When I moved into this apartment a few months ago, it seemed like a good deal. The rent here is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than other places in the area, but I’m starting to think I’m getting what I’m paying for. I’ve had a ceiling leak in my bathroom over the tub since I moved in, and despite three complaints about it there’s never been anybody come out to fix it. I’m starting to worry the landlord is really a slumlord. What do you think?
Full Question and Answer
“Slumlord” is a word that people like to throw around as an insult to a landlord who may be less than attentive to the needs of his tenants, but the term actually has a legal definition, as well. States that have statutes addressing slumlords and slumlord property typically describe those properties as having serious problems that endanger the health and safety of both residents and the surrounding community.
Most often, a slumlord is someone who lives hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and owns the property solely for its profit potential. He seldom (if ever) visits the property and doesn’t really care about the lives of his tenants or their living conditions as long as he makes his cheddar, and isn’t willing to spend money to improve the property—even if the are serious problems that are a danger to residents’ health and safety.
Whether a particular landlord is a slumlord typically falls to some city or local housing authority to decide. If the place has degraded to the point that everybody in your community is taking about it and poking fun at it, maybe it’s time to contact whatever local government agency looks into such things and request an inspection or investigation. If an inspector determines your landlord is indeed a slumlord, the city will file notices ordering his to clean up his act.
Some cities go a step further. For example, members of the Pittsburgh City Council grew frustrated by stubborn absentee landlords who weren’t motivated by notices or court orders to repair their properties and started a program of public shaming. The city erects a large sign in front of the slumlord’s property, complete with their name, home address and telephone number. It should come as no surprise that when slumlords’ names and identities are prominently and publicly linked to their horrifying properties, they tend to make the needed repairs pretty quickly. Ah, sweet revenge!
Annoyances like leaky faucets don’t usually rise (or perhaps we should say “fall”) to the level of “slumlord.” We’re talking buildings that look like they might collapse at any minute, sewage run-off into the front yard, gas leaks—that type of thing. So maybe your landlord isn’t really a slumlord, but is a landlord who’s not holding up his end of the bargain. When you signed the lease, he agreed to provide you a habitable place to live, and you agreed to pay good money for livable conditions. Send him your repair requests in writing, so you have proof that he was aware of the problem and did nothing about it. If the situation gets worse, consider calling state or local health inspectors to come inspect the building. BAM, problem solved.