How To Deal With A Slum Landlord

A “Slumlord” is a property owner who does not properly or ethically manage their residential property. Landlords have a responsibility to maintain safe and healthy living conditions in single-family homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, multifamily apartment buildings, or residential hotels. “Slumlord” litigation refers to taking legal action against a landlord who fails to maintain a safe and healthy living environment such that the property is not fit for habitation. When your landlord turns out to be a slumlord, you might be tempted to take action on your own. This is usually not the best approach, and can lead to a legal eviction by the landlord.

Is the property you live in properly managed and fit for habitation?

Again, landlords have a responsibility to maintain safe and healthy living conditions in their residential rental units. As such, a property is deemed untenable if lacking any of the following affirmative standards:

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors
  • Plumbing or gas facilities, maintained in good working order
  • A water supply that is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water
  • Heating facilities maintained in good working order
  • Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment maintained in good working order
  • All areas under the control of the landlord must be kept clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin
  • An adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in clean condition and good order
  • Floors, stairways, and railings maintained in good repair
  • A locking mail receptacle for each residential unit in a residential hotel

Additional Tips for Dealing with a Slumlord

To avoid complications with your landlord, you should consider the following for your course of conduct with your landlord:

Know Your Rights as a Renter

It is critical to know your rights as a renter. For starters, you have a right to habitable living conditions, and landlords are required to maintain livable rental units. If the property is not habitable, then the landlord must immediately remedy any issue(s). Landlords are not permitted to collect rent during periods when the rental unit is not habitable. However, if the landlord is collecting rent during that time, it is best to continue paying rent to avoid evictions. Rent paid during the periods of inhabitability are legally recoverable.

Keep All Communications Documented

All tenant communications with the landlord should be in writing (e.g., email), especially requests for repairs or other complaints. Documenting all contact creates a paper trail of communications, which can serve as proof of the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the property.

Read Your Lease Before Signing 

It is critical that you read and understand the content of your lease before signing. Reading your lease allows you to identify times when the landlord is in breach. Furthermore, reading the lease allows you to identify potential problematic terms prior to executing the agreement.  If you are unclear about particular terms, you should contact an attorney for assistance.

Be Rational

Always stay rational and level-headed when dealing with your landlord. Try calmly discussing the problems you are having with your rental unit. Arguing typically does not remedy issues. In fact, it usually makes it worse.

Consult an Attorney

Consult an attorney if you believe that your rental unit is unsafe, unhealthy, and unfit for habitation. An attorney can assess your situation to determine if you have a cause of action against your landlord for a violation of your rights. Your home should be a place of comfort. Do not allow a bad landlord to strip you of that comfort.