What is a Slum Landlord? - How to Report a Slumlord

Do you know what is a slum landlord? Click here for the definition and advice on what to do about a slumlord.

What is a Slum Landlord? - Definition

A slumlord is an investor who buys and rents out properties with substandard living conditions. These rental properties often fail to meet the most basic of housing standards and pose a risk to the health and safety of their tenants.

Despite the dismal (and sometimes illegal) conditions of their rental properties, slumlords will spend little to no money and effort on repairs and maintenance. This is in contrast to most landlords who tend to carry out appropriate rental property maintenance and repairs to increase the property value and attract higher rent from tenants.

Most slum lords own large number of run-down properties in deteriorating neighborhoods. To lure tenants to their properties, they often price their rent below market rates and don't implement any form of tenant screening.

They target low income groups for their tenants, including people on housing subsidies, low income families and lowly skilled immigrants. A notable (and applaudable) exception are government-subsidized tenants in the United States, due to laws that require housing for subsidized renters to pass Housing Quality Standards HQS inspections.

While most landlords are long term investors who view rent payments as the main source of income, slumlords tend to be short term speculators who are out to make a quick buck... by property flipping or siphoning government funds through subsidized tenants.

What to Do about a Slum Landlord

While slumlords are an elusive bunch, it's often easy to spot rental properties that owned by one:

  • The property is improperly or illegally repurposed (e.g. storage and garden sheds rented out as living quarters)
  • There is overcrowding or illegal subdivision of property (e.g. 20 tenants staying in a 2 bedroom apartment)
  • There is major structural damage (e.g. leaky/collapsed ceiling, large gaps and cracks in the walls or flooring)
  • There is mold or pest infestation (e.g. rats, termites, cockroaches)
  • The public utilities are in a state of major disrepair (e.g. hanging/exposed electrical wiring, leaky/clogged plumbing)

How to report a slum landlord to the authorities:

  1. Document all the property damages and take photos of the existing damage as evidence.

  2. Send a written request for repairs to the landlord by certified mail.

  3.  If the landlord does not make the corrective repairs within a reasonable time frame (typically 14 days), then file a complaint with both the local housing authority and heath and safety authority.

  4. In most cases, the tenant is allowed to withhold rent payments until repairs have been made. The tenant can also go one step further and sue the landlord for damages in the small claims court.

Rental Property Maintenance