How to Report Bad Property Managers
Written by: Veronique Hart, Property Management Specialist - Updated: Jan 13, 2023
Tenants all over the country deal with bad landlords and poor property management every day. Poor property management can result in dangerous living conditions that put tenants at risk of injury. The following guide will clarify whether the conditions in your home are sufficiently hazardous to make a report to your local Health Department. If you are attempting to get your landlord to make necessary repairs, you should learn more about the reporting procedures for local, state, and federal authorities. Additionally, in the event that your landlord refuses to perform the required maintenance, there are resources available for you to seek recourse.
Ways to Prevent a Tense Relationship with Your Landlord
While frustrations often arise when navigating property management issues, it is important to avoid unnecessary conflict with your landlord. Clear and open communication, awareness of your rights, and clear delineation of responsibilities can ensure that the duration of your lease is peaceful and not defined by tension and conflict.
Read your lease before signing.
First, you need to know what policies you are agreeing to when you sign a lease. Your lease should detail your responsibilities as a tenant as well as the landlord’s duties in upkeeping the property. Awareness of the policies of your lease will ensure you are acting as a responsible tenant and not violating the terms of the agreement.
Research local tenant laws.
It is important to be aware of local landlord and tenant laws so that you are aware of your rights in the case of a dispute. It is important to note that each municipality may have differing regulations regarding the tenant and landlord relationship. Awareness of your rights also prevents you from overstepping and infringing upon the rights of your landlord.
Keep detailed records.
Maintaining clear documentation of any issues arising on your property can keep conversations with your landlord objective and factual. In the event your landlord does not maintain copies of your correspondence, it is especially crucial that you keep track of all documentation relevant to the property you are renting. In the case of a dispute, these records may become necessary to smooth over any disagreements.
Make all of your requests in writing.
Clear written communication can clarify what you need done, why it is the landlord’s responsibility (rather than your own as a tenant), and when your request should be completed. Written correspondence also provides a record of your maintenance requests and other issues relating to the property. Make sure that your screenshots or copies of written correspondence include timestamps, dates, and other identifying information.
Pay rent and fees in full and on time.
Lastly, it is important that you respect your main responsibility as a tenant: on-time rent payments. Failure to do so may cause unnecessary conflict in your relationship with your landlord. Automatic rental payments can ensure you do not miss a payment, and further avoid late fees and confrontations with your landlord.
When Should I Report Bad Property Management?
Unfortunately, despite a tenant’s best intentions, relations with a landlord can go sour if the landlord becomes negligent in upholding their duties. Some situations must be addressed immediately to ensure the safety of tenants and their guests. The following instances are examples of situations in which you would report your landlord for bad property management.
Unresolved pest infestations.
Without intervention, pest infestations can lead to unsanitary living conditions. If you notice rodents, roaches, bed bugs, or other pests in your rental unit, contact your landlord immediately. If they do not hire pest control to spray or trap your unit within a reasonable amount of time, you should report them for poor property management.
Persistent mold or peeling lead paint.
Long-term exposure to black mold can result in permanent cognitive damage, fatigue, dizziness, or general brain fog. Lead exposure from peeling paint or wallpaper can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and neurological damage. If these dangers are not dealt with quickly, tenants could suffer long-term injuries.
Lack of power, heat, or water.
Landlords and property owners must keep properties up to local health and safety codes. Part of upholding local safety codes includes providing functioning power, heat, and water to all residential units. Without these essentials, a property may become unsafe for residents. Landlords have the responsibility to entrust repairs to on-site staff or independent contractors as soon as possible.
Broken plumbing fixtures or appliances.
Broken or damaged plumbing in a unit’s kitchen and/or bathroom can cause severe water damage to the property and limit tenant access to clean, running water. Landlords must ensure all tenants have functioning plumbing fixtures and appliances in every rental unit (as per local health codes and terms of the lease).
Structural and other safety issues.
Have you dealt with an emergency issue not listed above? There are a variety of other issues that may arise in rental units that fundamentally damage the structural integrity of the property or endanger your health. Essentially, any issue that presents a clear and present safety hazard to tenants must be addressed by landlords within a reasonable amount of time (generally, 45 days).
How to Report a Problem to Property Management
Landlords have the responsibility to ensure the safety and health of their tenants. Once you have identified that the failure to address issues on your property qualifies as poor property management, it is time to start the process of reporting these persistent issues and filing a complaint.
Send a written notice.
Before taking any action, you should send your landlord a written notice that describes the problem in detail. Your landlord must be given a reasonable amount of time to repair the rental property before they are in violation of your leasing agreement. Be sure to refer to your local government’s procedures regarding landlord liability for property maintenance; you will not be able to report a bad landlord unless they have taken no action to address the issues on your property within the mandated time frame.
