Mold on the walls of apartment

Characteristics that Determine a Slum Lord

It’s every renter’s worst nightmare. You know the one. You get settled into your new apartment only to realize there are roaches everywhere. As you attempt to deal with the situation, some commotion outside leads you to notice how crime-ridden the surrounding area is. 

When you attempt to talk to your landlord about it, they do the least work possible and cut corners however they can.  If this sounds like your situation, you may be dealing with a slum lord

These people have essentially cultivated a lifestyle for themselves that is predicated on this type of behavior. They allow their properties to be ruined and use the depreciation to their advantage. Fortunately, learning to identify their characteristics can help you spot them from a mile away.

Untimely Work Orders

As a tenant, you should expect to live with some degree of comfort. When something goes wrong, it is up to your landlord to fix it. 

Laws differ depending on where the property is located, but a reasonable person would expect a standard work order to be completed with some degree of urgency. For example, a malfunctioning dishwasher should reasonably be fixed within five to 10 days.

The slum lord does not treat such issues with urgency. They might hire the cheapest labor they can find, start a job without finishing it, or simply get around to the work when they see fit. In the meantime, this makes your life difficult and allows the property to slip into ruin.

All Cash, No Lease

Slum lords prefer to stay as far away from the IRS as possible. This means they don’t like to work without binding contracts, such as leases. They also don’t like to take payment methods outside of cash. Although this strategy is a risky one, it adheres to the slum lord’s strategy of depreciation and neglect.


More often than not, one of the easiest ways to spot a slum lord is by examining a property’s physical condition. Are the doors in good shape, or are they broken and boarded? What about the windows? Pay close attention to the landscaping as well. If it is overgrown and unmaintained, this could be a red flag. 

You should also be on the lookout for graffiti, trash, and broken amenities. While one or two of these factors may be normal for any property, a combination of all of them should serve as a huge indicator that something is wrong.


Slum lords have a tendency to disrespect their tenants. Whether they treat your claims with disdain or simply do the bare minimum to address them, their agenda involves collecting your money while completing as little work as possible. Consequently, the state of the property declines, and you are left to foot the bill.

Unlicensed Work

Is it really a surprise that slum lords prefer unlicensed work? After all, their preferred spot is firmly under the radar, and laborers who accept payments under the table allow them to stay there. 

On the bright side, many states have passed legislation that requires landlords to use licensed workers for repairs and maintenance. However, that doesn’t mean all of them will adhere to it, and it does nothing for areas where such legislation does not exist.

What You Can Do

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a slum lord’s neglect, contact Thompson Injury Law as soon as possible. If you need a qualified environmental trial attorney, our team in San Diego, CA, is ready to help. We have decades of experience dealing with claims related to injuries caused by slum lords and substandard housing. Contact us today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Anthony D. Thompson joined his father in the practice of law in 2004. Prior to his legal education, Anthony worked in Los Angeles in the field of multimedia entertainment. He also co-founded his own company based on wireless/satellite mapping solutions.