A landlord is responsible for keeping a rental property in habitable condition, that is, fit to be lived in. If there are health or safety issues at the property that are breaching the warranty of habitability, the tenant can contact a local agency regarding the problem. Learn how to report a landlord to the health department.
Reasons to Report a Landlord
There are certain health and safety issues which could cause a tenant to file a complaint with the health department. These include:
- Pests: A tenant may report a landlord if their apartment or rental property has shown signs of a mouse, rat, roach, bed bug, or other pest infestation.
- Mold: Mold in the living space is dangerous as it can cause breathing problems or more severe reactions.
- Lead: Lead paint is common in homes built before 1978. Lead hazards, such as chipping paint, can pose health risks, especially to young children.
- Lack of Running Water, Electricity, or Heat: Tenants need to have access to certain vital services in their apartments. Tenants can report landlords if there is no running water in their apartment, if they do not have heat in the winter or if the landlord is responsible for paying the utility bills and there is no electricity at the property.
- Plumbing Fixtures: Tenants have the right to have working plumbing in their apartment.
- Waste Removal: Tenants can report a landlord if garbage and other waste is not being removed from the property.
- Structural Issues: If a roof leak is causing a ceiling to collapse or if the tenant has concerns about other structural issues at the property, the tenant can contact the health department.
Send a Notice
In most cases, you must first notify the landlord of the issue before filing a complaint with the health department. It is to give the landlord a chance to fix the issue if the landlord was unaware of the problem.
This notice must be delivered in writing to the landlord. Based on your state’s landlord-tenant laws, the landlord has a certain amount of time to respond and fix the issue before you can take further action.
File Your Complaint
If your landlord has not taken any steps to fix the problem, you can file a complaint with your local health department. It will be helpful to include the following information with your complaint:
- Your Name
- Property Address
- Name of Landlord or Property Management Company
- Nature of Complaint
- When Problem First Began
- How Long Problem Has Gone On/How Often It Occurs
- If You Have Contacted the Landlord
- Landlord’s Response
Actions the Health Department Will Take
Once you have filed a complaint with your local health department, the department will take steps to determine if there is any truth to your claim. A health inspector will:
- Inspect the Property: An official from the health department will be sent out to inspect the property. The official will investigate the tenant’s complaint to determine if an actual health violation exists at the property. Also, the inspector may also note any other apparent health violations at the property they come across during their visit.
- Prepare Report of Their Findings: The health official will put together a report of their findings at the property. The report will include the property address, the date of the inspection, the health violations that were found at the property, as well as the time frame the landlord has to fix the violations.
- Send Report/List of Violations to the Landlord: If the health official has noted any violations at the property, the official will send a copy of his or her inspection report to the landlord.
- Give Landlord Time to Fix Issue: The landlord will be given a certain number of days from receiving the violation notice to fix any outstanding issues. Once the landlord has fixed the health violations, the landlord can contact the health department to have the inspector come out to re-inspect the property.
- Re-Inspect Property and Issue a Letter of Compliance: The inspector will come back to the property to verify that the health violations have been corrected. They will then issue the landlord a letter stating that the property is now in compliance.
- Fine Landlord: If the landlord has not fixed the health violation, or does not do so within the amount of time allotted, the health department can fine the landlord.
A landlord is not responsible for health violations at the property that are caused by the tenant. Tenants are responsible for maintaining their rental unit and following certain health and safety codes. Landlords are not responsible for issues caused by a tenant’s abuse, neglect, or dirty living conditions, such as a pest infestation caused by filthy living conditions inside a tenant’s apartment.