Dealing with slum land lords
Judy and John recently signed a one year lease for a reasonably priced apartment. They were able to ‘walk through’ the apartment before signing the lease. At the time both Judy and John seemed pleased with what they were getting themselves into.
A month later the novelty is worn off and after several requests Judy and John’s landlord is not fixing things that they believe that he should be fixing: their dishwasher is broken, the faucet in the shower is leaking, there are wires exposed in the kitchen that were hidden during the walk through, and no one is taking care of the lawn!
Renting is a way of life for many people nowadays. As many people are either waiting to buy a house, cannot afford to buy a house at this time or just like the convenience of having a landlord take care of the maintenance of the apartment or condo. But what do you do if your landlord turns out to be a slum lord?
A landlord is only responsible for so much so before accusing your landlord of being a slum lord, let’s discuss what a landlord is responsible for. There are four primary responsibilities:
1. The structure and exterior of the property
This includes the structure and exterior of the building, the roof, fire escapes (which are important in any building over two stories tall, guttering, chimneys, plasterwork, walls, windows and doors.
2. Supply of utilities
Ensuring that equipment for supplying utilities is kept in good condition. This does not mean that the utilities are included in your monthly rent, but means that the following will be taken care of a) pipes supplying gas, electricity or water b) flues (e.g. for gas boilers) and ventilation c) drains.
3. Gas appliances
Any gas appliances (including gas boilers) are safely-installed and working properly. The landlord must be able to produce a gas safety certificate upon request. The landlord must also make sure that the appliances should be regularly tested by a qualified inspector (who is usually a plumber).
4. Common areas
Common areas are shared areas used by other tenants, such as hallways, lifts/elevators and stairs. The lawn should also be maintained by the landlord as well as the steps/walkway leading up to the apartment building. They are also responsible for snow removal (if you live in a location that gets snow).
With that in mind, Judy and John have a legitimate reason to be frustrated with their landlord. The only thing that he or she may not want to fix is the dishwasher. They can just take the cost out of Judy and John’s security deposit.
However, depending on what is wrong with the dishwasher, the landlord might have to replace it. If the problem is electrical, such as it is causing a short every time the dishwasher is turned on, or there is some sort of leak, the landlord is responsible.
While Judy and John might think that their landlord is indeed a slum lord, there is a misconception of what a slum lord really is. While they just have the misfortune of having a bad landlord, he is not a slum lord.
A slum lord is actually a lot worse than what Judy and John are dealing with. A slum lord is usually never around, maximizes on the profit off of his apartment building. He does this buy charging a low rent and pocketing the money. This usually leads to worse conditions than what Judy and John are facing. Many of these slum apartment buildings should be torn down for unsafe conditions.
Slum lords usually purchase their apartment buildings in urban or poorer neighborhoods to get the kind of cliental that they want to be renters. Those who usually rent off of slum lords, do not have a lot of money so they are lured in to the slum lords costs, would not be able to pass the background checks of a legit landlord and/or can barely afford the low rent cost and some of the renters are actually considered to be squatters.
The slum lords actually like these types of tenets as he/she can prey on their fears of being evicted. These tenets need these apartments, as many of them have no other option other than living in a shelter or out on the streets. The slum lords enjoy teasing and taunting their renters by telling them if they do not have the rent in on time that they will be kicked out.
The slum lords know that their renters cannot afford legal action against them so they are not worried and pretty much get away with whatever they want. However, nowadays, there are many legal aid agencies that will do pro bono work for tenets to help tenets.
There are several things that a landlord should do to prevent him/her from becoming a modern day slum lord. There are four simple rules that they should follow to ensure that their tenets are happy and more importantly safe while living in the building.
If it is broken, fix it before it gets any worse
If the landlord says they do not have money at this particular time to fix the broken item, they should look into getting grants or loans to bring the building up to code.
Don't expect that the apartment will be in perfect shape when the previous renters or tenants leave.
With that in mind however, the landlord should make sure that in the very least any dangerous things are taken care of (bare wires, leaky faucets) and perhaps a new coat of paint.
The landlord should do background checks to ensure that the renter is reliable.
If the renter is reliable at paying rent on time, they might just bail. Even though there is a signed legal document (the lease) the renter might just pack up and leave.
Treat your tenants with the respect they deserve
This will ensure that the renter/landlord relationship is good and there will not be any issues that come up.
John and Judy would have a good case against their landlord, as the living conditions are not safe for them to be living in. Say for instance that the bare wires are near a leaky faucet, which could cause a fire or electrocution. Also, if the dishwasher would be blowing a fuse, this also could start a fire. The lawn issues, while it would make the exterior of the property nicer, and keep away small creatures, it is not as important as getting the other issues fixed first.
You should make a list of the issues you have and present it to your landlord. If he does not attempt to start to fix any of the items on your list, continue to talk with the landlord to find out why your concerns are not being met. If still nothing is being done, contact legal assistance,
Whatever you do, do not stop paying your rent. As many think this is a way to get the landlord to listen to your demands, this will only come back to hurt you. If you are not paying rent you would be considered a squatter and then the landlord can legally evict you.