Landlord driving me insane… everyone says we have no rights

By Barbara

I am absolutley fed up with renting this house that I am in. We rented this house in March of this year (2009). Nice big 3 br, 2 ba, house with partial basement and bonus room. 750/mo. rent. Granted, it is a really old house so some problems are to be expected. When we viewed the house before renting, the repair men were still working on the house and we were told that painting, cleaning, and other repairs still needed to be done and would be done prior to our moving in. We signed the lease, moved in, and began noticing that nothing had been done from the time we viewed it other than some junk in the basement had been removed. No painting had been done and previously mentioned repairs had not been done either. All downstairs windows are painted shut and do not open. Two large windows upstairs have big gaps that do not seal the weather out. Only one window in this whole house has a screen on it, and it is painted shut as well.

We decided to not make a big deal out of any of it at first. Then we noticed a sump pump in the basement was pumping raw sewage into the front yard. Landlord took two months to fix this and told us that raw sewage in the yard was not a health hazard as long as we made our kids stay away from it (??? seriously???). Later, we find animal feces in almost every corner of a dirt shelf that runs around the entire basement. Landlord never has done anything about that, but we have removed as much of the feces as we can get to. There is still some feces in a couple of the far corners that we cannot reach to get it out.

When we moved in, landlord told us that he would repair the roof when the weather got warmer. Now that it is August, and the ceiling upstairs is about to fall in from retaining water, the landlord finally has someone working on the roof, but we think the ceiling upstairs that now needs to be replaced will be another fight.

The fireplace in the living room leaks and has a somewhat heavy board that is “supposed” to seal it off covering the fireplace. The board can easily be pulled down by my two year old, and has a tendency to fall down when it is storming with high winds outside. We recently found birds living in the fireplace the last time the board fell. Landlord has done nothing to fix the unsealed board or remove the birds.

To top everything off, I have severe allergies that I can normally control with meds but have now been really bothering me nonstop after about a month after moving in this house. It is getting to the point that my allergy meds are no longer working. I don’t know if it is the feces in the basement, the possible mold in the basement or in the ever sagging upstairs ceiling, or what is making me so sick in this house, but the landlord seems to think that he doesn’t have to do anything. Even told us once that he rented this house to us “as is”. I didn’t know that rental housing could be rented out “as is”.

We have no idea what to do. Everyone we try to call and get advice from says that our area (Putnam County) is not subject to the landlord tenant act. We’ve basically been told that a landlord in our county can rent a leaky cardboard box to a family and there is no laws against it. I even contacted the health department that transferred me to some environmental department and they told me that I basically have no rights and cannot get anything done unless I hire a lawyer and even then I would be wasting my money because of the lack of laws that protect renters. Is this true? Are there really no laws in some areas that protect renters from these kinds of living conditions? Are there really no housing codes that landlords have to maintain?

Any advice… please… Thanks in advance.

Edited on: Saturday, May 12th, 2012 12:00 am

6 Responses to “Landlord driving me insane… everyone says we have no rights”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)

RPA Agent

August 27th, 2009 3:39 pm

Hi Barbara,
I handle numerous landlord complaints for the RPA. Your housing situation is not much different than many tenants that I have helped in the past. Regardless, of where you live all renters within any of the 50 States are provided rights. So the claim that you have no renting rights is wrong.
On federal level there are basic statutes and laws that apply to protect and regulate rental housing. Each State can make their own laws, but those laws can’t take away rights that you are entitled to by the federal government. In most cases rent laws will be more strict on a State or County level. Now lets be honest, you’re living Tennessee and not California where the laws are written to mostly benefit the tenant… In Tennessee the rent laws are more down the middle and provide rights to both the landlord and the tenant, and are not imparticularly weighed to one side more than another.
The question up for debate is whether the home you are renting is fit to live in. This is call implied warranty of habitability, which basically means that by renting the home the landlord has implied that the home is liveable. This argument can be tricky. The home is probably liveable, but isn’t up to your standards of living. So, unless there are obvious health hazards or dangers, the landlord could argue that the home is habitable.
So what can you do?
Option 1: Remain in the rental home through the remainder of your contract. Try to make due.
Option 2: Hire an attorney to help you get out of the lease– Can be costly ($1500 to $2500)
Option 3: Go through Landlord Tenant Mediation by filing a complaint with the RPA. ($35)
So, if its bothering you enough that you think its time to find a new place, then select the option that works best for you. I would have provided another obvious option of getting the landlord to fix the items mentioned, but based on your post it sounds like that option may be unlikely. However, you could always give the option to your landlord– Repair xx itmes or release me from lease with no penalties.
As a renter you have many options. The Rental Protection Agency is a good option for many people, but if you can afford an attorney– in this case that may be better, but I doubt it. I would challenge any RPA Agent’s ability to negotiate over an attorney. As a mediator– our goal is to find a solution quickly. Attorney’s aren’t in a hurry, after all they get paid more the longer it takes.
Hope that helps!


August 31st, 2009 8:52 am

You really should have arranged to have your landlord repair those things before moving in. Now that you’re moved in, its not going to happen.


August 31st, 2009 1:05 pm

In some cases you can break your lease if you can prove that the rental is unfit to live in. It will be tough proving that the allergies are coming from the home. One way to prove your point is to have it evaluated by a professional tesiting company. They will be able to give you toxicology counts to determine if the rental house is toxic or harmful to live in.
Like mentioned above by the RPA Agent, you should probably file a landlord complaint. That’s the first step.


September 6th, 2009 8:44 pm

You need to contact your local Landlord and Tenant group. While laws and regulations differ from State to State and Province to Province there are certain standards that all landlords are required to live up to and it’s just not right to let lousy landlords get away with things like this. I put together information to help landlords become better at their job and one of my suggesttiosn to landlords was to not treat their rental properties as just a rental if they treat it as someone’s home, not only do they end up with happier tenants, but a better property as well.

Brian C

November 3rd, 2009 11:39 am

The solution is simple. Call your local Board of Health, and schedule an appointment to have the place inspected.

Sewage? Feces? Water leaks (mold breeding)? Yeah, have the place inspected. You’ll get the wheels a turnin by doing that.


September 8th, 2010 6:30 pm

please help……long story short my power was shut off wife and i got home from work seen power is off!SO I CALLED PAID MY BILL PLUS RECONNECT FEE OD 100 i then called to give them confirmation number and they told me someone tampered with power while off!i explained how i wasnt home etc…they said pay an additional 75 AND WELL TURN IT ON.I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO PAY IT.i then seen my landlords out in my front yard(they live next door ) they lifted the cover to my well pump and had wires running from that to their house…so when the power company shut my power off it shut their water off!!!(which means ive been paying for some of their electricity)i then show the power company and he said yes that ive been payingfor their waterpump….BUT THE MAIN PROBLEM IS I’M 8 DAYS LATE ON MY RENT SO SHE SHUT OUR WATER OFF AND WILL NOT TURN IT BACK ON!!!I HAVE LIVED HERE SINCE APRIL AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN LATE…..IS THERE ANY THING I CAN DO??????please help


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