Under California law, you aren't really allowed to simply stop paying rent because of a defect with the property you are renting. You potentially have the remedy of "repair and deduct" in which you would pay to have the problem fixed, after several written notifications to the landlord, then deduct the cost of the repair from your rent. The procedure for doing so is very specific and you have to give the landlord written notice and an opportunity to cure. You must follow the strict letter of this law, or you can be evicted for failing to pay rent. The California Department of Consumer Affairs has a pretty good article on their website www.dca.ca.gov describing how to avail yourself of this remedy. It is only available where the defect with the property affects its habitability. Sewage backing up into the home is generally considered a valid basis for taking advantage of the repair and deduct procedure. You may be able to defend the failure to pay rent on the grounds that the property is inhabiltable due to the sewer issue, but that is at the judge's discretion.
David L. Gibbs, Esq.
The Gibbs Law Firm, APC
San Clemente, California
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