People want a safe and comfortable place to live, and you expect your landlord to provide this. Though homeowners must take care of maintenance and repairs themselves, the landlord is often required to do that for tenants.
It’s important that your apartment unit is up to code. This includes safety, fire, and health codes. Of course, you may not be familiar with all of them or know where to find them. Likewise, you may wonder where to turn or how to start the process of getting the property up to code.
The first thing you’ve got to do is know the laws in your area. Remember, there are federal, state, county, and health codes. Ideally, your landlord knows what they are and is going to help you rectify the situation. However, this doesn’t always happen.
There are also a variety of rules in place that govern when a landlord has to take care of a problem and when it is the tenant’s responsibility. For example, if you have a problem with pests, such as mice or cockroaches, it could be the landlord’s responsibility.
However, what happens if you were partially or fully to blame for the pests seeking residence in your apartment? Some people don’t throw away their trash or let the cans fill up. If there is a lot of refuse around the apartment and a lot of junk piled here and there, it’s much easier for these pests to make a home alongside you.
Generally, a mouse or two isn’t cause for alarm, and your landlord isn’t going to be required to cover the costs of trapping and/or killing the mice. However, if there is an infestation, he or she could be partly responsible. The same applies for cockroaches and other pests.
Often, the best thing to do here is to know the laws with which the landlord must follow. To do that, you can go to your local courthouse. You may also talk to the health department in your area. This way, you’re assured that the information you gather is accurate for your county and state.
Talk to the Landlord
Ultimately, the safest way to handle things is to talk to the landlord about the issue. Explain to them why it is not up to code and how you obtained the information. Generally, landlords are willing to work with their tenants. Remember, most of them want long-term tenants who are thoughtful, quiet, and respectful. Therefore, if there is a significant issue, it’s best to talk to him or her.
The first thing you should do is call or text. Most people feel that a text isn’t formal enough, but this provides proof that you requested help. Also, it’s an excellent option to get the ball rolling. Some landlords are busy all the time, so they can’t always answer the phone. This way, they have the message and can respond when time permits.
Often, this is enough because the landlord responds. He might ask for other information, such as when the issue started or when it happens most frequently. Be honest and forthright, but try not to be accusatory.
Generally, a building that isn’t up to code doesn’t get that way in a short period of time. Therefore, it’s possible that the landlord has been lax. Though you want to get to the bottom of things, now isn’t the time to argue or point fingers.
Ideally, the landlord is going to give you a time of when he or she can get there to fix the problem (or send someone to the apartment or property). The landlord should be present to provide permission for the work to be done.
If the Landlord refuses to help
If the landlord argues with you or claims that there is no problem, it’s up to you to prove fault. To do that, you may need to hire a lawyer. The first thing to ensure is that you and your family are safe. Sometimes, the place may be unlivable. See if you can stay with a loved one or friend while everything gets sorted out.
Find the laws that indicate you are living in a rental property that isn’t up to code. This is the hard part and can be very challenging to do. Sometimes, you can go online to get the information. Otherwise, you may need to deal with your local courthouse, State’s Attorney, and the health department.
Another option includes hiring a building inspector to come to your apartment unit. He or she isn’t allowed to inspect common areas without the landlord’s permission, though. Therefore, if the problem is outside of your unit, this might not be the best choice. The inspector can tell you which codes have been violated and can sometimes provide options for fixing the problem.
You can choose to repair the problem yourself, but only after you have talked to the landlord and they have refused to do anything. This can be quite costly.
Most states allow you to deduct the amount of the repairs from the rent that is due. However, your landlord could take you to court and file eviction charges. At that time, you must show proof that you requested repairs for things not up to building/health codes. You must also show receipts of the price you paid for the repairs and get a receipt showing how much rent was paid. If possible, pay for everything with a check to have even more proof.
Everyone hopes that their landlord is going to be responsive and caring. Generally, this is what happens. However, if you run into arguments over coding laws and whose fault it was, this can cause strife between you and the landlord.
Make sure that you are accurate and correct with your allegations. Talk to the landlord to try to resolve things first. If that doesn’t work, do your research on the coding laws and health codes for your area. Consider hiring a lawyer and take your landlord to court. If you show proof, he or she must fix the problems and might be required to provide appropriate housing (hotel, etc.) until the work is completed.