File a complaint.
As a tenant who has entered into a fair lease agreement, you have the right to expect reasonable living conditions in exchange for your monthly rent. If your landlord takes no action to repair issues on your property after receiving notice, you may be eligible to file a complaint with local authorities. Be sure to keep careful documentation of maintenance reports and correspondence with your landlord to ensure your complaint is as accurate as possible.
What Happens After I Report My Landlord?
You’ve reported maintenance issues on your property, sent written notice to your landlord, and finally filed your complaint — what happens next? Following a report of poor property management, local authorities will investigate to determine whether your landlord has violated your lease agreement and/or local health and safety codes.
To begin the process, officials from the local health department will conduct a property inspection to verify your claims. These officials will determine whether your landlord has violated any safety standards by thoroughly inspecting the reported property damage and checking if further damages exist. Once a reputable property inspection has taken place, the following stages can begin.
Immediately following the inspection of your property, the health department inspectors will compile the evidence they have collected into a comprehensive report. They will list any problem areas and how your landlord can bring them to local health and safety standards. The findings report will detail the exact safety hazards inspectors have found on the property, suggested maintenance, and the recommended timeline for repairs.
Violation notice sent to property management company.
Positive identification of safety hazards will result in a violation notice from the local health department. This violation notice will be sent to the property management company to alert all responsible parties that a health and safety violation has occurred. Once your landlord has received this notice, they are officially responsible for making the mandated repairs to your unit.
Landlord has time to fix the issue.
The health department will give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to complete all recommended repairs. This timeline will be clearly stated in the violation notice. If your landlord fails to address the safety issues in your unit by the stated deadline, the Health Department will take further action.
Reinspection of the property.
In order to overturn the violation notice, the property will need to be reinspected by an official from the health department. Inspectors will revisit all previously identified hazards, evaluating the conditions of the property thoroughly. Once this investigation takes place, there are two potential outcomes, depending on the completed repairs.
Letter of compliance.
If the landlord has repaired all identified safety hazards, they will be given a letter of compliance from the health department. This letter of compliance will verify that the property is no longer in violation of local health and safety codes. From this point, it is important for you to make sure that your landlord continues to conduct regular maintenance to avoid similar situations in the future.
Fine imposition on property management company.
If the reinspection finds that your landlord has failed to make the required repairs, they may be issued a fine by the health department. This fine could cost your landlord thousands of dollars and impact the future of their rental properties. If your landlord is found to be in continued violation, you may be entitled to break your lease.
What If My Landlord Still Doesn’t Fix the Issue?
In most cases, landlords will make the required repairs after receiving a violation notice from the health department. However, if they still do not fix the issue, you have certain tenant rights that you can act upon.
File a complaint with the HUD.
Do you live in a federal housing complex? The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles tenant complaints at a federal level. One of the main jobs of this government entity is to protect renters from bad landlords of federal housing units. Your complaint could result in your landlord being fined or disbarred.
File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
As a housing provider, your landlord is operating a business to generate income. As such, if they violate safety standards, you can report their housing business to the Better Business Bureau. If you do decide to make a report to the Better Business Bureau, make sure to notify your landlord and double check that your rent payments are current so as to avoid retaliation.
File a complaint with the city.
The city should be warned that a landlord within city limits is violating the Fair Housing Act and providing inadequate, potentially dangerous housing. Once you have reported your bad landlord to the city, local law enforcement and other professionals will ensure that the property is brought to code or they may take punitive action.
File a lawsuit against the property management company.
When you have exhausted the above options, you should consider hiring a premises liability attorney. Bringing your landlord to court for failure to make necessary maintenance may result in court-mandated repairs. If your lawyer can prove that your landlord’s negligence in maintaining their property caused you injury, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation.
Resources for Tenants
Tenants have the right to seek recourse if their landlord has failed to provide safe housing. If you are dealing with a bad landlord or poor property management, there are resources available for you.
American Bar Association’s Legal Help Finder
If you decide to take your bad landlord to court, you will need the help of a qualified attorney. The American Bar Association specializes in finding quality representation for low-income or disenfranchised people. Their legal help tool can help you find an attorney with specialty practice areas in tenant laws in your state.
The National Center for State Courts
Are you looking for a court that handles tenant-landlord cases? If you choose not to work with an attorney when filing a claim against your landlord, you will need to find a court to try your case yourself. The National Center for State Courts website can help you locate a small claims court near you.
EPA Disclosure on Lead-Based Paint
If you believe you have been exposed to lead-based paint in your rental unit, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s page containing resources for renters exposed to this toxic substance. From there, you can learn how to temporarily contain the exposure, determine if your landlord is acting in violation of federal housing laws, and who to contact to ensure your landlord eliminates all traces of lead in your rental unit.