How to Report a Landlord in Vermont for Unsafe Living Conditions
August 16, 2023
When a renter in Vermont can’t obtain necessary repairs, before beginning a court case it’s usually possible to file a report with the proper government departments about the unsafe conditions on the property. Code inspectors have the power to order repairs or fine noncompliant landlords.
What Are Considered Unsafe Living Conditions in Vermont?
In Vermont, unsafe living conditions exist when a rental property doesn’t have safe and working:
Plumbing, including kitchen and bathroom sinks, a toilet, and a shower or bathtub.
Required utilities, including electricity.
Required light fixtures.
Garbage containers and removal.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors (except as agreed by the tenant).
Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.
After receiving a complaint, an inspecting officer might contact the tenant for more information. Then the officer will usually inspect the property and cite the landlord for any code violations.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in Burlington?
A tenant in Burlington can report a health or safety violation by calling the Minimum Housing Division at (802) 863-0442 or using the providedonline form. The site requires account registration. Provide a location, detail the issue, attach supplemental documentation if available, and submit.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in Essex?
A tenant in Essex can report a health or safety violation by calling the city government at (802) 878-1341 or using the providedonline form. Select a location and then an issue (most issues will fall under “Other”). Attach a photo if available, provide a detailed issue description, and submit.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in South Burlington?
A tenant in South Burlington can report a health or safety violation by calling the Fire Department at (802) 846-4110 or using the providedonline form. Provide contact information, describe location and issue in detail, and submit.
What Could Happen to a Landlord After a Complaint Is Made in Vermont?
After a tenant files a complaint about unsafe living conditions in Vermont, an officer may inspect the property. The landlord must fix noted code violations. Otherwise, the landlord could be fined and the local government might file to condemn the property.
“(a) In any residential rental agreement, the landlord shall be deemed to covenant and warrant to deliver over and maintain, throughout the period of the tenancy, premises that are safe, clean, and fit for human habitation and that comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health regulations.
“(b) No rental agreement shall contain any provision by which the tenant waives the protections of the implied warranty of habitability. Any such waiver shall be deemed contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable and void.”
“Heat and water. As part of the implied warranty of habitability, the landlord shall ensure that the dwelling unit has heating facilities that are capable of safely providing a reasonable amount of heat. Every landlord who provides heat as part of the rental agreement shall at all times supply a reasonable amount of heat to the dwelling unit. The landlord shall provide an adequate amount of water to each dwelling unit properly connected with hot and cold water lines. The hot water lines shall be connected with supplied water-heating facilities that are capable of heating sufficient water to permit an adequate amount to be drawn. This subsection shall not apply to a dwelling unit intended and rented for summer occupancy or as a hunting camp.”
“Every kitchen sink, lavatory sink, shower and tub-shower combination shall be connected with water heating facilities in working order that are capable of safely heating an adequate yield of water. Shower and tub-shower combinations must be plumbed to be able to achieve a hot water temperature greater than or equal to 100°F and remain less than 120°F at the fixture.”
“Owners of rented mobile home lots shall provide hook-up to and owners of all dwellings and rooming houses shall connect all kitchen sinks, toilets, bathroom sinks, bathtubs, showers, washing machines and dishwashers to a public sewage system if available, or to a properly operating subsurface wastewater disposal system. Each wastewater disposal system shall be operated so that sewage does not back up into the dwelling, flow to the ground surface or directly into surface water.”
“Owners of dwellings, rooming houses and rented mobile home lots with short-term deficiencies in water quality or quantity must provide occupants with an alternate, adequate and accessible supply of water for drinking and sanitation until a regular source of water is made available.”
“Every habitable room in a dwelling unit or rooming house other than a kitchen shall contain at least two duplex electrical outlets or one duplex electrical outlet and one electrical light fixture. Every kitchen in a dwelling unit or rooming house shall contain at least one electric light fixture and two duplex electrical outlets. Every other room in a dwelling unit or rooming house shall contain at least one electric light fixture. All building entrances in dwellings or rooming houses and all common areas in rooming houses or dwellings containing two or more dwelling units shall be adequately lighted to provide for safe and reasonable use and safe access and egress to and from the building. All electrical systems in dwellings, rooming houses and on rented mobile home lots shall be maintained in safe working condition.”
“The owner of any dwelling or rooming house shall provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of trash, recyclables, and food scraps in accordance with 10 V.S.A. ch. 159 [Vermont’s waste management laws].”
“The owner of any dwelling or rooming house shall assure that arrangements are made for the removal of trash, recyclables, and food scraps in accordance with 10 V.S.A. ch. 159 [Vermont’s waste management laws].”
“The owner of every dwelling or rooming house shall be responsible for maintaining in a clean and sanitary condition free of trash, recyclables, and food scraps all common areas as well as any other part of the premises not used as a dwelling space.”
“Screens shall be provided for all operable windows and for doors that are providing ventilation when a window is not available. All screens shall be maintained in good repair and be free from tears, holes, or other imperfections of either screen or frame that would admit insects such as flies or mosquitoes.”
Every owner of a dwelling or rooming house shall provide and maintain the foundation, floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roof, staircases, chimneys and other structural elements of his or her dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming house or rooming unit so that it is weathertight, watertight, rodent proof and in good repair.
Vermont requires smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in all residential dwellings. In general, Vermont’s incorporation of the NFPA’s International Fire Code means the landlord is primarily responsible for maintaining such safety systems, but certain minor issues like battery replacement may be the tenant’s responsibility by explicit agreement in the lease. For details, seeVermont Dept. of Pub. Safety Div. of Fire Safety, Fire & Bldg. Safety Code 34-35 (2016); see alsogenerally2018 Int’l Fire Code § 907.8.5 (2018) (“The building owner shall be responsible to maintain the fire and life safety systems in an operable condition at all times.”)
“(a) If the landlord fails to comply with the landlord’s obligations for habitability and, after receiving actual notice [i.e., written notice, hand-delivered or mailed] of the noncompliance from the tenant, a governmental entity or a qualified independent inspector, the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time and the noncompliance materially affects health and safety, the tenant may: (1) withhold the payment of rent for the period of the noncompliance; (2) obtain injunctive relief; (3) recover damages, costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees; and (4) terminate the rental agreement on reasonable notice.”
“If within 30 days of notice, the landlord fails to repair a minor defect in order to comply with this chapter or a material provision of the rental agreement, the tenant may repair the defect and deduct from the rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work, not to exceed one-half of one month’s rent. The tenant shall provide the landlord with actual notice [i.e., written notice, hand-delivered or mailed] of the cost of the repair when the cost is deducted from the rent.”