What to Do About Housing Code Violations

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Read this in: Spanish / Español

Renter's Rights To A Safe Home

Renters Rights To A Safe Home

Landlords are responsible to make sure that properties leased for residential purposes are fit for habitability. This means that the premises must be safe to live in and not have any damages that would impact a person's health. Some examples of damage that might impact health include:

  • mold growing in the home;

  • broken or leaky windows; or

  • lack of ventilation.

Many conditions that cause harm to health and fitness are addressed in local housing laws, often called municipal residential or housing codes. You can search this municipal code library for your local municipal housing code.

  • Even when a tenant accepts a leased premises "as is," the landlord is still responsible for the implied warranty of "fitness." The implied warranty of fitness means that the house or apartment must be fit for use for the purpose of the lease. Residential tenants may not waive any problems in the rental that affect health or fitness.
  • If you find that your property contains one or several building code violations, it is important that you document the problem and the particular code violation. This means taking photographs or videos of the concerning condition that you believe violates the housing laws.
  • You must give your landlord written notice of the unsafe condition of the apartment or home.
  • Keep a record of all of your communications with the landlord.
    • Make a copy of any letters you send and use U.S. Certified Mail, if you can. Otherwise, keep a copy of any text messages you send to your landlord and voicemails you receive from them.
    • You must be able to prove that the landlord had notice of the unsafe condition if it ever goes to court or you face an eviction. 
  • Landlords have an ongoing obligation to maintain the premises in a suitable condition for the tenant.
  • You should make a written request that your landlord repair the problem. The landlord may respond to that written request and repair the problem within a reasonable time. During the lease, it is the landlord's responsibility to make any repairs necessary to keep the premises in a suitable condition.
  • The tenant is responsible for any repairs that become necessary because of the tenant's own actions or negligence. If you or your guests have caused damage, you will need to make the necessary repairs or pay for damages to fix the problem. 

Common Code Enforcement Problems

Common Code Enforcement Problems Include:

  • Missing or inoperable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors 

  • Plumbing Deficiencies 

  • Electrical problems 

    • Broken or inoperable light switches

    • Non-compliant wiring (i.e. use of extension cords as permanent wiring)

    • Missing or faulty Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets in bathrooms and kitchens.

    • Missing or broken electrical cover plates 

    • Appropriate electrical box with appropriate cover attached - connections must be accessible (i.e. these cannot be hidden inside a wall or covered by sheet rock walls) 

    • Circuit breaker on electrical panel clearly marked as to what it controls so a person can turn off a circuit breaker in the event of an emergency 

  • Inadequate or inoperable permanent heating 

    • Each unit must have a permanent and functioning source for heat. Air conditioning may not be required or a priority violation such as heat. 

  • Insufficient ventilation in bathrooms 

    • Sufficient ventilation as not to cause moisture problems that are a habitat for mildew and mold. Possible need for exterior window or a functioning bath fan. 

  • Missing or broken exterior vent screens

    • If the house is raised from the foundation, vent screens for air flow may exist under the house. If vent screens or crawl space covers are missing or in disrepair they can leave holes for wires or pipes to get pushed through or for rodents and other pests to enter the home. 

  • Attic vent screens should also be unobstructed and unclogged to protect the home from mildew, unnecessary moisture, or pests. 

  • Rodent, pest, or other infestations 

    • Rats, mice, insects can bring disease and can eat through walls and electrical wiring. Often, rodent problems are caused by leftover food or piles of trash around the home - declutter or eliminate conditions of clutter or debris for rodent problems. 

  • Inadequate weather proofing 

    • Cracked or broken windows, or doors and windows that do not shut completely. Leaking roofs, doors and windows that do not seal correctly or have missing weather stripping. 

  • Improper security bars over windows - make sure they can be released and are operable. 

  • Double cylinder keyed exit doors - doors exiting your home that have locks that can only be unlocked using a key from the inside. 

    • In the event of a house fire or other emergency, any occupants would need the key to exit the home safely. Leaving a key in the lock is not a valid alternative to replacing locks. Locks should have key entry from the exterior of home - replace the other part w/ deadbolt that has a latch to open from the inside. 

  • Deficient and non-compliant hand-rails or railings and safety measures for stairs

Options To Report Code Violations

Reporting Code Violations

If the condition of your rental violates local housing codes, is structural, or a hazardous defect, make a complaint to local building officials or code enforcement agencies. The government agency that enforces housing codes may be a municipal (town or city) agency or a parish-wide agency. You should be able to find the enforcement agency in the same codes you find when you search this municipal code library for your local municipal housing code. If you are not sure about the process in the housing code, contact the enforcement agency by telephone and ask for help reporting a violation.

You may be able to get assistance from the Louisiana Attorney General's Office. The attorney general will not act as a lawyer for any individual, but their office accepts complaints and investigates businesses and people doing business in Louisiana. You can contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section at 800-351-4889 or visit www.agjefflandry.com.

  • If the problem is serious, and it is ignored by the landlord or the landlord refuses to repair it, you have the right to terminate the lease.
  • You must provide substantial proof of the problem and the landlord's failure to repair. If you terminate a lease based on code violations, you will need to introduce a certified copy of the ordinance or building code at trial.
  • If you terminate a lease without sufficient cause you may be responsible for serious financial penalties.

If you are considering terminating your lease on the basis of a housing code violation, it is strongly recommended that you talk to a lawyer. 

Last Review and Update: May 11, 2022
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