The tenant-landlord relationship is a complicated one. When things are going great, the relationship is excellent, both sides benefit from it, and the world becomes a better place. When things go bad, they usually go REALLY bad. Landlords are frustrated because the tenant is constantly demanding repairs and threatening not to pay their rent. Tenants are frustrated because they have been paying their rent on time up to this point, yet got none of the repairs they were promised.
Landlords usually have the upper hand, leaving tenants sometimes in a powerless position and exposed to the oppression of bad landlords. Thankfully, there are laws in place that aim to protect tenants. If you are having issues with your landlord and don’t know what else to do, there are a number of different ways you could handle the issue.
If you are looking for places where you can complain about your landlord, you’re in luck. There are several laws and organizations that protect tenants from landlords, so you want to reach out to the one that will be able to help you. If you want to complain and report your landlord, you can reach out to the following:
- For small issues, speak directly with your landlord
- For discrimination complaints, call the Department of Housing and Urban Development
- For LGBT discrimination, call the Department of Housing and Urban Development
- For tenant-landlord disputes, call your state organizations
#1 – Complaining to Your Landlord
The ship might have already sailed for many of you, but for some, it might be worth trying. It is always best to sort out any issues directly with your landlord than going to another organization. A good first step is to read your leasing agreement front-to-cover and go chat with your landlord. By chat, I mean actually chat, not show up at his door holding a baseball bat. A conversation will go a long way and you might be able to solve any conflict between the two.
2. For Discrimination Complaints: Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in the U.S. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website, housing discrimination occurs whenever a landlord or homeowner keeps another person from obtaining housing based on conditions like race, nationality, sex, religion, or disability.
What is Housing Discrimination?
If your landlord or property manager has committed housing discrimination based on any of the above, you might be able to file a complaint with the HUD. But what is considered housing discrimination? Below is a list of the most common ways someone can engage in such discrimination:
- Charge different rental rates;
- Refuse to negotiate on housing;
- Reject applications solely based on the criteria above;
- Delay repairs and/or maintenance
- For a full list of examples, check the HUD’s website
What can I do about housing discrimination?
If you think your landlord has acted in any of these ways, here is what you will need to do:
File a Complaint
You can do this either by:
- Filling the form online here; OR
- Downloading this form and emailing it to your local FHEO office (find it here); OR
- Calling an FHEO specialist at 1-800-669-9777 or your local office in this list; OR
- Printing this form and mailing it to your local FHEO office (find it here).
Comply with Intake & Investigation
After you submit your complaint, an FHEO specialist might get in touch with you to gather some more information. Additionally, an investigation will begin to check if housing discrimination indeed happened. You might need to provide information regarding the time, location, witnesses, and documents that might help you with the complaint.
Wait for the Result
After the HUD reviews all the information, they will reach out to you in order to let you know what they decided. If they do decide in your favor, they will not charge you any fees and you might be eligible to receive compensation.
For additional information about the process, please visit the HUD’s official website here.
3. For LGBT Discrimination: Department of Housing and Urban Development
As you might have noticed above, gender identification is not one of the HUD’s protected classes. However, if any person who identifies as LGBTQ feels that they were discriminated against because of their race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status (such as having children) or disability, they are able to file a formal complaint using the same methods. In addition, they can check their state and local anti-discrimination laws that specifically include sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected classes. The following agencies might assist in order to filing complaints:
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4. For Tenant-Landlord Disputes: State Organizations
As I previously mentioned, it is always best to sort out issues directly with your landlord. However, you and they might not come to an agreement in regards to rent increases, essential services, or even plumbing problems. If you can’t seem to solve the issue amongst yourselves, you can reach out to your state-level agency. Since tenant rights and responsibilities differ by state, there isn’t a nationwide number you can call. However, you can find the laws for each state following this link.
I hope you never have to go through this, but it might happen to all of us. If you ever find yourself in such situations, it is best to be informed and know what your alternatives are. Stay informed and protect your tenant rights!