Dealing with a difficult landlord

Landlords can be tough to deal with, but as a renter it’s important to keep your cool. If you’ve got a landlord that’s always on your case, or never seems to want to make repairs, here are some tips on how to make your life as a tenant easier.

Know Your Rights

If you’ve got a lease, there are laws that protect you as a renter. For instance, your landlord is required to provide access to basic necessities, like running water and heat, so he’s not allowed to put off fixing the heater or the plumbing for months on end. Many municipalities have other laws on the books, which govern things like rent increases, advanced notice for inspections, how security deposits should be handled and how quickly repairs should be made. Before you go toe-to-toe with your landlord, make sure you have the law on your side. Look up your city’s rental board, which should list ordinances and regulations online. In most big cities, there’s also usually a tenant’s rights group that educate tenants on their rights and make sure that building owners play by the rules.

Get it in Writing

If you’ve got a leaky pipe or cracked window make sure to send the repair request via email, rather than asking your landlord in person. That way, all repair requests are documented in writing and there will be no room for dispute about how long you’ve been waiting for repairs if you have to haul your landlord before the rental board. Writing things down your request will also give you the time to put things in a reasoned tone, rather than have a face-to-face exchange that quickly escalates into a shouting match.

Pick Your Fights

You might be in the right, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to war over every little thing. If you’re calling your landlord up every time your stove’s pilot light goes out or the batteries need to be changed in your smoke detector, you’re going to get on your landlord’s bad side. And once you’re on your landlord’s bad side, he can make life difficult for you. Having a few friends over for a party? The landlord can point out that your lease enforces quiet hours? Did you put up a wall shelf or coat rack without asking? The landlord can deduct the cost of removing it and patching the wall from your security deposit. Sometimes the best strategy is to avoid dealing with the landlord as much as possible.

Understand Your Lease

Many people sign a lease without really looking it over, but before you start making claims to your landlord, make sure you’re protected by your lease. For instance, you might want to make a little extra income by subletting one of the rooms or renting out the apartment on Airbnb while you’re out of town. However, many leases strictly forbid this sort of thing, and you could be putting yourself at risk of eviction if you’re not careful. On the other hand, your landlord might complain that you aren’t allowed to have a pet. But if it isn’t in the lease, and local laws don’t forbid it, then it’s not something you have to worry about.

Do Your Part

Most landlords don’t enjoy being difficult. They probably got that way after years of dealing with difficult tenants. To avoid straining the relationship, make sure you do your part: keep the noise down, pay your rent on time, and speak with them in a respectful manner. It might take a couple of days or a couple of reminders to get repairs made, especially in larger buildings, but don’t immediately assume the landlord is doing it out of spite. The landlord might be busy or a little forgetful. And while the place might be a rental, treat it like it’s your own house. For every landlord horror story, there’s an equally horrifying story about tenants who trashed the place.