Smoke in the walls & Cat pee in the carpets?

What are our rights concerning the house we are renting. When we looked at the place last November there was a bit of a funky smell. It had been empty since the previous June. I'm pregnant so I thought maybe this was a combination between my sensitive sense of smell and the fact that it had been vacant for so many months. We thought that the smell would go away after using the wood stove. The smell didn't go away, but only got worse. We realized that the smells were cigarette smoke in the walls and cat pee in the carpet. The next door neighbors told us that the previous tenant chain smoked inside the house and had lots of cats. The downstairs bedroom smells terrible. If we sleep with the door closed you can smell the residual smoke and the air becomes heavy. When we shower in either bathroom, yellowish brown streaks run down the walls. We've tried shampooing the carpets and we've tried wiping the walls down, but nothing seems to help. In certain areas of the livingroom you get big whiffs of cat pee. I'm concerned about the health issues of the baby on these carpets and breathing the residual smoke. There are also quite a few tears and burns in the carpets. There are spots where the carpets are torn back from the linoleum or there are gashes. They appear to be at least ten years old. The wood stove is hanging over the carpet and there are several burns all over. I am concerned with our baby hurting himself on the sharp, frayed, or torn areas. Should the landlord be required to replace the carpet and scrub and paint the walls to make it a safe and healthy environment?

  • April 26 2011 - Twain Harte
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Answers (3)

Thank you.  I went onto the site that you listed and emailed them directly.  Hopefully they will have an answer for me.  I appreciate it.

We're hoping not to have to move when the lease is up because A. we've moved so many times in the last ten years and are hoping to stay put for at least a few years.  B. our lease is up on July 1st and my baby is due on July 9th.  We really don't want to be moving at the same time I could be going into labor.  We'd rather get the issues worked out with the landlord, if possible.  It's a tough call though because if we do renew the lease (that was origonally only a six month lease) it'll become a year lease and we wont have the option to move again until July 2012.  Hmmmm.  Tough decision. 

Anyway.  Thank you for your help.

p.s. Hazel, I've tried googling California tenants rights, but have been sent in kind of a wild goose chase.  That's why I decided to post on here.  Thanks for the suggestion though.  :)
  • April 27 2011
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
CA has quite a large tenant/landlord handbook that may be useful reading (here).   

The carpet sounds as if it was not in good condition (burns, tears etc) when you moved in, I'm assuming the sharp/frayed areas were noted on your move in inspection.   The landlord is not required to replace it because you are having a baby.  CA has a warranty of habitability described in the document (linked above).  Nothing that you mention is called out in the handbook as making the place not habitable (although I agree that residual smoke and cat pee would be a problem).  

Cat pee odors are rarely removed by standard carpet cleaners.  There are specific enzymatic odor removers for pets.   The one brand I can think of is "nature's miracle" (but there are others).  It has to penetrate the area for several minutes, and then be pulled up with a towel or rags (we step on them to help get the moisture out).

If the woodstove is hanging over the carpet, it may be a fire hazard.   This is something your local (county) building department or fire dept can address. 

I would probably chose to move at the end of your lease. 


  • April 26 2011
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Profile picture for Hazel Yoshida

Google"tenants rights" for the state you live in.  You will find information there that can guide you.  Every state varies.  Good luck.

  • April 26 2011
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