How to Report a Landlord to the Health Department or Housing Authority

While many renters don’t do their part of properly paying their rent, many landlords also don’t do their part in ensuring a habitable property. Also called property managers, they should manage their property well by solving a problem as soon as it is reported. This is especially true if there are safety or health concerns that they’re not addressing. It’s basically forcing you out of the place you’re renting.

In a perfect world, your landlord is one of the most helpful people in your life. He owns the property that you’re renting. You pay for rent. He makes sure that the rental property remains in ideal condition. It has to be habitable, at the very least. It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship. At least, it’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately, it’s a form of harassment. It wouldn’t be the first time a property manager allows these issues to happen to force the tenant out. It usually happens when the property is up for sale.

woman holding a piggy bank

What should you do when your landlord is harassing you? Where can you file a complaint?

These actions can help protect you against harassment.

How to Report a Landlord to the Health Department or Housing Authority

Steps that can be takenNotes
Take down all important detailsWhen did it happen? How often does it happen? Do you have supporting documents like a text message or CCTV footage? These are proofs that can help you.
File a complaintIt formalizes your complaint, and you’re letting the authorities into the issue. This will start the investigation.
File a restraining orderIt can protect your physical and mental well-being. Make sure that you have the supporting documents.
Get help from a courtAn injunctive order can make the harassment stop. It’s a court ordering the landlord to stop harassing you. It’s in the best interest of your property manager to stop or face the wrath of the court.
SueIf all else fails, you can sue him for damages

Usually, they will stop if they already know that you’re taking further actions. They know that they can be fined and maybe even jailed. In New York, they can be fined as much as $10,000 for every offense. They may even be banned from increasing the rent of their victim for a set amount of time. In San Francisco, a property manager guilty of harassment may even be forced to lower the rate of his victim.

urban home

Who do I Report My Landlord to?

The health department or housing authorities are the governing bodies you will be calling when you have problems with your landlord.

Before calling the authorities, make sure that the issue has met these conditions:

  • It’s a serious problem and your health and/or safety is at risk.

Ask yourself – is this an annoying or serious problem? If it’s the former, then it’s something that you can work out with the landlord. Worst case scenario is you fix it on your own. These issues include a dripping faucet, grime in the grout, carpet damage, and the like.

  • You are not the cause of the problem.

Is the problem due to your negligence? Has there been an accident that led to the issue? If yes, then you are liable. It’s not the landlord.

  • You’re not behind on rent.

It’s a two-way street. Ensure that you’re up to date on your rent payment so that the landlord can’t say that the issues are because you haven’t been paying.

  • You are willing to take the risk.

You have to be sure that calling the authorities is the only remaining course of action. Unfortunately, some states won’t be able to stop a landlord from retaliating. They do this by raising the rent once the lease is up or evicting you.

Speaking of eviction, a judge can also decide that you’re in the wrong and you can be evicted. It can affect your credit negatively.

With this in mind, make sure that you have a backup plan in the form of a new place to rent if things don’t go your way.

  • You’ve went through the process of properly notifying your landlord.

You should notify your landlord of the problem and make sure that you record him receiving it. Also, you should give him enough time to fix the problem. The time required is dependent on the state where you are in.

If the things above apply to you, it’s time to file your complaint. Also known as the “Big Sticks,” this is the nightmare of landlords who know that they’re in the wrong.

Your first call should be to the local health department. This is especially true for issues that compromise your health. Another call can also be placed to the housing authority. Local building inspectors can help determine the liability of the landlord.

Make sure that you have the following details handy because these can help the process:

  • Your full name
  • Address of the property
  • Landlord’s name or the name of the property management company
  • Issues that the landlord has failed to address
  • Timeline of the issue when it started and ow long it has been ongoing. How often you experience the issue?
  • Your efforts in contacting the landlord and his response

Why Report

  • There’s lead
  • You can smell and see mold
  • Problem with the plumbing
  • There’s no heat or electricity
  • There are pests
  • There’s waste buildup
  • There’s a problem with the structure
  • Entering your property illegally

Listed below are issues that you need to report to the landlord. While most will cooperate, you have to report them if they don’t cooperate with solving these concerns:

  1. There’s lead.

It is a major issue that has led to deaths. It is something that has to be addressed immediately. This is especially true if you have kids at home. If you haven’t done so already, have the property checked for lead if it was built before 1978. When in doubt, you can use lead paint test kits. This way, you’ll have something to show the health inspector.

We even sell bulk kits for contractors or property managers dealing with many properties.

  1. You can smell and see mold.

It is another health issue. Mold can cause health problems to the respiratory system, especially among kids and the elderly. It’s also bad for those allergic to mold. It can even cause death. This is why immediate mold removal should be done.

mold on the wall

In most cases, its presence is also a sign of another problem – leaks. It leads us to the next issue.

