Dealing with Slumlords
I've been on both sides of the issue, having rented from a true slumlord (when the water in the cat's dish freezes in the kitchen ... that's a slumlord), and managed up to 20 rentals at a time.
Every state I know of has a residential landlord/tenant law. Do yourself a favor and GET A COPY of the law, and know your rights and responsibilities, and the landlord's rights and responsibilities.
The "maintenance man who seems to vanish" is not a problem if your state's law has a process that allows you to deduct repairs from the rent. But you have to follow the process.
However, don't try to use the law as a club to get your way: one PITA tenant of mine invoked the "fix it in 10 days or I'm out of here" part of the law for a cosmetic problem. I didn't challenge whether the problem was serious, nor did I fix it. I replied to her certified letter with one of my own, letting her know that unfortunately the problem would not be fixed within the 10-day limit and that according to the law, her lease would therefore be over on mm/dd/yy, prorated rent for rest of thethe month would be returned to her and the damage deposit would be mailed to her next place of residence.
She went BALLISTIC! :-) She didn't want to move, she thought she could use the law to whack me into making the repair. It was a cracked ceiling - not something I like to fix in an occupied apartment because of the dust hassle. But she moved out, I ripped out the ceiling, fixed the cracks, increased the rent and replaced the tenant.
Another tenant reported me to the slumlord police for having a leaky roof ... so I fixed it, which involved a full tear-off, new sheathing, a huge dumpster in the parking area, and swarms of workmen for almost 2 weeks. They were aghast to discover that they couldn't move into a hotel at my expense for the duration because the basic services were intact. They had to live with the noise, dust, dirt, and crowds. (heh, heh)