Earlier this month, on a winter’s night, two fire alarms were detonated in an apartment built in Midtown, Atlanta. The Birmingham Fire and Rescue Corps has had a very busy January, as a result of several fires of undetermined cause and extinguishing the fire of a group of apartments due to the malfunctioning of a stove.
In December, 20 apartments were destroyed in Nashville, in a fire that is still under investigation, according to The Tennessean. Another serious fire, which sent a firefighter to the hospital was caused by the failure of an oven in Memphis.
It is not a surprise that all these fires have been unleashed in apartment buildings. Generally, in these places, such as welfare or social housing, the owners control the temperature, so tenants often opt for alternative heat sources when they are too cold.
Sometimes, the tenants do not comply with the inspections required by law. Smoke detectors are not facilitated or controlled, and ordinary devices are installed without any monitoring.
The worst part in most of these cases, is that tenants believe they are responsible, even when it is common to find that the negligence of the owner was the root of the problem.
In general, tenants evade their responsibilities, reducing costs because most tenants are not aware of the rights they have as residents, especially in assisted housing.
Your federal rights as a tenant of Section 8
Each tenant has certain responsibilities and the owners do not hesitate to complain when they do not comply. But, private owners who rent their property at a low price also have to follow certain rules, as determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which gives tenants certain rights.
You have the right tolive in a decent, safe and decent home. Which means that each tenant is asked to comply with health and safety codes. Repairs must be made in a timely manner and the care of the building must follow a maintenance program. Administrators and property owners must report any incident, and are required to respond in a timely manner to tenant complaints. Regular inspections should be carried out by the Housing Authority. These annual Housing Quality inspections review 13 factors, including that your home is free of environmental threats, such as lead paint, that have adequate heating and smoke detectors (some states require that tenants be held responsible of smoke detectors).
You have the right to be notified in writing and in advance of any type of security inspection or review in your apartment.
You have the right to be treated fairly and equitably, as well as to the use of services and facilities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, skin color, country of birth, gender, religion, language, children or disability.
You have the right to organize and participate in decisions related to the welfare of your building and home, without any obstruction, harassment or retaliation by owners or administrators. You can organize meetings without the owner’s consent, place posters, to inform other residents about their rights and share their opinions on issues related to residential community issues, such as the condition and proper management of the property.
You have the right to appropriate accommodation, if you have any disability. Your tenant should let you make changes to your home in your own way, and be flexible with other rules, such as allowing a guide dog, even if there are no pet regulations.