On Your Side follow up: What to do if your landlord isn’t responding to complaints

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 11:04 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A couple of months ago, we told you about a woman dealing with major flooding in her apartment. After the story aired, management fixed the problem. That’s just one of hundreds of cases we investigate every year.

The calls and voicemails keep coming.

“Rodent infestation and in the home next door,” a caller said.

The calls come in almost every day.

“I have an issue over at Northwood Square Apartments. It;s flooding,” a woman’s voicemail said.

These are just some of the hundreds of calls we get every year from people needing help dealing with issues in their apartments or homes. Legal Services of Alabama receives them, too. Farah Majid is the managing attorney.

“The past couple of weeks, just in the Birmingham office alone, 10 to 20 new cases a day and evictions are two thirds of that,” Majid said.

Majid says the pandemic has highlighted the problem even more.

You do have rights. By state law, tenants have a right to a decent place to live. Housing codes must be up to par. There must be working AC and heat, hot and cold water, etc.

If management isn’t responding to your complaints, you do have options but they are limited in Alabama.

“One thing that they can do, if it’s bad enough that they want to break their lease, they can do that. They have to send a 14-day letter just spelling out what the repairs are needed and if they’re not made then they can move,” Majid said.

Short of doing that Majid says you can try and negotiate with your landlord. You can always go to court to try and force the landlord to make repairs but sometimes that’s not the quickest solution and can be costly.

Some renters told us they aren’t going to pay rent until the issues are fixed, but state law says you can’t do that.

“You cannot withhold rent for a landlord’s failure to make repairs. Basically you have to continue paying rent as long as you live there,” Majid said.

It’s really important to document and take pictures of whatever you’re dealing with at the time. The Alabama Landlord Tenant Act says the landlord cannot threaten to cut services, raise the rent or evict you because you complain to them about a problem.

There are things that you are responsible for as well like paying your rent on time and taking care of your place and keeping it clean.

Right now, due to the pandemic, landlords can’t evict you. The Biden administration pushed the nationwide ban on evictions to July 31st to help the millions of tenants who are unable to make rent payments. Majid is expecting an avalanche of evictions come August.

“It will be thousands and thousands of people that will be facing eviction. My clients have high balances. They’ve been behind for a lot of months because the pandemic has been going on for a lot of months,” Majid said.

There is a lot of money available for rent assistance, but the agencies responsible for dealing with that are so overwhelmed right now that it’s taking forever for the money to get to people in need. Those agencies are asking for patience.

You can find more renter’s rights here.

Click here to contact the WBRC FOX6 News On Your Side Investigation Team.

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