Holding landlords accountable, legal tips for renters | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — With realtors saying the cost to rent is at an all time high, there’s growing concern that this is forcing more people to live in unclean and unsafe conditions.

This creates the question: what can I do if I’m trapped in a lease and my landlord isn’t keeping up their end of the contract?

There are ways renters can hold landlords accountable.

“When you walk into the hazardous I mean just inhabitable, your jaw kind of drops and you’re like ‘you know do what we can’,” said co-owner of Kirby Kleening, Elana Johnson.

Elana Johnson and Amber Kirby own Kirby Kleening LLC together. They say they often see deplorable conditions in low-income rental properties.

They believe landlords are to blame.

“They’re trapping low income tenants if you think about it because you spent all of your money to get in there and once you’re in there, you’re stuck,” said Amber Kirby.

At Good Samaritan Ministries in downtown Johnson City, they often get requests for help from people stuck in a bad rental.

“Where do we send you? I mean we’re running out of options,” said CEO and Executive Director of Good Samaritan Ministries, Aaron T. Murphy, “To keep them in their home is the best difference that we can make right now as an organization, but to help find them housing. We’re running out of options.”

A Johnson City lawyer says renters do have power.

“Landlords absolutely have the responsibility that they have to follow all health and safety codes,” said attorney with Lew Law Group, Amber Floyd Lee.

She says the law requires it.

“The Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act act applies and landlords have to maintain structures in habitable conditions,” said Lee. “Rentable, habitable, safe conditions.”

Attorney Lee says this act applies to areas with over 75,000 residents, but there is similar legislation for areas outside of this category that reiterate the same protections.

Lee says renters need to protect themselves. Keep records of all interactions with your landlord in case your case ends up in court.

“But it’s much more powerful if you have written documentation of attempting to address an issue and you know the physical proof,” said Lee. “The pictures of what is actually happening.”

Renter can also file a complaint with your local building and codes department. This could result in an investigation.

Additionally, in government assisted or section eight housing, you can contact the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and file a formal complaint.