  1. There’s a problem with the plumbing.

As a tenant, it’s your basic right to have a working plumbing system. It can be annoying to hear clanging and leaking because of a damaged plumbing system. It can also lead to mold and other damages.

There should be running water whenever it’s needed. Report to your landlord immediately if there’s none, and file a complaint if he doesn’t fix the issue.

  1. There’s no heat or electricity.

Imagine having no heat during the winter. What’s the point in having shelter if you can’t stay warm during the winter? It’s harassment if property managers don’t provide heat.

Electricity is also important for modern wants. It’s also important to run equipment and appliances that provide for our basic needs. They have to ensure that the property you’re renting has electricity.

  1. There are pests.

This can be a problem for your unit. It can also be a problem for the entire property. Whatever the case may be, it’s the responsibility of the property manager to get rid of pests. You shouldn’t be forced to live with rats, cockroaches, bed bugs, etc.

  1. There’s waste buildup.

You should do your part in properly disposing of your garbage and waste. There’s supposed to be a proper way for you to dispose of it. In a lot of cases, you throw it down the garbage chute.

The problem happens if they don’t do their job of disposing of the accumulated garbage and waste. It will create an unpleasant smell and be a health hazard.

  1. There’s a problem with the structure.

Even the most minor of roof leaks should be considered an emergency. It is because it can affect the structure of the whole home. Even minor leaks can lead to structural damages because leaks will travel throughout the house. Before you know it, you’re living in a property with questionable structural integrity. If they don’t do something about it, then property managers violate the warranty of habitability.

What is a Warranty of Habitability?

This is an implied warranty. This means that it doesn’t have to be on the lease. As the landlord, it’s his responsibility to ensure the property’s habitability that he’s renting out. It means that landlords are obligated to pay for repairs. If they don’t, the tenant doesn’t have to pay rent and is encouraged to file a report.

Regarding filing a report, tenants don’t have to worry about retaliation. Some rules complement the warranty of habitability that serves as protection for tenants who file a complaint.

rental agreement

How to Get Them to Do the Repairs

In some cases, property managers need a little “encouragement” to do the repairs. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Put the request in writing.

It makes it formal. It lets them know that you’re serious about your request. Have the landlord receive the written request. They’ll know that you now have something that can help you if you file a formal complaint. This means that they have to do something, and they have to do it fast.

  • If that doesn’t work, hire mediation services.

It is your last resort before you file a formal complaint. There are mediation companies that specialize in issues involving landlords and tenants. It is a good way to come up with a resolution since a neutral mediator will be present.

Hiring a mediator will let them know that you’re serious. At the same time, you’re willing to work things out.

If these don’t work, it’s time to file a more formal complaint. You can also do so if you’re being harassed.

Examples of Harassment

Your property manager may harass you so that you’ll give up and move to another place. He may also do so in retaliation for reporting him to the housing or health department. Here are some examples of landlord harassment:

  1. Entering your property illegally.

While he probably has a key, that doesn’t give him the right to enter your property without your approval. He should let you know in advance if he plans on entering your property and why.

They can also remove items on your property via this illegal entry. It doesn’t matter if it’s your items or they’re items of the property owner. As long as you’re renting, they don’t have the right to remove them without your knowledge.

On the other side of the coin, they may prevent you from entering your property. They can do so by changing the locks or putting up barricades.

List continued…

  • Raising the rent
  • Turning off your utilities
  • Cutting off access to amenities
  • Threatening you
  • Refusing to accept your payment
  • Making your unit’s living conditions less than ideal
  • Sending you a fake eviction notice
  • Filing fake charges against you
  1. Raising the rent.

This is usually as retaliation for filing a complaint against him. Property managers may also do this to force you to move out. In most states, you should get a 30-day notice at the very least.

If this doesn’t work, they may also buy you out by offering you a lump sum payment. Watch out for this if you’re a rent-stabilized tenant because this is probably a ploy to get you to move out. It may also be done if they plan on converting your unit into a condo.

While a single attempt may not be harassment, repeated attempts can be considered one.

  1. Turning off your utilities.

This is the most common form of harassment. They will turn off the AC on a hot summer day or turn off the heat on a cold winter night. They may even turn off the running water. They’ll harass you by not making your home habitable.

  1. Cutting off access to amenities.

A property has amenities that can serve your needs and wants. It can be as useful as a garbage disposal system, parking slot, or something recreational like a swimming pool. Access to these amenities is included in the lease agreement. They can choose to violate this by cutting off your access to them.

