Health Code Violations: Is Your Landlord Breaking the Law?July 30th, 2010 by Staff Writer
A city health code is designed to protect residents from being injured or becoming ill because of unsafe or dirty buildings. Health codes encompass all types of potential problems, including pest control, waste removal, fixing mold problems and structural guidelines. If you think that your building is in violation of the city health codes, there are avenues you can pursue to fix the problem.
Types of Health Code Violations
There are two main types of health code violations: structural and maintenance. Structural problems include buildings that are not built or fixed in compliance with a city’s building codes. Because they are not in compliance, it is dangerous for these residences to be occupied as they may crumble or become unsafe at any moment. Indications that there are structural health code violations in your apartment include seriously cracked ceilings or walls, water stains that are not curbed and continue to grow on the ceiling, uneven floors and other similar problems.
Maintenance violations include those problems that are cause by pests or the landlord’s failure to keep the property in good working and inhabitable. For a property to be inhabitable, it must have running water, electricity and heat.
Indications that there are maintenance violations include:
- the presence of rodents or insects with no action taken against them by the landlord
- lack of garbage removal
- utilities not working despite payments being made
- failure to keep the exterior of the property safe through snow removal and similar measures
Starting Action to Fix the Violations
Prior to contacting your city’s health department or beginning a court case against the landlord, you should gather information on the types of violations you see occurring, how often they occur, whether you speak to the landlord about the need to fix the problem and whether the landlord takes any action against the problem. Take notes that include all of this information. Also, you should include whether you were prevented from living in the apartment or were injured from the perceived health code violations.
You do not need to worry about the presentation of your notes, but only make certain that they contain all pertinent information such as the date and time of violations, how long the violation lasted and the information discussed above. Also write down the date, time and topic of any phone calls between yourself and the landlord or other residents that are also experiencing problems. These notes will be sufficient to show to the city if you must subsequently notify them of potential violations.
Legal Aspects of Rectifying Health Code Violations
Typically, as the health codes are administered by a city’s health department, notifying the department of perceived violations and providing them with copies of your notes will be sufficient to get them involved. If, after investigating the complaints, the city finds that violations of the health code have occurred, they will then order that the problems be fixed and levy a fine for the violations.
However, if you are physically injured or must vacate your residence because of the violations, you may have cause for a court action against the landlord. In this instance, make sure to again take thorough notes to use as evidence. You may want to hire an attorney to represent you in court.