Safety And Repairs When Renting

Safety And Repairs When Renting

Karina Arabolaza (Director of Education and Outreach, Housing Rights Center, Los Angeles) gives expert video advice on: If I am having trouble with my neighbors, should I tell the landlord?; Is the landlord responsible for repairs?; What is my landlord required to do to keep me safe? and more...

Who is responsible for keeping the common areas clean and usable?

The overall maintenance of common areas is the responsibility of the landlord. However, if tenants are using the common areas, they also have some responsibility in maintaining them in a clean and safe condition.

Is there some kind of "maximum occupancy" or minimum space requirement?

Each state and city will have their own building & safety, health & safety and fire codes, which will determine the maximum number of occupants allowed in a dwelling or in a commercial or residential space. However, when determining the number of people that can live in the home, there's no broad or federal law that says how many people can live, for example, in a 1-bedroom apartment. Nevertheless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a guideline that they apply very strictly, and it's called the 2+1 guideline. The way to apply it is they recommend that landlords allow 2 people per living space plus 1. The way to imagine this guideline is by imagining 2 people in a bedroom and then you add 1. Thus, the occupancy guideline for a 1-bedroom apartment is 3.

If I am having trouble with my neighbors, should I tell the landlord?

If tenants are having problems with their neighbors, they should contact the landlord or the manager - anybody who's in charge of the property - and let them know what's going on.

What are some of the common housing code violations?

Housing code violations will vary between cities, counties and states. However, something to consider is that, for example, in California, housing code violations refer to plumbing systems that don't work, electrical systems or wiring that is faulty, not providing heat or hot water, or allowing vermin and rodents and cockroaches to roam around freely.

Is the landlord responsible for repairs?

Landlords will be responsible for repairs to structural problems at the property. However if the tenant damages something, like for example, breaks a window, then the tenant will be responsible to pay for that repair.

What can I do if a landlord refuses to make repairs?

In dealing with repair problems, we recommend that the tenant notify the landlord immediately of whatever was damaged. Put it in to writing what needs to be repaired and to keep a copy of that notification. If the landlord ignores the problem or doesn't do anything about it, the tenant has the option to call their local health, building and safety or code enforcement department.

Is my landlord required to make every repair I request?

Landlords are not required to make every repair that's requested. Landlords will most likely be responsible for the property's structural soundness and the plumbing and electrical systems of the property. However, if the tenant damages property, the landlord is not responsible to repair it.

What are some of the common reasons a residence is considered uninhabitable?

A residence can be considered uninhabitable if the plumbing system doesn't work, the sewer system doesn't work, if the property doesn't have proper waterproofing around the windows, doors, and the ceiling or roof. It will also be considered uninhabitable if there are rodents, cockroaches and other vermin that could cause a health hazard. Those are just some of the considerations that would make a property uninhabitable.

What can I do if my apartment is uninhabitable?

If a tenant believes that their apartment or home is uninhabitable, they should contact their local health department, code enforcement or building and safety department.

What is my landlord required to do to keep me safe?

In order to keep tenants safe, landlords are required to provide apartments or homes with locks or deadbolt locks on doors, locks for windows and gates, and smoke detectors. These are the most common safety requirements. Local city regulations may require other safety measures from landlords.

What can I do if my landlord refuses to take adequate safety measures?

If a landlord refuses to take adequate safety measures, such as for example installing a smoke detector, tenants should contact their local health or code enforcement department.

What do landlords typically prohibit in common areas?

A common illegal rule that we see as a fair housing organization is landlords prohibiting children from using or playing in the common areas. That is a form of discrimination towards families with children, who are protected under the fair housing laws under the care or juristate of familial status.

Are there laws regarding harmful building materials?

There are laws concerning the presence of the harmful building materials lead and asbestos at a property, and landlords should check with their local city or county government to see if there's a notification process that they have to file in order to inform prospective tenants of the presence of these two harmful building materials.

Must landlords make building alterations for disabled tenants?

If a tenant becomes disabled, or a tenant who already has a disability wishes to have a modification made to their unit or to the property so they can gain equal access, they have the right, under the fair housing laws, to request the landlord to make a reasonable modification. This refers to structural changes to the property so someone with a disability can have access. For example, if a tenant uses a wheelchair and they want to install an access ramp in order for them to be able to enter and exit their unit, they have the right to make that request and the landlord should allow the request.