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How to Report a Housing Code Violation

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 15, 2015 12:54 PM

Your apartment is freezing. The front door is hard to open. Ants and other crawly creatures have block parties in your kitchen.

Under the principal of warranty of habitability, landlords have a duty to maintain rental properties at a standard fit for human habitation. Also, states maintain housing codes that require landlords make certain listed repairs. However, many tenants have probably felt the frustration of trying unsuccessfully to get a landlord to make repairs.

If your landlord has not been maintaining your apartment, here is how to report a housing code violation.

1. Identify The Violations

Before you make a complaint, identify the repair that your landlord is required to make and the housing code it is listed under. Different states have different housing code standards.

For example, in the District of Columbia, landlords must ensure that apartments are free of insects, rats, and mice. Water temperature must reach at least 120 degrees in the kitchen or bathroom. Paint cannot be peeling or flaking, and plumbing must not leak.

Massachusetts requires that floors must be smooth and waterproof. Sinks must be big enough to wash dishes in and get hot and cold water. Landlords must maintain heating equipment to heat rooms to at least 68 degrees during the day and 64 degrees at night.

Here is a checklist of common housing code violations you can use to identify the actual violation and corresponding housing code. Once you've identified the violations, write out a list of those violations and take pictures to use as evidence later on.

2. Notify The Landlord

Next, make a written repair request to your landlord, resident manager, or rental office. Keep a copy of all correspondence between you and your landlord. Keep notes of when your request was made, when the landlord responded or did not respond, what repairs were done or not done, and when the repairs, if any, were done.

3. Request a Housing Inspection

If you've received no response from your landlord, contact your local housing regulations authority.

In Massachusetts, contact the local Board of Health or Inspectional Services Department. In the District of Columbia, you should contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs at (202) 442-9557 or at dcrahousingcomplaints@dc.gov. In Sacramento County, California, you can file a complaint with the Substandard Housing Program through 311 Connect.

Make a request for a housing inspection and include all the documentation and evidence you've accumulated. You should receive a response within about 30 days from most states' enforcement authorities.

If all else fails and the landlord still refuses to make repairs, contact an experience local landlord-tenant attorney.

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