Are you having problems with a landlord who is practicing slumlording?
What is slumlording?
Slumlording is when a landlord does not make repairs to a rental apartment or home, does not keep the property in fit and habitable condition, lets people move into units infested with mice, cockroaches or bedbugs without informing them ahead of time, illegally evicts people without a court order, and does things like charge tenants for repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility.
What is my landlord responsible for?
The most important thing to remember is that your landlord works for YOU. You are providing rent every month to live in a home that you will not own at any point in time. You are spending thousands of dollars every year, and in return, your landlord is required by law to keep the property in fit and habitable condition.
The Nebraska Landlord and Tenant Act specifically states what a landlord MUST do by law. If your landlord does not do these things, he or she is breaking the law.
Landlord Responsibilities As Required By Nebraska Law (76-1419):
- Keep your home up to minimum housing code
- Make all repairs to keep your home in fit and habitable condition
- Keep all common areas (ie. hallways, laundry rooms) in clean and safe condition
- Keep all electrical, plumbing, heating, A/C, appliances, and facilities in safe working order and condition
- Must provide ways to dispose of trash (ie. a dumpster at an apartment complex)
- Must provide running water, reasonable amounts of hot water, and heat at ALL TIMES
- CANNOT state in the lease that the tenant is responsible for making repairs that evade the obligations of the landlord
Here is the actual NEBRASKA LAW on landlord responsibilities:
What am I responsible for?
Renting an apartment goes two ways – you have responsibilities too.
Tenant Responsibilities As Required by Nebraska Law (76-1421):
- Keep your home clean and safe
- Get rid of garbage in a safe and clean way
- Keep plumbing clean (ie. do not put things down drains and toilets except for water and toilet paper)
- Use electrical, plumbing, heating, A/C, and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner
- Do NOT destroy or remove any part of the home
- Do NOT disturb your neighbors
Here is the actual NEBRASKA LAW on tenant responsibilities:
What can I do if my landlord is practicing slumlording?
You have options if you are renting from a landlord who is practicing slumlording, and there are agencies in Omaha who are here to help you. You are not alone!
Option One: Make sure your landlord knows about the problems you are having in your rental house or apartment. By informing your landlord, whether verbally or in writing, that legally obligates them to make the repairs. If possible, try to communicate in writing and keep a COPY of anything that you give to your landlord (ie. take a picture of it on your phone before you turn it in). Thoroughly document everything with pictures and videos, including things in your home that need to be repaired.
Option Two: If your landlord will not make repairs after you have communicated with them, contact an advocacy agency to speak with your landlord on your behalf. Sometimes outside pressure from someone else that knows the rules can really make a difference. At the bottom of this page are a list of agencies that you can reach out to for help and advice.
Option Three: Report the issues in your home to Omaha’s City Code Department. You may do this over the phone by calling the Mayor’s Hotline at 402-444-5555 or by contacting to the City Code Department directly via email: EnforceOmaha@cityofomaha.org or by phone: 402-444-5150 (select option #3). For more information (and templates) on making a city code complaint via email, click here. When you make this report, a City code inspector will contact you to make an appointment to come out to your home to inspect, take pictures, and give your landlord a list of things they need to fix in order to bring the home back up to fit and habitable conditions. Your landlord will have 30 to 90 days to make most repairs, and then city code will come back out to make sure everything was done right. If your landlord does not make the repairs, they can be fined and get a criminal citation since not keeping a rental property in fit and habitable condition is against the law. If you need help making a formal complaint, please reach out to Omaha Tenants United, Restoring Dignity or Omaha Together One Community (contact information is at the bottom of this page). **If your landlord retaliates against you in ANY way (such as trying to evict you, terminating your lease early, raising your rent, etc.) contact Legal Aid of Nebraska, Milton R. Abrahams Creighton Legal Clinic or Family Housing Advisory Services IMMEDIATELY. This is ILLEGAL.**
Option Four: You can terminate your lease and move if your landlord doesn’t make needed repairs after you give written notice and 14 days to fix the problems. If you want to move using this option you must give the landlord a written notice saying what is wrong and giving them 14 days to make repairs. This is known as a 14/30 day form. It must say that you will terminate your lease 30 days after the notice is given if these repairs are not made in time. If your landlord does not make the repairs within 14 days, follow option three (ie. report the problems to city code) before you move. If you want to do this and need help, contact one of the advocate agencies at the end of this help section. Here is a sample letter you can use:
These are agencies that are here to HELP you. Please reach out if you are dealing with a slumlord!
Family Housing Advisory Services, Inc. provides a wide range of housing services including homeowner education and, in some cases, help paying rent , see www.fhasinc.org. For renters who are having problems with their landlord such as failure to make repairs or if your landlord is trying to evict you without a COURT ORDER, contact their Program – The Fair Housing Center of Nebraska and Iowa immediately as this is ILLEGAL: (402) 934-6675. NOTE: If you have received a summons to go to Court call one of the legal resources below right away.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is a non-profit law firm that can help tenants who need to take legal action against their landlord. Tenants can apply for legal help online or can apply over the phone: (402) 348-1069 —option 2.
Creighton Legal Clinic at Creighton University Law School takes applications for free legal assistance for tenants who are having issues with their landlord in Douglas County. Call 402-280-3068 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday to make an application.
Omaha Tenants United is organizing with tenants to fight back against slumlords. They can help you if you’re having problems with your landlord. Is your landlord refusing to fix the water, a broken appliance, or faulty plumbing? Is your heat not working in the winter or is your A/C not working in the summer? You have rights and Omaha Tenants United will go with you to confront and negotiate with your landlord, send a letter recommending you get your deposit back, or even help you move. Message them on Facebook for help.
Restoring Dignity advocates on behalf of refugees in the Omaha area who are struggling with inadequate and substandard housing. They can help refugees communicate with their landlords, help get deposits back, and make formal complaints to Omaha’s city code department. For help call: 402-305-8139 or send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Omaha Together One Community can help tenants who would like to make a formal complaint to the city code department to report repairs that a landlord is not making. They also provide policy advocacy and can help tenants share their stories to the state Legislature and Omaha’s city council. For help call: 402-344-4401 or send a message on Facebook.
Legal Aid of Nebraska put together a very informative handbook for renters that you can view here.