Your home is a safe haven, but it can quickly deteriorate without proper upkeep. Whether you rent or own your home or apartment, maintenance is an important responsibility everyone loves to hate. While it’s easier to work on solving the problems within your home when you own it, it can be a sigh of relief when the responsibility falls in the hands of another owner. For some, the term “slumlord” is all too real term for the reality of their residence. The sad truth is the people or company you rent from do not always have your best interest in mind, only your money – leaving you with frustration and a desire for resolve. You want your landlord to take action, but you’re not sure how to go about it. We created a step-by-step guide that may help you reach a compromise with your landlord to get what you need done.
Step 1: Collect evidence.
Whether you’re dealing with water damage, rodents, bed bugs, black mold, clogged toilets, broken furnace, or a leaky faucet – keep a record of it! Make a list of things that need repaired, and take pictures of everything. You need to protect yourself by making sure that you have documentation to support your claims of negligence.
Step 2: Review the Terms of Your Lease
In your rental agreement, there should be a clause regarding maintenance repairs and normal use. What is your responsibility as a tenant? What is their responsibility as the landlord? You need to know where you stand to properly address the issue at hand, and it starts with knowing the terms of your lease.
Step 3: Learn the law.
Wherever you call home, you should know what a landlord can and cannot do in your town, city, county, and state. There may be limitations of how long a landlord can go without addressing repairs or other issues on their property. How long can your landlord go without repairing that leaky faucet, or addressing the bed bug infestation? Can you withhold rent when their property is in unlivable condition? Are you owed reimbursement of previous rent paid? There are a number of laws in place to protect you, and the most important thing you can do is use them to your advantage.
Step 4: Notify building management.
There’s not a lot you can do if management is not aware of the damages. If your apartment building has a formal procedure for maintenance in place, follow through. Fill out the online request or submit your written complaint. If you don’t receive a response within two (2) weeks, then call, email, or write your building manager. If you don’t receive a response from your building manager within two (2) weeks, call the corporate office of the company. Keep notes of all communications to/from management regarding your living conditions, including emails, phone calls, and mail. Sign and date any documentation you send in your communications, and file them away as proof of contact.
Step 5: Write reviews.
If you’ve contacted management a number of times, and have received no response, then should alert perspective tenants about the risks of living in the facility. Talk about your experience. Provide evidence to support your claims. You can write reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook to expose the problems you’ve endured as tenants.
Step 6: Contact Your Local BBB
Report your experience to the Better Business Bureau. They can be a champion of hope when you don’t know what to do. They will voice your concerns on a more serious level, and it can help the company respond and actually do something to fix your living conditions. When the heat is on them to take action, they will want to do anything to turn it off. Find a BBB chapter in your area.
Step 7: Talk with your neighbors.
It’s possible some current (and previous) tenants living in your multi-unit place0 have had similar experiences with maintenance. You should use those experiences to your advantage, and collect the testimony of your neighbors to gain momentum and support. You can use Google Forms to create a digital survey, and easily collect people’s responses – anonymously, if you want. Gone are the days of paperwork, but if necessary, you can also print out your survey for those who don’t have computers. You can make small handouts on a 8.5×11 paper that you can put under doors or in a mailbox with the link for the survey. Their feedback is important, don’t let their voices go unheard. You should ask for a name, phone number, email, and maybe even an Apartment #. In their feedback, you’ll know which ones have had similar experiences to you. The best thing you can do is reach out to those people discuss your experiences. Find out what they want to do about it.
Check out some of our sample questions you could use for your survey.
Step 8: Contact your local health department.
The National Healthy Housing Standard has basic guidelines for what are acceptable living conditions across the country, and it’s almost guaranteed that most municipalities follow these standards as well. If the problems surrounding your housing are beyond the acceptability of the NHHS guidelines, then chances are the health department will find them unacceptable. You may be required to have an inspection of the property, which will help the health department with their case against the property owners.
Step 9: Secure alternative living arrangements.
At this point, you will be gaining some ground in your actions, and you may become worried about what the repercussions could be. You really don’t know what they will do to retaliate, and at this point, whatever they do will be a moot point. It’s best to already be one step ahead of them. You have your evidence of how the conditions were. You have testimonials from current residents. You have the support and feedback you need to stand your ground. Since you are on a month-to-month lease, especially if they made that plain to you when you contacted the company, it seems like they may utilize that against you in some way. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue forward with the cause, it just means you have to be smarter than them. The best way you can do that is to move out of the facility, one step ahead in the game.
Step 10: Contact a lawyer.
You may be owed years’ worth of rent for the suffering you’ve endured in your apartment. You certainly have a case, and with the feedback from your neighbors, you can move forward to take action. Contacting a lawyer is FREE, and they will usually only take a cut if they win the case.
Once you contact a lawyer, you should abide by the recommendations they provide to help you resolve this conflict. You’ve done all you can to resolve this in a reasonable manner, but if you’ve reached this point by now, it’s clear that your landlord is negligent intentionally. You’ve put up quite a fight to be treated fairly. Be patient. It’s time to let the court system figure out what needs to be done next, and those proceedings will hopefully be a victory for you. Good luck.