Landlord Tenant Law: How to Report

You might think you have a good reason to call and report a landlord for negligence. Your rented apartment is freezing, mice have set up home under the stove, and mold is turning the wallpaper black. Despite repeated calls to your landlord, nothing’s been done. If that’s not stressful enough, you’ve got the added hassle of trying to find out exactly who you’re supposed to call to report the slumlord. Do you know your rights under landlord tenant law?

You and your landlord have certain rights and obligations when the rental agreement is signed. Your tenant’s duties include paying rent on time, maintaining the property, and keeping to the terms in the lease. But you’re paying rent—so, you’ve also got rights. For example, the property must be habitable. That means you should always have heating, hot and cold water, and the place needs to be pest-free. Repairs should get done promptly and there shouldn’t be any structural issues with the property putting you in danger. 

What should you do if your landlord is ignoring their obligations? Who should you call to report landlord tenant law violations? This article aims to answer these important questions so you can live in a safe place. 

What are Landlord Tenant Laws?

First you need to know if your landlord or property management company has been negligent and violated housing codes that are reportable offenses. Housing codes vary from state to state. But generally, every tenant has the right to live in an inhabitable property. What does this term mean? 

According to some local government sources, here are a few housing code violations that give you a reason to file a complaint about a landlord: 

  • Lack of vital services — Your landlord must ensure you have heating, running hot and cold water, and electricity. Of course, you’re responsible for paying your energy bills. So your landlord wouldn’t be liable if the electric company shuts off your power because you’ve not paid bills.
  • Pests — You can report your landlord if rodents, bed bugs, roaches, or other pests infest the property, and nothing is done to get rid of them.
  • Mold — Mold inside buildings causes serious health issues. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to fix problems with dampness and mold. 
  • Structural issues — Any structural problems can cause risk to life and you should contact your local state housing department. 

It is also good to remember there’s a difference between a dripping faucet—minor repair—and a plumbing system that doesn’t work—major repair. 

Another reason to report a landlord is for discrimination. The Fair Housing Act states it’s illegal for a landlord or discriminate against you based on race, color, religion, sex, family status, disability, or national origin. 

Related reading: What are violations against the Fair Housing Act?

Before You Call to Report Negligence Under Landlord Tenant Law 

If you’re having to put up with living in terrible conditions, it can be easy to vent your anger and frustration at your landlord. But that’s unlikely to solve the problem. There are also a few steps you need to take before you call anyone to report a landlord. 

Step 1—Speak with your landlord

First, make a list of issues that are violating state housing codes and inform your landlord. You can let your landlord or property manager know what’s going on and how these issues are impacting your life. 

Step 2—Put it in writing

Even though your landlord may promise to get things fixed quickly, it’s best to put things in writing. Write a letter listing the problems that need fixing. Also, take photographs for visual evidence. Send the letter to your landlord via certified mail. This creates a legit paper trail and can help keep everyone honest. Follow this step, and your landlord must repair the issues within a certain amount of time. Also, document all verbal communication with your landlord. 

Even if you don’t believe your landlord will do anything, you need to wait the necessary time—usually, 30 days. If your landlord fails to make the necessary repairs within a reasonable timeframe, then they’ve broken the lease agreement.

Step 3—Do the repairs yourself (optional)

One option you can take is to get the repairs done yourself. Check with your local Department of Consumer Affairs before you use your hard-earned cash to make the repairs you think your landlord should be doing. They will give you a list of conditions that makes your property “uninhabitable.”

If you decide to go the DIY route, this is what you should do: 

  • Keep all receipts for materials you purchased
  • Deduct the total cost from your rent
  • Send your rent—minus the cost of repairs—along with copies of your receipts to the landlord or property manager.
  • Detail in an attached letter what you did to repair the unit to make it inhabitable. 

Step 3—Make a formal complaint

If the landlord fails to get the repairs done, it’s time to make a formal complaint. Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website (HUD) to find resources in your area. Or, you can call 800-685-8470.

This is where all the evidence you’ve gathered comes in handy. Showing photos, documents, and receipts helps make your case as strong as possible against rogue landlords. In fact, without these documents, you’ll find it difficult to file a complaint.

“Who do I call to report a landlord?”

All complaints about negligence and housing code violations are dealt with at the state level. So, you have to call your local code enforcement officer to report a landlord for negligence. The quickest way to find out who to call is by dialing 3-1-1. 

If you get government housing assistance such as Housing Choice Vouchers or you are in subsidized housing, then you should also call HUD. In these cases, your landlord is getting taxpayers’ money and not fulfilling their obligations to you. To report a negligent landlord who is getting federal assistance, call 800-685-8470 or visit this website to file a complaint.

If you have evidence of discrimination, then report the matter to HUD. Discriminating against you is also a violation that can be reported to the authorities. You can file a complaint on this website.

Landlord Tenant Law: A Takeaway

Before you take action against a bad landlord, read your lease carefully—especially the small print. This will help you know what your rights and obligations are as a tenant. If your landlord had violated the Fair Housing Act or housing codes, contact your local state enforcement officer. And be sure to document, document, document. 

Have you ever had to report a landlord for negligence? What happened? Please share your experiences in the comments section.