You’ve signed on the dotted line of your lease agreement, got your keys, and excitedly moved into your new apartment. Everything was going great, but then you started noticing problems like severe mold, exposed electric wiring, overflowing garbage, or pest infestation.
You’re now uncomfortable in your home and must report the apartment complex to the health department. Take these steps:
Step 1: Write a Formal Complaint
Write a formal complaint to your landlord/apartment complex management. It’s their legal responsibility to keep the complex habitable. Enclose photographic evidence of the problems in your unit or complex. The letter should be signed and dated. Keep copies for reference.
Step 2: Give It Time
Give your landlord time to fix the issues. The amount of time depends on your state laws. However, the landlord should typically fix critical issues within 3 to 7 days and non-critical issues within 30 days.
Step 3: If Your Landlord Takes No Action, Escalate the Issue
After 30 days, if your landlord is unresponsive, it’s time to escalate the issue. Check with your county laws as each state and county has its own specific health authority body.
For example, in Los Angeles, you should file a complaint with the Environmental Health Division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health while in Sacramento, you should file by calling the 311 connect line.
Your complaint must include:
- Your name and physical address
- Name of the complex management company or landlord
- Nature of complaint
- Estimated date when the problem began
- Duration or frequency of the problem
- Your letter to the landlord and pictures
- Landlord’s Response
The Health Department will then investigate your claims and may most likely show up for an inspection. They will then compile and send an inspection report to your complex management with a list of violations and the time frame within which to fix the issues.
Reasons to Call the Health Department
As a renter, you have the right to live in a safe and habitable home. But sometimes, events occur that compromise your safety and health. Here are a couple of reasons to call the health department:
You can handle one or two insects walking or flying around your apartment with bug spray or keeping your home clean at all times. However, an infestation is a sign of a much bigger problem in the complex which your landlord must handle immediately. Cockroaches and mice carry diseases so if your landlord is dragging their feet, call the health department ASAP.
Recurrent growth of mold even after thorough cleaning means there’s a widespread problem in the complex. Exposure to mold spores causes allergic reactions like itching, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and wheezing. If your landlord is turning a deaf ear to your complaints, call the health department.
Lack of Water, Heat & Electricity
These vital factors are the most common reasons to call your health department. It is standard in most cities that landlords must provide running water, hot water, heat during the cold months, and safe infrastructure to deliver electricity 24/7. Call the health department if these basic requirements aren’t available or aren’t functioning properly.
Poor Waste Removal
Report your landlord to the health department if the garbage is not being disposed of properly. Landlords must provide proper garbage cans and ensure that the garbage is removed from the complex regularly on designated garbage days. Failure to do this will create a habitat for cockroaches, rodents, raccoons, and other pests.
Dangerous Structural Damage
Structural damage is a serious and valid reason to call the health department. Not only can it cause discomfort and harm, but it can also cost you your life. A leaking roof can lead to a collapsed ceiling. Other dangerous structural issues include hanging or loose electrical wiring, rusty fire escapes, and broken stairs.
How to Report a House with Unsafe Living Conditions
A house with unsafe living conditions affects your safety or health. It could be a rotting ceiling, poor air conditioning in the hot summer, exposed electrical wiring, or crumbling fixtures.
Report a house with unsafe living conditions to your local health department by searching for them online. By this time you should have already notified the landlord. Inform them of the exact issues in the house, what actions you have taken as a tenant, and how long you’ve been in that situation.
How to Report Unsafe Living Conditions of Elderly
Older adults generally depend on other people for various needs. Unfortunately, this makes them vulnerable to unsafe living conditions. Whether it’s in their homes or an assisted living facility, the elderly may experience:
- Abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, and financial
- Neglect – environmental, physical
If you know an elderly person living in unsafe conditions, report to Adult Protective Services by calling the national hotline (800-222-8000) or check for the local number in your state. Call the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) if they live in a facility. If your loved one is in danger, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Unsanitary Living Conditions Examples
When a home is unsanitary, it means the occupants’ health or the community’s well-being is in danger. Unsanitary living conditions examples may vary from county to county. They include but are not limited to:
- Excessive accumulated garbage
- Animal feces build-up
- Human feces build-up
- Excessive filth or dirt
- Pest infestation
- Stained and dirty carpet
- Foul odor
- Poorly built construction
- Poorly maintained living quarters
- Broken down utilities like electricity, gas, and water
- Non-functional appliances like stoves and furnaces
How to Report Your Landlord for Negligence
Wear and tear is a normal occurrence in rental units. However, you’ll know that you’re dealing with a negligent landlord if you notice the need for extensive repairs in the unit or overall complex. In such cases, you can report your landlord for negligence to the health department or other authorities.
First, send a complaint notice to your landlord explaining the problem. Allow them to solve the issues. Generally, it should be 30 days – check with your local authorities to confirm. They will only accept your complaint after the specified timeframe.
If there’s no response or action from your landlord, file your complaint with the authorities. Depending on your state, city, or county it may be the county or city rent control board, rental housing association, local tenant association, consumer protection agency, or district attorney’s office.
How to Report Landlord to Housing Authority
Whether you’re facing housing discrimination or a negligent landlord, your only choice for resolving the issue is to report the landlord to the housing authority. Find out which authority in your state or city is responsible for receiving complaints. Alternatively, go to the internet and search for hud.com then follow the required steps. Have your identification details and evidence of the problem ready.
How to File an Online Complaint Against Landlord
To file an online complaint against your landlord, go to the housing complaints section of the official U.S government website. Select “landlord and tenant disputes” and then “getting help for a dispute with a landlord”.
It will open a section with different links. You can select “state agencies that address tenant rights” or “agencies that handle complaints”. For help with more complex issues, you may select “help from a lawyer”.
How to Report a Landlord in Louisiana
Tenants in Louisiana have a right to habitable housing conditions. To report a landlord in Louisiana, file your complaint on this website – hud.gov/complaints or call the hotline at 800-333-4636. When HUD officials receive your complaint, they’ll assess it and inform the landlord of an upcoming investigation.