What can I do about a landlord who promised a clean and newly painted apartment before we moved in, but didn't deliver? We have moved in because we had nowhere else to go, but I am concerned about our children's health and the total well-being of our family. Can I report the unhealthy living conditions to the health department? Please let me know of my legal rights or how to go about this problem in a dignified manner.
If the unpainted and unclean conditions are genuine health risks, you should certainly take action. Call the health department and describe the situation. Depending on the agency's workload and the severity of the problems, you might get some action. If you're worried about deteriorating lead-based paint, by all means call.
For tenants facing seriously harmful conditions, many states have enacted remedies that let them repair the problems and deduct the cost from the rent, or withhold rent until the landlord accomplishes the cleaning and repairs. If your state has these remedies, check them out. Be careful, however, to follow the letter of the law when taking these steps.
And in the future, get that promise in writing before you move in. That way, you have a contract that you can point to if you need it later. Better yet, avoid renting a dirty place. Any landlord who advertises and shows such a unit has no pride in his or her property and is not likely to keep it up during your tenancy.