What is a Slumlord?

“Slumlord” is slang for an unscrupulous landlord who is more concerned about their profits than their tenants or neighborhood

“Slumlord” is slang for an unscrupulous landlord who is more concerned about their profits than their tenants or neighborhood, which can manifest as absenteeism in the face of tenants’ needs and overcharging for rental property that’s kept in poor condition and/or lacks basic amenities. Typically, slumlords aim to manage their rental business while doing the least amount of work for the cheapest price, Forbes notes.

According to USLegal.com, a slumlord property has “deteriorated or is in a state of disrepair and that manifests one or more of the following conditions that are a danger to the health or safety of the public:

  • Structurally unsound exterior surfaces, roof, walls, doors, floors, stairwells, porches, or railings
  • Lack of potable water, adequate sanitation facilities, adequate water, or waste pipe connections
  • Hazardous electrical systems or gas connections
  • Lack of safe, rapid egress
  • Accumulation of human or animal waste, medical or biological waste, gaseous or combustible materials, dangerous or corrosive liquids, flammable or explosive materials, or drug paraphernalia”

It should come as no surprise that slumlords rarely care about landlord-tenant laws.

How Can You Identify a Slumlord?

Forbes outlined five signs of a slumlord:

    1. Deferred maintenance: A rental property in disrepair with broken or boarded windows or doors covered in graffiti, trash, overgrown landscaping, and broken or nonworking lights isn’t being taken care of, which means the property owner isn’t invested in the unit. Having one or two of these features doesn’t automatically mean the property is run by a slumlord, but a visible lack of care indicates a lack of investment from the property owner.
    2. Untimely or incomplete tenant work orders: Slumlords typically rush through or overall ignore tenant maintenance requests, and many are known for starting jobs but not finishing them. It’s also common for slumlords to hire the cheapest labor possible, which usually leads to faulty work that makes the problem worse.
    3. Unlicensed workers: Some states require property managers to hire licensed workers for property maintenance issues while limiting the number of hours an unlicensed handyman can work. Slumlords often ignore this rule since they prioritize profit above all else.
  • Cash deals and no leases: Having fewer government bodies involved with their business is ideal for slumlords, which leads many of them to only accept cash as monthly rent payments. Also, slumlords typically prefer limited or no lease so they’re not held to a binding contract, which makes it more challenging for their tenants to secure outside assistance or exercise their rights regarding housing.
  • No respect for tenants: Slumlords want to make money, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process. Income reigns supreme, and fulfilling their tenants’ needs is often treated as a privilege to the tenant than their obligation as an owner, Forbes says.
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