What to Know about Landlords
Aging Matters

This week's newsletter: A reader requests, "Many retirees opt to sell their homes and rent apartments. It would be great to see something about dealing effectively with landlords as we age, particularly when it comes to important maintenance and safety issues. Many owner landlords are reluctant to spend money or manpower on maintenance; and don't always take service requests or complaints submitted by older renters seriously and/or do not respond in a timely manner. And many seniors are reluctant to report or assert themselves for fear of reprisal or confrontational situations. Perhaps this falls somewhere under the "elder law" category?"

Drive out rent regulated tenants

Landlords trying to drive out rent-regulated tenants generally use the same harassment methods against the elderly as they do against younger residents. But people over 62 present both more profitable and more vulnerable targets.

  • Giving everyone in the building notices that their leases won't be renewed. Though landlords can't legally do that to rent-regulated tenants, this can scare people who don't know their rights.
  • Offering to pay them to move, sometimes hiring "tenant relocation specialists" to couple buyout offers with threats of eviction.
  • In buildings that are still predominantly occupied by rent-stabilized tenants, failing to make repairs or provide heat and hot water. In buildings with vacant apartments, not bothering to limit the noise, mess and damage to other apartments caused by renovation work. (The Indypendent.)

Get the landlord to fix stuff

Responsiveness depends on several variables, including how tight a ship your super or management company runs.

  • Put it in writing. Rule number one of dealing with landlords is that you should always put your requests and complaints in writing.
  • Tip the super
  • Call 311
  • Take your landlord and the city to court.
  • Withhold rent
  • Work together with your neighbors
  • Do it yourself. (Brickunderground.com)

A landlord has a responsibility to keep the rental in a fit and habitable condition.

  • General Building Safety: The physical structure of the building must be safe for tenants to live in. The roof and foundation must be structurally sound. Entrances and exits must be easily accessible.
  • Plumbing Inspections: Plumbing must be up to code.
  • Electrical Inspections: All electrical work in the property must be up to code.
  • Fire Inspections: Rental properties must have the proper number of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and they must be in good, working order. Some towns will require these detectors to be hard-wired, while others allow battery operated detectors.

To learn more about your real estate rights, contact your State Attorney General's Office.

Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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