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10 Reasons to Call the Health Department on Your Landlord

10 Reasons to Call the Health Department on Your Landlord

Our home should be our sanctuary – a place where we feel safe, healthy, and comfortable. Unfortunately, there are times when issues come up that make us feel just the opposite. As a renter, it’s important to know your rights. Your landlord is responsible for helping you maintain a safe and healthy living space. Here are 10 reasons to call the health department for help in addressing issues in your home.

A broken pipe to demonstrate one of the many reasons to call the health department on your landlord.

1. Mouse & Cockroach Infestations

It’s normal to see an insect here and there in your living space, but it’s another thing to have a vermin infestation. Rats, mice, and cockroaches aren’t just an annoyance. They carry diseases like salmonella and E. coli, and can trigger asthma attacks. You can prevent mice and cockroach infestations by keeping food sealed or in the refrigerator, not leaving dishes in the sink overnight, and sweeping up crumbs as soon as you see them. However, this may not be enough to keep pests at bay if there is a serious infestation. If your landlord will not hire an exterminator to help address the issue, call your local health department.

2. Bedbugs

While bedbugs don’t carry disease or pose a particular health risk, they do cause their “victims” a great deal of distress…and sleepless nights. If you think you have bedbugs, it’s important to alert your landlord right away because they can spread very quickly. If your landlord doesn’t take quick action to eliminate bedbugs, the health department can help.

3. Mold

Mold is a common problem, and it also poses a health hazard. Mold exposure can trigger asthma and allergies, and some people experience more severe reactions like fever or shortness of breath. Mold comes in different colors, including green, yellow, gray, black, and orange. It can appear either slimy or fuzzy, and has an earthy or musty smell. You will typically find it in dark and damp places, like the bathroom or basement. If after an initial cleaning, the mold comes back or spreads, it is likely that there is a widespread problem in the building. If your landlord tries to ignore the problem, it might be time to give a call to your local health department.

4. Lead

If you live in a house or apartment building that was built before 1978, it’s very likely that lead paint was used at some point. This is not necessarily cause for concern, unless the paint is flaking or chipping. Lead is a toxic substance, especially for babies and children, as it can damage their brains and lead to learning impairments. Each city and town has its own set of regulations that landlords need to follow when it comes to painting their rental properties, but it is almost certain that no matter where you live, the landlord is responsible for keeping the paint in your home fresh and free of chipping and peeling. If you have a negligent landlord who doesn’t take care of the paint in your home, especially an older home, you should contact your health department. 

5. Asbestos

Asbestos is a material that was used as a flame retardant in many buildings constructed before 1980. It has come to light in recent years that asbestos is very dangerous, and can lead to cancers of the lung and tissue around the lung. It is difficult to know whether asbestos is present without having an inspection performed by a professional, but if you have reason to believe there is asbestos in your home, this is indeed a reason to contact your local health department.

6. Water, Heat & Electricity

These issues are some of the most popular reasons to call the health department. Landlords are responsible for keeping their rentals “habitable”. In other words, they have to help you maintain a standard of living that fulfills your basic needs and keeps you safe. While regulations vary from city to city, it is standard that landlords must provide hot water 24/7, heat when the temperature falls below a certain threshold (usually about 55 degrees), and the infrastructure required to deliver electricity to your home at all times. If your landlord is failing to provide these basic needs, it is definitely time to call the health department.

7. Garbage Removal

Landlords are required to provide garbage and recycling cans, and must have the trash taken out to its designated pickup spot each garbage day. If your landlord regularly fails to do this, it may present a hazard to your health, attracting rodents, cockroaches, or even larger animals like racoons or possums. Consider calling your local health department if garbage removal becomes an issue. 

8. Dangerous Structural Damage

As mentioned above, landlords everywhere are required to keep their rental properties in “habitable” condition. Leaking roofs, broken stairs, hanging electrical wiring, or rusted fire escapes can be extremely dangerous and should be addressed by your landlord in a timely manner. If conversations with your landlord do not result in action, it may be worth a call to the health department.

