If you're renting a house or apartment and something goes wrong or breaks, it's reasonable to assume your landlord or property management company will handle the issue for you, and that they will do so in a timely manner. Unfortunately, landlords do not always have tenants' best interests in mind, and you may find yourself needing to report an issue to authorities. Here's what you should know about disputes between tenants and landlords, and how to report a bad landlord.
Common Tenant and Landlord Disputes
The most commonly disputed issues between tenants and landlords are:
- Building conditions
- Essential services
- Rent increases
- Tenant's right to stay
While it is best to try to discuss the issue with a landlord or property manager and come to an agreement, both in writing and in person, sometimes you may have to get outside help.
Ways to Report a Bad Landlord
Landlord and tenant rights are typically handled at the state level. Therefore, it is important to read up on the laws in your state to know if you have a case. If you are not able to settle a dispute with your landlord directly, you can turn to state agencies and nonprofit organizations that focus on tenant rights; resources for legal assistance; or agencies that help handle tenant complaints.
If all else fails and you have still not been able to settle a dispute, you may need to hire a lawyer who specializes in handling your kind of case. If you cannot afford a lawyer, there are a number of nonprofit organizations that offer free legal aid to low-income individuals.
Don't Let Time Work Against You
The legal processes for many renters' issues involve waiting periods—sometimes long or multiple waiting periods. For example, if part of your residence is uninhabitable due to damage or neglect of building maintenance, you may need to send a written notice of the problem to your landlord and the local authority. After that, the landlord will have a specified period of time to address the issue. If the landlord fails to correct the problem, you may need to send a second written notice, followed by yet another waiting period, and so on.
The important thing is to start the process as soon as possible, to get the clock ticking. Don't fall for the landlord's verbal promises; neglectful landlords are experts at putting people off. You also might find that the first written notice gets the landlord's attention and suggests that you mean business.
Reporting to HUD
Is your landlord causing problems while enjoying government benefits? If a landlord who gets federal assistance doesn't live up to his or her obligation to provide safe and decent housing for low-income tenants, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants to know about it.
Landlords can be fined and/or barred from doing business with the federal government if they fail to provide safe and decent housing while at the same time benefitting from taxpayer-funded subsidies. Tenants of HUD-insured or HUD-assisted properties are encouraged to report problems with landlords to HUD by calling the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line at (800) MULTI-70 (1-800-685-8470). HUD specialists are available to hear your complaints and concerns in English and Spanish. You can submit grievances about issues ranging from poor maintenance and health and safety concerns to mismanagement and fraud.
Reporting Housing Discrimination
In addition to handling reports about landlords of HUD-insured and HUD-assisted properties, HUD also handles complaints about housing discrimination. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, first educate yourself about which classes are protected by the Fair Housing Act to determine if you are protected. Discrimination complaints about landlords who receive federal assistance should be directed to HUD. Other discrimination issues should be brought up to your local housing authority.