Tenants have grumbled about their rented homes since the first ‘For Rent’ sign was posted. Complaints have changed over time, but the relationships between landlords, property managers and residents of rentals have always been fraught with difficulties.
The Rental Protection Agency (RPA), a national reporting organization that monitors complaints about property managers and landlords in all 50 states, annually ranks grievances by category. This 10-item list orders those accusations from least to most prevalent throughout the US.
Having a lease terminated naturally ruffles feathers with tenants. They claimed they were denied automatic renewals promised to them and not properly notified when leases were ending. Others reported they were coerced into signing renewal contracts, forced to move before their leases expired, or charged unlawful fees for breaking a lease before the expiration date.
Getting thrown out of a rented house or apartment often raises points of contention and involves a lot of finger-pointing by both tenants and landlords. The RPA report combined the information of both tenant and landlord claims on contested eviction procedures, including unauthorized or criminal evictions as well as ejections for not paying rent. Other common points of contention include being unlawfully locked out of a rental space, having utilities disconnected, and receiving a variety of threats and intimidation claims.
Breach of Agreement/Violations
When friends and family advise you to “get it in writing” regarding legal agreements concerning sales and rentals, there’s a valid reason for the guidance. This top-10 category deals solely with infringements on renters’ civil liberties and rights based mainly on verbal agreements they claim were never carried out and often flatly denied by landlords and rental managers. Unless you record these interactions, which is illegal in many states, your case is hard to prove.
Black Mold and Moisture Problems
Ever since the dangers of toxic black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum) started making headlines back in the late 20th century, tenant concerns have escalated across the country. Instead of just creating unsightly blemishes in kitchens, bathrooms, and other moisture-prone rooms, reports that it could be a health hazard make it a major worry for both tenants and landlords. Landlords’ dismissals of the potential danger or delays of its eradication have resulted in a plethora of tenant complaints.
Bugs and Rodents
Regardless of how much you love your rental home or for what reasons, putting up with infestations by bugs and rodents is generally intolerable. Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, these pest invasions range from mice, squirrels, and rats to flies, gnats, ants, spiders, bees, and cockroaches, all of which are difficult and costly to exterminate. Bed bugs have an entire category to themselves, because they are parasites.
Health and Safety Hazards
This category includes deficiencies that pose a clear and present danger to residents and problems that deny tenants their right to a safe and habitable home. The fifth most-common types of complaints according to the RPA data include non-locking doors and windows, hazardous appliances, plumbing and gas leaks, damaged floors, dangerous electrical wiring, and defective smoke and fire alarms.
The fourth most-common complaint is one most tenants have filed at least once: noisy neighbors. Because noise is a subjective term, gripes range from people walking or talking too loudly to ear-splitting music, excessive vacuum cleaner noise, barking dogs, and crying babies.
“This problem includes both complaints about loud neighbors, music, equipment and complaints against tenants causing excessive noise,” says RPA. Most rentals are governed by noise restrictions during certain hours, but this rarely deters tenants from making noise complaints 24/7.
Apartment Repairs Unrelated to Safety
The quality of living can be ruined by problems unrelated to safety and are still serious enough to warrant complaints if they are not resolved. These grievances commonly include faulty appliances; ripped, torn, or filthy carpet; broken windows; leaky pipes and faucets; dysfunctional heating and cooling systems; and roofs that leak. Putting the complaints in writing seems to be the best way to spur action.
Although bed bugs have been around for centuries, the RPA didn’t receive any complaints about them until 2008 … and those charges have increased rapidly in the last five years. Because landlords and property managers typically opt for cheap solutions to the infestations, such as chemical spraying, the nasty little creatures come back with a vengeance and often infect even more units in apartment complexes.
It’s no surprise that the number one complaint on the RPA list is related to money, specifically deposit money. When people vacate a house or apartment, they generally expect to receive the deposit they made when they signed the lease if they complied with the written guidelines. However, many landlords and property managers continue to trump up charges to keep all or part of that deposit or delay the refund to the point that many exiting tenants have to go to small claims court to recoup their money.
These are just the top 10 renter complaints. Other grievances that deserve honorable mention include landlords illegally entering apartments, harassment of tenants by property managers and landlords, property foreclosure, and many types of discrimination.