FAQ: “Help my toilet is broken and my landlord isn’t responding!”

So maybe there aren’t broken toilets all over Des Moines, but we do get many calls from renters asking how they can better communicate and deal with landlords who are slow or not responding to repair requests. 

The first step is to review your lease and other documents from your landlord to ensure that you are following the procedures in place for reporting repair and maintenance issues.  Not all repair requests start with a phone call or an email.  If your unit is part of a large property management organization, you may need to fill out an online form.  For others, they do want a phone call or email, but you may have to contact a specific person – not necessarily the onsite property manager.  And, the reality is, some landlords simply don’t have a process.  Important note: document how you are communicating your repair need.  Write down how, when and who you are trying to reach, as well as, what, if any response, you have received. Keep dated and signed copies of all communication, if possible!

If your landlord has not responded to or completed repairs within 7-10 days, it may be time to seek other avenues.  This may mean contacting the owner or the supervisor rather than the property manager to move the process along.  Be mindful, however, that not all repairs can be made quickly.  If the repair includes parts that need to be ordered, you may have to wait a few days.  If the landlord/maintenance professional/owner is communicating with you, you are well on your way to resolving this in a timely and efficient manner.

In the unlikely event that you haven’t made progress in your request for repair, you also have the right to call the code enforcement office for the city or county in which you live to inquire about what, if anything, they might be able to do.  If you have a valid concern, the local code enforcement office will likely have procedures that they want you to follow in making a report.  Remember, this is an action of last resort and should only be considered if you have had little or no productive conversations with the person responsible for caring for your unit.

Have questions about your specific circumstance? We have housing counselors available to talk with you.  They can be reached at 515.243.1277.  Calls are typically returned within 24 hours Monday – Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the order they were received.  We also have a Rental Housing Handbook, which offers tenants and landlords basic information about renting, rental agreements, rental deposits, eviction actions, state and local housing laws, and a summary of tenant and landlord rental housing rights and responsibilities.

Please note: this article and the Rental Housing Handbook are intended only for informational purposes and not a substitute for legal advice

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