One of the most frustrating things about renting is dealing with a landlord who is happy to take the monthly rent check but who refuses to repair failing equipment or maintain the premises. To get results from complaints, it’s up to the tenant to document any correspondence that pertains to a complaint with the landlord. This takes time and involves a waiting period for him to respond. If the complaint is a serious health issue, however, a renter can report a landlord, or slumlord, to agencies in the community, city, county and state. Landlords are licensed, and losing that license is a threat to their business.
Document the Complaint
If a renter accuses her landlord of being a slumlord, of not repairing items that are clearly outlined as his responsibility in the lease, or if the premises present a health problem, the renter can complain. The tenant can start by documenting the issue with photos and a written complaint. She should send it via certified mail, signature required, as well as mailing a copy to him. Give him up to 30 days to respond. This waiting period varies as dictated by state law. If there is no response, renters can take the complaint to the next level.
If dealing with an immediate health issue, such as an extreme case of mold, leaks or plumbing issues, renters can contact the department of health and safety in their area or a local housing inspector.
Research Local Rental Agencies
Most localities have rental boards or tenant/landlord dispute centers. The renter's county health department sets guidelines for providing safe housing and abiding by health codes. The local codes enforcement agency can document unsafe or unhealthy elements in the living quarters, which can be ammunition for presenting a landlord with an ultimatum.
A health concern triggers the local health department to send an inspector to the premises. Once he verifies the complaint, a written report is issued to the landlord. The landlord receives a specific number of days to rectify the problem. Once the work is completed, a second inspection is held to verify that all the work is complete and that the unit satisfies health and safety guidelines. If the landlord does not comply, he will be fined.
Repair and Withhold
In many states, a tenant has the right to repair a fault that the landlord fails to correct. After documenting the condition, writing, photographing and waiting to hear from the landlord, tenants may be able to repair the problem themselves, depending on local lease laws. Tenants should keep all receipts, and when they pay the rent, deduct the repair cost from the rent and include copies of the receipts. Before doing this, they should reread the lease to make sure this is an option.
Contact the Rental Protection Agency
The Rental Protection Agency, a fee-based service, is a national database subscribed to by many landlords who wish to investigate potential tenants and their behavior during the time of their prior leases. At the same time, tenants can also issue positive or negative reports regarding their landlords. The agency provides a mediation option to help overcome disputes. The outcome of any dispute can be used in court.
Federal Housing Complaints
The landlord of a government-directed housing unit does not want to lose his ability to offer low-income housing to the community and receive the rental assistance it guarantees. While many slumlords prey on low-income families and offer sub-standard housing, reporting the landlord is an option many do not take advantage of. Under the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Multi-Family Complaint Hotline is available to report bad landlords. Tenants can call 800-685-8470 to register a complaint.