LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Bed bugs and cockroaches are a common sight in neglected apartments, but what should you do to get help?
6 News has reported on its fair share of filthy apartments and landlords who refuse to help their tenants.
So we spoke with a lawyer to see what landlords must provide to their residents.
Often times the people who are being taken advantage of are people with low incomes. This is because they don’t have the money to afford legal help or simply don’t have the resources to move somewhere else.
Thankfully, the law states that landlords must provide a safe and livable apartment with access to basic amenities. Also, landlords must fix any repairs in a timely manner that violate local housing codes.
This includes heating, water, sewage, and any repair that creates an unsafe environment.
Legally, a landlord can not retaliate against you if you seek repairs or reach out to an organization for help.
“If the landlord evicts the individual within 90 days of the individual inserting their rights. This creates a legal presumption that eviction is retaliatory. The fact is if you insert your rights under the lease or under state, federal, or local law. You go talk to a housing authority you talk to a city inspector you have the right to not be evicted in relation for doing that,” said John Szczubelek, lawyer and owner of JFS Legal Services
Szczubelek says to always read over your leases before signing them and to keep a record of all conversations between you and your landlord.
Lawyers recommend that before you reach out for legal help you sit down with your landlord and try to resolve the issue.
But if that fails, you can start by reaching out to your city’s code enforcement and telling them your concerns.
Lawyers say the first thing they will recommend is opening up an escrow account.
This means you’re holding on to your rent in a bank account and will only release the money if they fix your issues.
But to do this, you must notify your landlord in a written letter about what you want to be fixed and that you’re beginning to open an escrow account. But this does not mean you get to stay there for free
“It does not mean you will never have to pay rent so for example if you escrow your rent for the coming month and the landlord repairs your toilet or whatever. Then you’re supposed to release or pay your rent at that time. So it does not mean you don’t have to pay rent its a way of holding on to your rent to motivate your landlord to make the required repairs,” said Lauren Rogers, a teaching fellow in housing at the MSU Justice Clinic.
If you don’t take the necessary steps to make an escrow account and stop paying your rent, you can be evicted.
For more legal resources, check out the links below.