Renters Without Safe Heat Can Take Legal Action, Experts Say
TULSA, Oklahoma -
As the cold continues, there's a growing concern for those living in unsafe conditions.
The Tulsa Health Department is getting calls about renters who don't have heat.
In some cases, they're forced to turn to space heaters as they try to stay warm.
News On 6 went along for an inspection to find out where a complaint starts and how you can get answers.
“We're looking for a safe heat source, smoke detectors, and if they're using space heaters that they're doing it properly," said Kendra Wise with the Tulsa Health Department.
Wise quickly finds the furnace and explains her job is to confirm it's not working.
"I don't have to diagnose the problem. I'm just here to open up an avenue for the renter to get it fixed," she said.
The real problem is when a landlord doesn't fix it. There have been reports of landlords giving renters space heaters instead.
"A space heater should never be used as a sole heat source … it's not acceptable just for the remainder of the winter because the landlord doesn’t have money to fix the unit," Wise said.
If you find yourself in a situation without heat, the health department wants you to know there's help out there.
"The OK residential tenant act does require landlords to provide heat at all times," said Eric Hallett with Legal Aid Services.
Hallett is on the receiving end of complaints.
“The important thing for everyone to know is your rights under the law come into play when you give written notice to your landlord,” Hallett said.
When asked his message to landlords who know they're leaving their tenants in the cold, Hallett said, “The landlords on the bad list don't care about my message because we are suing them all the time.”
The big take away is that you do have rights.
Put your complaint in writing to your landlord.
Find a safe place to stay until there is safe heating in your home and apartment.
If you need help you can reach out to the health department or legal services.