  1. Threatening you.

It can be in the form of verbal or physical threats. It can be in the form of email or text. It can be something as “harmless” as blocking your way as you try to leave to avoid confrontation. Worse cases include having tenants followed to make them feel unsafe.

Intimidatingly getting up on your face or even putting their hand on you is also construed as harassment. They can also sexually harass you.

  1. Refusing to accept your payment.

Paying for the rental is your part of the lease agreement. As long as you pay, the landlord is responsible for keeping your unit habitable. If they refuse to accept your payment, they want the records to show that you haven’t been paying.

  1. Making your unit’s living conditions less than ideal.

They may suddenly decide to begin construction and do so at night. It is a common ploy for them to make you give up your unit because of poor living conditions.

  1. Sending you a fake eviction notice.

You may receive a fake eviction notice saying you have to move out before a set date. It’s one of those “maybe it will work” harassment ploys to get you to move out without them doing the heavy lifting.

  1. Filing fake charges against you.

They may file charges that will be very hard to prove by either party with the sole purpose of harassing you. Maybe they can say that you’ve violated their no-pet policy.

Things that they can in fact do

To make sure that you don’t file false charges, these are not considered as a form of harassment:

  • Entering your property in an emergency.

Is there an emergency like a fire? They don’t have to wait for your approval to enter.

  • Sending you notice ordering you to stop lease-violations.

If there are terms in the lease that you’ve been violating, they have every right to send you a notice to stop violating them. They may continue to do so until you stop doing it or until they take further actions, including filing for eviction.

  • Filing for eviction if you haven’t been paying rent.

Your part of the landlord-tenant relations is to pay rent on time. If you haven’t been doing so, they have every right to file for eviction.

  • Raising the rent provided that there’s proper notice.

Most states require at least a 30-day notice. The raise also has to fit a certain percentage. If these terms are met, then it’s not harassment.

  • They request a buyout.

As long as it’s within the local laws and they do so legally, they can send you a formal buyout request.

How the Health Department will Help You

First of all, they’ll investigate to ensure you have a warranted complaint. A health inspector will be sent to the property to do the necessary inspections. They’ll even bring professionals if needed. They will inspect to see if there are health violations. While doing so, they’ll check if there are other violations you may have missed.

They’ll do the following based on the results:

Create and send a report.This report will indicate all the findings. It will indicate the health violations if any. More importantly, it will indicate how long the landlord has to do the necessary repairs. This report will be sent to the landlord.
Wait for the landlord to fix the issue.In most cases, the property manager will comply. Once complied with, he will contact the health department and schedule a re-inspection.
Conduct a re-inspection.The health inspector will visit to do another inspection. He will ensure that the necessary repairs have been done to correct the violations.
Issue a letter of compliance if the inspection proves that he has complied.This letter is proof that the property manager has complied with the demands for repairs. If not complied with, the health department will issue a fine.

Can I Sue?

If all else fails, it seems that your only option remaining is to sue your landlord. Can you do it? Is it a good idea to do so?

Yes, you can. The law protects those who need protection. In this case, you can sue your landlord if you’re certain that he has violated laws that cover landlord-tenant relations.

You have to understand that this will require a lot of your time and money. You’d have to hire an attorney to help you present your case before a judge. Your lawyer can also help determine if this is a case worthy of pursuing.

You also have to know that there’s a very good chance that your landlord will fight this. A property manager who doesn’t want to cooperate is likely to continue fighting. You have to make sure that suing him is worth it.

First, you have to make sure that you have a legit issue. The list above will tell you whether it is or not. Make sure that you’ve gone through the right process so that the judge will see that you have been willing to work things out. It’s your property manager that’s uncooperative.

Also, make sure that the property you’re renting is worth fighting for. Sure, you can fight the good fight for oppressed tenants everywhere. It might be better to file a complaint and move if things don’t progress for practical reasons.

How Long do they have to Fix a Mold Problem?

While it’s true that laws regarding their responsibility are not clear, they can be generally held responsible by the governing state. You can check the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the contact details of the health and environmental agency in your state. Ask them for more details.

The best way to know for sure is to tell him about the problem, and he should schedule immediate mold removal. If not, you can call the health department for an inspection. They will include how many days the landlord has to fix a mold problem in their report.

Can I Break My Lease because of Roaches?

Yes, you may. It’s always good to work it out first with the property manager. You can let him know of the problem, and a good property manager will hire a pest control company and pay for it. If they don’t, then they violate the lease. They’re the ones who broke the lease because of the warranty of habitability. In this case, you can move out without worrying about you breaking the lease.

Of course, most tenants wouldn’t want to move especially if they’re in a good property. In the case of an uncooperative landlord, you can call the health department for assistance.

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