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Breaking a CA lease because of failed septic

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?

We moved to our house July 1, 2015. It is on a septic system, (which I'm familiar with and we didn't put anything inappropriate down the drain!)

Within 1 month my husband and I noticed a fairly foul smell that was intermittent. Neighbors and friends also noticed. We mentioned it to the landlord in Sept, and they said that it was inspected and pumped before we moved in, so it shouldn't be a problem. My neighbors said that sometimes venting issues could cause that smell.

November 1st, I made an email complaint to our landlords (which I have a copy of) saying that the smell is still there and I think there's a problem. They again said that it was pumped that spring and if we were worried about it, we could contact their home warrenty company to take care of it, I didn't feel like it was my responsibility to call their insurance company when they are the homeowners and we were new tenants, it didn't make sense.

I sent them a follow up email on November 10th again mentioning it, and they took no action. I mentioned in the email that I thought they urgently needed to take care of it because it might turn out to be a massive problem, and better to catch it early.... No response.... (Part of my question, can I get in trouble because I didn't follow up on it? I just figured it's not my house, and if they don't care, then why would I go out of my way to set up appointments etc...? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that...)

January 20th the showers started to flood and when we emptied the bathtub, filthy dirty water came out both shower drains, so then I realized something serious was wrong. They again told me to call their insurance company, and this time I did and set up a plumber to come out. The first 2 plumbers came and refused to even work on the septic tank because it was located underneath the house through a small 18" crawl space and it's an illegal location.

The 3rd plumber came out, put on a hazmat suit and said it was one of the worst problems he's seen in a while. Raw sewage was leaking out everywhere, and he thought it was not even a functioning septic system, but actually a 'broken' cess-pool, and all the sewage had been leaking since we moved in. He pumped it out, and said that it would last 2-4 weeks before overflowing again. He said we need to limit our water use and it was pretty urgent to fix. Also that the ground all around was contaminated, including garden with fruit trees.

Landlords have since had 2 more plumbers come out, and 1 said there might be a way to fix it, but not likely... It most likely needs to be filled in and a new one built. It will be another week before they can dig it out and really look at it to assess what is going on. But it almost definitely needs to be replaced.

Our lease is up in July, but we want to move out immediately, but are nervous about breaking the lease. If they move quickly, the fastest this project will be completed is one month. But I'm still concerned that the ground is contaminated and gross, and my office (I work from home) is RIGHT above this failed tank. My question is: can we break the lease even if they fix the issue within 30 days? Right now we are not supposed to take baths, and we are recommended to take laundry off site until everything is fixed.

My other concern is that they say it will be fixed quickly, but then the project might drag out several months and we will be stuck.

We pre-paid last months rent plus a security deposit. We were thinking on not paying rent this upcoming month and looking for another place. I'm hoping to get our security deposit back, because moving is so expensive and time-consuming.

Another option is for us to call the Health Inspectors out tot the property... but I'm dreading doing this because I think it will open a can of worms for our landlords (this place was built without permits and I think there are a lot of violations and they will be royally screwed if we do this...).

I would appreciate ANY advice or feedback!


Senior Member
If you call inspections in , too bad for the LL if they issue repair orders like it or not your LLs septic system really can be replaced faster than they are doing it ( my supervisor at work, her husband worked for a firm who could knock out one new mound style septic system in a day wich most of the time means excavating for settling tank (s) lines to connect it and the actual mound itself. Just know this, if you stay on, the soils will dry, so called germs will die. But if you call inspections be prepared if your city /county issues a condemn order your going to have to stay else where and you should have a copy of that order , take lots of pics so you can document the houses condition and plan for suing your LL for refund of rent you pre paid and deposit refund.

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