The mayor of St. John's is urging the general public to report slum landlords to the city so it can investigate housing.

CBC News has reported recent horror stories of boarding houses, highlighting issues ranging from bed bugs to mould, electrical issues and holes in walls.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said it's the city's responsibility to make sure licensed rental properties are safe and healthy places for people to live..

However, he said, city staff can't act to make housing any better if they don't know about the problems.

"Give us the address and tell us what kind of conditions exist where you live, and we'll take it from there," O'Keefe said.

"If you're not comfortable leaving your name, you don't have to leave your name, but we need to know. Otherwise, we can't deal with the problem."

City will get order to clean up properties

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said the conditions some people were living in shocked him.

Ron Ellsworth council

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth says the conditions of some of the housing properties in the city shocked him. (CBC)

"What really concerned me was the fear, or underlying current, of individuals living in substandard housing … they feel trapped," he said.

O'Keefe said the city will act quickly on complaints once they're received, but if a landlord refuses to allow an inspector into the unit, the city then has to go to court.

If an order to clean up a property is then ignored, they would have to go to court again.

But O'Keefe said there was one trump card the city had up its sleeve to get landlords into action.

"Well b'y, if you're not going to do it then we're going to name you at a public meeting," he said. "

Amazing how quick that results in remedial action."