9. Smoking

This is a tricky one. In most places, it is not yet illegal to smoke indoors. However, some tenants have argued in court that the secondhand smoke from neighbors made their home “uninhabitable”. If you’re suffering the effects of secondhand smoke due to a smoking neighbor, landlord, or building staff, try calling the health department to learn what your rights are as a tenant. 

10. Anything that makes your home “uninhabitable”

There are a lot of reasons to call the health department when it comes to renting a house or apartment. Maybe it’s that common areas are never cleaned, strange odors coming from other parts of the building, smoke detectors that don’t quite work, or plumbing that constantly gives you trouble.

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woman making a phone call in article on reasons to call the health department on your landlord

What’s the bottom line? If a problem affects your quality of life, puts you or your family in danger, or could be detrimental to your health, it may be among the many reasons to call the health department.

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.

dominique palombo

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I have lived at segiel suites boulder 2 for 4 months now and when i moved in there were hundreds of cockroaches and wood mites and nats i had to spend hundreds of dollasrs on bug sprays and caulking to cauck every hole and borders inside the apt im still in and its getting worse now i had no idea about raoch nests witch are all over in the walls and pictures mounted to the walls. the office gave me a fogger and some solution to spray. niether worked situation is itchy and alot of chemicals in the air from bad to worse infested walls that look like they are moving ive see the bug man 1 time to spray made it worse please someone come down and do an investigation and its creepy itchy and unsanitary they need to do some thing aboutr these apts that they charge 1400 a month that are tramizing to ur health and mental state

Catherine Marucci

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

Hi Dominique. You will need to contact your local health department directly. We can only offer information.

Tom Karawanan

Friday 15th of July 2022

How to report my Landlord, I have leave in this apartment for the last 15 Years or so. And the Landlord had just move the trash container from the original location to right out side my bedroom window 2 weeks ago, costing smell and noise from people slamming the lid of the container. I can't even open my bedroom windows for air anymore! Can I report this to the Health Department? Any suggestion!

Tom Karawanan

Monday 25th of July 2022

@Catherine Marucci, Thank you, will do just that

Catherine Marucci

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Depending on where you live, there may be sanitation codes that prevent them from placing a trash container right outside your window. It may be worth calling the Health Department just to ask what the rules are.

Princess Williams

Thursday 2nd of June 2022

Me and my children have been living in a unit with no air conditioning, upon signing lease I was told it came with that. The temperature has been 90 degrees and above for the past week on the inside of my unit. I have put in work orders even went to the office no help. I have a patch job on my ceiling that looks as if it can fall through and there is some kind of animal running and scratching all night. I'm scared for our safety. This wasn't the unit i was shown before moving in a lot of things were wrong and I requested a walk through 2 months ago and still no luck. Please help!


Friday 3rd of June 2022

Low Income Relief is an information service and does not provide cash or items directly. You will need to search our website for information about organizations that can help you meet those needs. Chat with Lira, she might be able to help!

Stephanie mitchell

Monday 30th of May 2022

I've lived in my apt for 7 years. There are so many issues, it should probably be condemned. Black mold in every room, window sill, grows on my black leather coats and boots. Hall ceiling, kitchen an infestation of mice and roaches. Bricks are falling off the outside of the building. Peeling and chipped paint. No handrails on the stairs. Huge cracks in all the sidewalks. People have already sued for their negligence. I was told as far as things I need fixed in my apt that they don't have the funds. See o just what does my rent pay? I am a senior citizen and disabled and I'm in need of help from someone. Anyone. I don't know who to turn to


Friday 3rd of June 2022

Low Income Relief is an information service and does not provide cash or items directly. You will need to search our website for information about organizations that can help you meet those needs. Chat with Lira, she might be able to help!


Tuesday 19th of April 2022

Hello, My doctor wrote a letter stating that the carpet in my apartment is causing my health issues to worsen. However he refused to remove carpet. Is there anything i can do?


Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Information on this should be in the article above. Chat with Lira, she might be able to help!