The law in Nashua is that landlords must provide emergency contact information to tenants (so they can request help with emergency repairs and the like).
Alderman-at-large Ben Clemons wants to amend this law so that landlords also have to give tenants code enforcement department contact information. That way, if landlords don’t respond to a need for repairs (or pest abatement), they know who to call.
Currently, under the city housing code ordinance, chapter 182, section 31, property owners are required to post the address and phone number for an emergency contact in a common area of an apartment building or give a copy of the information to each tenant and file a copy with the city code enforcement department.
Where I live, in New York, rental buildings post the phone number of the landlord or super in the lobby.
But here, as in Nashua, there’s no information posted there or given to tenants on what to do if the landlord does not respond promptly.
Back to Nashua:
Under Clemons’ proposal, that procedure would remain the same, but the emergency contact information would also include the code department’s contact information and directions on how to proceed with difficult housing situations.
The directions would inform tenants that they must give their landlords written notice of any nonemergency housing issues and allow landlords two weeks to address the issues prior to the department’s involvement. Also, the postings or handouts would define the difference between emergency housing code violations and nonemergency housing code violations, outlining the landlord’s required response to both.
Under state and city ordinances, landlords must correct emergency housing code issues – those that pose an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of occupants – as promptly as possible.
For nonemergency housing code issues, state law requires landlords to fix the problem within 14 days of receiving written notice from the tenant or face penalties of $1,000 a day for each day of a verified violation.
And while the 14-day written notice is the procedure city code department officials already require of tenants before taking action in such nonemergency situations, that fact is not spelled out in the current ordinance.
This is partly in response to some cases last year in Nashua.
In 2008, a bedbug infestation at a Temple Street rooming house had several tenants calling the code enforcement department with complaints that the landlord was refusing to properly treat the problem.
At least one of the tenants, Dale Evans, said he worked with his landlord for some time before he ever contacted code enforcement officials, only to find out that he still had to send a letter and give his landlord another 14 days.
As the article points out, if this change is made, it will simply mean information is made more accesssible to tenants whose landlords are unresponsive.