How to File a Complaint Against a Landlord

By Mary Foster
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The process of filing a complaint against a negligent landlord may be as simple as writing a letter or as unpleasant as seeking redress against discriminatory housing practices. As a renter, you have the right to a safe and worry-free environment. Tenants can negotiate a problem with an apartment manager or landlord or file a complaint with the Rental Protection Agency, which has offices in all 50 states and can give you legal counsel. Check the code enforcement laws in your area or with Fair Housing if the landlord has denied access to rent based on discrimination. The Department of Housing and Urban Development can help if this is the case.

Common Problems

Report disputes with your landlord to the appropriate agency in your area.

Report disputes with your landlord about the security deposit, unlawful entry on the part of the landlord, eviction notices, management problems, repair problems, issues with neighbors, code violations, unfair lease terms and other issues to the appropriate local or state agency. This varies from state to state, but in general, check with the county courthouse to locate the office in charge of code enforcement. In some states, complaints go to the state attorney general’s office, department of consumer affairs or another agency with your local government.

Send a letter to your landlord by certified mail.

Put it in writing. List the problems that need to be fixed and send the letter by certified mail to ensure you have proof your landlord received the notice. The repairs should be completed within 14 days. You may wish to notify your landlord that if the repairs have not been completed within that time frame, you will break the lease and move at the end of 30 days. Another option is to pay for the repairs yourself and then deduct the amount from your rent check. Make sure you keep the receipt for the repairs and send a copy with your rent check.

File a complaint about a maintenance problem by dialing 3-1-1.

Dial 3-1-1 to report landlord violations to the city authority for code enforcement. A complaint filed with about a maintenance problem provides a record that the landlord has not done what he or she is required by law to do, which is to provide you with a safe and habitable housing. Use this record if your landlord takes you to court or you decide to file a claim with small claims court. Have a pen or pencil and paper ready to take down the complaint or tracking number to check the status of the claim and determine whether an investigator has been to your apartment.

Contact HUD in your area if you feel you have been the target of discrimination.

Contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development in your area if you feel you have been the target of discrimination. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, the landlord may not deny you the right to rent based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal guardians, pregnant women, and people seeking custody of children under the age of 18), as well as handicapped or disabled persons.

Know the terms of the lease.

Know the terms of the lease. The landlord has a right to evict a tenant after the term of the lease or the tenant is behind in rent or has breached a clause of the lease, such has having pets when the lease stipulated no pets allowed. The landlord must personally deliver the eviction notice, stating the reason the landlord wishes the tenant to leave and the date of the eviction. The landlord is required to give 30 days if the lease is month-to-month, 90 days if it is a year-long lease, but only 15 days if the rent is overdue. There may be legitimate reasons for being evicted that give you no legal recourse.

About the Author

Mary Foster began writing professionally in 1990. She has experience as a freelance copywriter and scriptwriter, and has worked for such organizations as Lockheed Martin and North Carolina Public TV. Foster has a Master of Arts in communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in film from the University of Central Florida.