responsible for replacing dead light bulbs? Keep reading to know the answer. But before that, let’s first learn the basics of tenants’ right to habitability.


Tenants’ Right to Habitability


In California, all rental and lease agreements are deemed to have an implied warranty of habitability. It means landlords must maintain the unit in a habitable condition, regardless of any conflicting lease agreement.

The law recognizes the tenants’ right to habitability, which means that the dwelling is safe and secure, and a reasonable individual wouldn’t have a problem living there. 

By problem, we mean there’s no health risk, and in case the property condition falls short of the warranty of habitability, landlords should take action to follow acceptable standards. Faulty electrical wiring affects habitability. [1]

Yet, the implied warranty of habitability doesn’t apply if the tenant or their family member, guest, or pet caused the electrical problem. 

For instance, if the tenant plugs an industrial-strength construction tool into the bathroom wall socket that damages the writing, the repair cost entirely falls on the tenant.


tenant replacing lightbulb in california

Courtesy of Canva/RossHelen

So, Do Landlords Have To Replace Light Bulbs?


Generally, landlords don’t have to replace lightbulbs in a rental property. Light bulbs are considered consumable goods, meaning they wear out with use over time, so it is the tenant’s responsibility to replace burned-out light bulbs.


Situations When Landlords Are Responsible for Changing Light Bulbs


There are a few situations when changing dead light bulbs is the landlord’s responsibility. These include

1. Change of Tenants

When a property changes tenants, a landlord should turn the rental property to new tenants with all things in working condition and the property safe. 

If a light bulb is not working, the landlord should replace it. New tenants should thoroughly inspect the property and ensure that everything is working properly before taking possession. 

2. Part of a Common Area

A landlord should likewise take responsibility for changing light bulbs in a common area, usually in a multi-unit property. This may be in a hallway or a porch that renters proportionally use.

3. Risk To The Tenant

Another time when a property manager or a landlord should change light bulbs is if it would pose a risk or danger to the tenant. Requiring the renter to do maintenance beyond their ability may lead to a personal injury lawsuit. More so that some light fixtures are difficult to work with.

Moreover, some areas in a property pose safety hazards without adequate lighting. These include the parking lots, staircases, laundry rooms, and parking lots. Landlords can be responsible for replacing dead light bulbs in these areas.

4. For Sustainability 

Some property owners prefer to replace lightbulbs themselves if they promote sustainability in their properties. For instance, they want to qualify for Energy Star certification, so they would want to manage lightbulb replacement themselves.

5. Part of the Rental Agreement

What’s agreed between both parties (landlord and tenant) can also make the landlord responsible for replacing the light bulbs. 

This is often the case when the light bulb is part of an essential appliance or is installed in a hard-to-reach area. On the other hand, if the rental agreement stipulates that the tenant is responsible for replacing dead light bulbs, the renter is technically responsible for changing them.

6. Premium Service

Landlords may choose to replace lightbulbs themselves if it’s part of their premium service. Some rental homes charge higher prices in exchange for a high level of service. This often applies in luxury condos or assisted living communities.

7. Special Fitting

Another reason that doesn’t make the tenant responsible for light bulb replacement is if the bulb is a special fitting and is expensive. Light bulb fitting types are often identified with a letter and a number. Buying a bulb with the wrong fitting or cap means it won’t fit into the fixture.


Who Pays for Replacement Light Bulbs?


When they take possession of the property, the renter pays to replace light bulbs when it burns out. 

Tenants should consider costs similar to other consumable goods when running a household, such as gas and electricity for appliances, toilet paper, trash bags, shower curtains, and batteries in a smoke detector.

With that in mind, it may be worth it for renters to buy more expensive light bulbs to save money on their electric bill, especially if they plan to stay in the apartment longer than a year.

Moreover, the personal lighting that renters bring when moving into the rental property, such as table lamps and floor lamps, is the tenants’ responsibility as well.

However, landlords or property owners will pay for replacement costs when light bulbs are in common areas, or tenants change.


lightbulb being replaced in rental property

Courtesy of Pexels


How Soon Must a Landlord Make Electrical Repairs?


In California, the landlord is given a reasonable amount of time, usually 30 days, to make electrical repairs. More serious situations may require only 72 hours. 

Repair and Deduct

A powerful legal remedy for tenants, when landlords don’t make major repairs in California, is to hire a repair person to fix and subtract such cost from the following month’s rent. [2] 

However, this “repair and deduct” concept is subject to certain conditions. For instance, tenants cannot spend more than one month’s rent. They should not be the ones to cause the problem and must have notified their landlord in writing of the problem.

Tenants can’t make any deduction until they’ve paid for the fixing or they themselves have done the actual work.


Final Words


The bottom line is landlords don’t have to be called over when their tenants’ light bulb is out. Unless stated within the rental agreement, replacing light bulbs is the tenants’ responsibility, especially if they moved into the property with all the light bulbs working.

Still, property maintenance is the landlord’s responsibility because it is their property. It remains in their best interest to take care when something is wrong so the costs won’t skyrocket. Plus, it helps keep the tenants happy, reducing expensive vacancy periods and tenant turnover.

The information contained in this site is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for the advice of counsel. You should consult with an attorney for legal advice on your specific situation.


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[1] Legislature

[2] Legislature