The Perspective
   
FALL 2013

Landlord/Tenant Hotline: Resolving Issues One Call at a Time

If you’re a tenant, what are your responsibilities if there is a dispute? What if you’re the landlord? You’re both obligated to uphold your end of the bargain… complying with the rental agreement, keeping the dwelling clean and safe, maintaining the plumbing, and more. But, what if there is a dispute between the two? For habitability complaints, there’s the Landlord/Tenant Hotline, (702) 759-0697.

The Southern Nevada Health District and UNLV’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health have teamed up and made some changes to the Landlord/Tenant Hotline which has undergone a few iterations since its inception in May 2011. On average, the hotline receives 1,500 to 2,000 calls per year. While the health district does not have jurisdictional authority over rental housing, it does play an intricate role in advising tenants and landlords about health and safety issues according to Nevada Revised Statute 118A. Although not every call results in an inspection, tenants and landlords are provided with steps to help resolve their situation. The information can be used if the tenant decides to pursue legal action.

“We want to make sure that people in our community know there are resources for them if they need some assistance. Everyone deserves to live in a safe and healthy home and this is one way we can help,” said Vivek Raman, Southern Nevada Health District environmental health supervisor. “Even though we don’t have the authority to compel a landlord or manager to act, we can provide the tools the tenant needs to get the situation fixed.”

Raman continues: “By the time a tenant calls the hotline, he or she might have been dealing with an issue for a long time. Most tenants are not aware of the legal steps they need to take to get their situation resolved. This is one of the most important pieces of information we provide.”

Sometimes, landlords or managers contact the hotline for assistance when a tenant is not upholding his end of the agreement or has caused health/safety issues in a unit. They seek information and assistance about their options and tools to address their specific problems.

UNLV, under a Healthy Homes Technical Studies grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is conducting a three-year study to evaluate the impact a landlord/tenant hotline has on a community. Does it provide information to minimize housing-related health risks like asthma triggers? Is there an impact on improving safety-related risks? Does the hotline really address the needs of the community to reduce health risks and hazards in rentals? Should a hotline be part of an overall Healthy Homes strategy? Is it really more cost-effective to have pest control issues resolved or a water heater repaired than health-related costs over longer periods, for example, is it more cost effective to take care of a pest control issue or treat any health issues, like asthma.

Under the HUD grant, UNLV manages the hotline and provides direction to callers about how to notify their landlords regarding the issues in their units.

“We want to be able to follow up with people who have contacted the Landlord/Tenant Hotline to find out what the outcome was for them,” said Mackenzie S. Burns, Healthy Homes specialist at UNLV’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “Follow-up is something we haven’t been able to do up until this point. This is a terrific opportunity to help us find out if the hotline really has an impact in the community and what that impact might be.”

According to Burns, the research could help identify other issues related to Healthy Homes that could be addressed, such as trends like complaints from a specific ZIP Code, or pest complaints from one particular complex, all of which could help inform future housing policy recommendations.

“We hope that we can work on housing policies to impact healthy homes and get them on the books in the future. These would be enforceable and help to sustain the landlord/tenant hotline program for our community,” said Burns.

 

For more information about tenant rights, laws and protections in Nevada, visit the U.S. Department of Housbing and Urban Development website. For more information about the free “Ask a Lawyer” program, visit the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s website.

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