The apartment you end up in might not be the one of your dreams (subway tile in the kitchen, a large soaking tub, and unobstructed views of the city), but at the very least you can expect it to be clean and safe. Your landlord is responsible for keeping every rental property they own in a habitable condition, which means that each unit should be completely fit for tenants to live in.
If there are issues afoot that you suspect could be health code violations, you have the right to contact a local health agency to help rectify them.
Most Common Types of Health Code Violations
There are certain kinds of health code violations that would cause a tenant to file a complaint to the city. These include:
If you are seeing any signs of a mouse, rat, roach, bed bug, or other pest infestation, it’s cause for calling the city.
No Running Water, Electricity, or Heat
It’s your landlord’s responsibility to ensure that you have access to these vital services in your unit and building. If you don’t have access to running water, your landlord has failed to pay the utility bills on time, or there is no electricity in the apartment due to mechanical failure, you have the right to report them to the city.
Lead paint was commonly used in homes that were built before 1978. If you live in an older apartment and there is lead paint present, understand that you could be putting yourself (and especially young children) at risk of several health issues. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to mitigate the problem and ensure you aren’t breathing or ingesting toxic chemicals.
Dysfunctional Plumbing Fixtures
It’s also your landlord’s responsibility to make sure your plumbing is working properly —especially if you only have one bathroom in your apartment.
Presence of Mold
Mold can cause illness or trigger severe allergic reactions if present in a living space. For that reason, your landlord is obligated to schedule a professional treatment or cleaning to get rid of any mold and/or mildew that’s present.
Delayed Waste Removal
If your trash isn’t being picked up on a regular basis, you have a right to report it to the city. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to make sure it’s removed from the property regularly and on time.
This can be anything from a leaky roof to a foundational issue — and it’s on your landlord to make sure that it’s fixed.
Reporting the Violations
Before you go to the city or begin to pursue a court case against the landlord, you should first notify the landlord of the issue. You must submit these complaints to your landlord in writing. Depending on where you live, they will typically have a certain number of days to address the problem at hand.
If, however, you have repeatedly asked them to fix the problems in your apartment to no avail and submitted a request to them in writing, it’s time to contact the city. Start by gathering as much information as you can on the types of violations you see occurring and the frequency at which they occur. When speaking with the health department, you should also indicate whether or not the perceived health code violations prevented you from inhabiting the apartment or caused you bodily harm.
You should also make sure to 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 enough to show to the city exactly why you had to notify them of the violations in the first place.