When there’s a fault with your house, the correct response is to fix it as soon as possible. However, it’s not always that straightforward when renting someone else’s property. Besides paying their mortgage and filling up vacancies, landlords are also responsible for their current tenants. Are you a renter dealing with an unresponsive landlord? This article discusses tenants’ rights when dealing with negligent landlords. We’ll do a deep dive into examples of negligence, tips for better communication, and what to do when you have a negligent landlord. So stick around if you’re fed up with dealing with difficult landlords.
Examples of Negligence and Habitability Problems
Pests in a home threaten the tenants’ health and wellbeing. It is vital that the landlord presents a pest-free home to rent. Depending on the terms of your lease or type of housing, if a pest infestation arises after the move-in it may be the tenant’s or landlord’s responsibility to eliminate it. If you’re having issues with bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, and rats, you should report the problem immediately and your landlord should take the time to review the next steps with you.
A mold infestation is the growth of bacterial microorganisms in a home. They’re common in damp areas like bathrooms, attics, or the basement. Besides the weird odor, these microbes can also be detrimental to the health of the residents. They can cause skin and eye irritations, trigger asthma, and even damage the lungs. Thus, you must report problems as soon as you spot them.
Lack of Utilities
Without essential utilities, a house is not habitable. Any fault constitutes an emergency if your landlord is responsible for keeping the water running, lights on, and heat working. You can sue them if they’re not forthcoming with the repairs. Such negligence is grounds to report bad landlords and poor property management.
Structural problems refer to issues with the very framework of the building. That includes parts of the house like the foundation, walls, floors, and roof. Unlike the other issues we’ve listed here, structural problems are almost always the landlord’s responsibility except, of course, in the case of tenant damage. Otherwise, the property owner should fix issues like a roof leak, bulging ceilings, and sagging floors.
Landlord-Tenant Communication Tips
Get it in Writing
Although oral agreements are enforceable, getting everything in writing is always better. Sometimes parties try to go back on their word or claim different terms when there’s no written agreement. However, with physical proof, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Remember that you don’t always have to get the property owner to sign a document. A text or phone recording would work as well.
Take Documentation Seriously
As we highlighted in the previous point, getting your agreements with your landlord in writing is crucial. However, there’s little point in gathering evidence if you can’t find it when needed. Legal experts recommend starting a folder when you move into a new house and collecting all your correspondence with your landlord there. It would be a great idea to save a digital copy that is less prone to damage and easily retrievable.
Make Reasonable Requests
If you notice some friction between you and your landlord, you should double-check your actions. Property owners aren’t always the ones at fault when there’s trouble. Ensure that you make reasonable requests regarding property repair and maintenance. For instance, if it’s not an emergency, there’s no reason for you to call your landlord repeatedly. Some issues can wait till the following day.
Finally, it would be best if you always stayed professional in your dealings with your landlord. If there’s a disagreement, there’s no need to get involved in a verbal or physical altercation. Remember that if you break the law in your attempt to right a wrong, your landlord can countersue. Thus, remaining polite, calm, and professional in your disputes would be best.
Steps to Take if you Have a Negligent Landlord
When you have a negligent landlord, the first step is to document evidence. Your court case is stronger when you have proof instead of simply stating your claim. Hence, it would help to take photos and record videos of your complaint. Suppose it would be even better if they had time and date stamps. Also, don’t forget to name and store them properly in the cloud for easier access later.
Contact Your Landlord
After gathering the necessary evidence, you should notify your landlord about the problem. In real estate, tenants have a duty to the property owner to report any issues. Thus, if you haven’t done so already, you can’t expect the problem to resolve on its own. Although you’ve already laid multiple complaints to no avail, you can send them the evidence you’ve gathered with a notice that you will be taking legal action soon.
Contact Local Agencies
If your landlord is ignoring your requests for repairs to the point of a safety or health issue, reporting them to local agencies is the next logical step. Depending on the type of issues, contact your local Health Department or Code Enforcement Agency and file a complaint. Each agency will likely require a few steps from the tenant including clearly documented evidence of the issues as well as any communications from the landlord. Local authorities will step in and issue the landlord notice to repair what’s needed. If they again fail to do so in the time allotted, they may face fines or even a loss of rental license.
Seek Legal Counsel
If your landlord still doesn’t follow up with repairs, it’s time to follow through. At this point, it would be best to seek legal counsel from an experienced lawyer. These professionals can guide you on how to file your complaint in court properly. Also, they can educate you on what other rights your landlord may have violated. For example, if you’re unhappy about an unattended mold infestation, you can sue for more than damages. Courts award renters for other expenses such as lost wages from sick days, medical fees, and distress.
Initiate Legal Proceedings
Once you’ve spoken to a lawyer, you can initiate legal proceedings. This action involves taking your landlord to court for their negligence. Of course, this step is often the last resort if all your prior attempts don’t yield any result. If you’ve been diligent in taking the previous steps, you should be able to win in the courtroom. You’ll be awarded compensation for damages and inconvenience with the proper counsel, legal advice, and evidence on your side.
That concludes our article on tenants’ rights when dealing with negligent landlords. It’s essential to recognize what constitutes habitability problems so you can address them quickly. If your lease mandates that the property owner is responsible for providing essential utilities, removing pests, and resolving mold infestations, you should immediately lay a complaint. You can do so by documenting evidence and notifying your landlord. If they’re not responsive, you can seek legal aid and take them to court. However, before things escalate to that level, it would help if you make your agreements in writing, make reasonable requests, and stay professional.