7 Issues You're Having With Your Landlord & How to Resolve Them

Landlord horror stories are so common, we might as well be telling them around the campfire. Or, better yet, we can tell them around our creaky old heaters that don't work anymore because our landlord never responded to our phone calls about them. Renting is pretty much required before you're ready to buy a home, but it comes with its own slew of problems -- many of which you won't be able to deal with without a lawyer's help.

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Lucky for you, we chatted with tenants' rights experts to identify the biggest problems renters face and the best ways to deal with them -- whether it's sending a text to your landlord, or taking him or her to court.

So, what situations do you need to watch out for? Here's the short list:

  1. Something breaks, and you're not sure if it's worth notifying your landlord about. You know how it goes: Your wall sockets blow out, your faucet breaks, and a piece of the drywall crumbles down. You might be afraid to report issues like this to your landlord, but Alex Stern, Esq., an attorney who represents tenants in cases against landlords through the Little Guy Law Firm, says you should do it now and avoid the headache later.

    "At some point, the landlord will learn of the issue -- either during move-out or before -- and will blame the renter for not giving them notice," Stern says. "The best strategy is to notify the landlord of the issue. That way, if they try to charge the renter for it down the road, the renter can say, 'No, this is a problem I reported to you and you had a duty to fix it.'"

  2. Something breaks, and your landlord doesn't seem to care. After you report your issue to your landlord, there's always a chance he or she will agree to do something about it, and then just ... won't. Though the legal ways to deal with this will depend on which state you live in and the terms of your lease, Stern says backing up your conversations in writing is always the best practice from a legal standpoint.

    "Even if you normally talk to the landlord verbally about the issue, always follow up in writing, even if it's just a text message, so that you have proof that you've notified the landlord of the issue."

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  3. Something breaks, and you don't want to pay rent until it's fixed. "This can become highly problematic and generally isn't advisable," Stern says. "There are extremely few defenses to a cause of action for rent being past due."

    Basically, you should always uphold your end of the deal, even if your landlord isn't upholding his or hers. This puts you in a better position to defend yourself legally, and will likely save you from the headache of having an eviction proceeding on your record.

    "If the situation is bad enough, and you've already given the landlord written notice of the issue and the chance to correct, consult with a tenants' rights lawyer," Stern advises. "There are many local legal aid organizations who can walk you through the process, too."

  4. You think your landlord owes you money, but they think you owe them. Usually, this kind of situation will crop up toward the end of the lease when the landlord tries to assert claims against the deposit (i.e., not give you all your money back). 

    "The laws in most states are very favorable for tenants trying to reclaim security deposits from landlords," Stern notes. "The biggest mistake people make here is not leaving the landlord a forwarding address."

    Stern says that even if you don't know where you're living yet, leave the landlord a friend's or family member's address -- as long as you can pick up mail within a reasonable period of time, it will work.

    "Most states have required time frames and procedures for putting claims on the deposit that involve giving the tenant notice of the claim," Stern says. "If, however, the landlord doesn't have an address to send the notice to, the landlord may use this as an excuse as to why it wasn't sent or received by the tenant." 

  5. You can't afford rent. Sometimes, you're just short on cash. If you can't make your rent payment, Shaolaine Loving, a attorney at Loving Law, Ltd., says that with good communication, there may be a way around it.

    "You could call or email to ask if the landlord will accommodate your inability to pay rent in full or on time," Loving says. "If they agree, definitely get some written confirmation and a rent receipt if you make a partial payment. That way, they can't try to evict you still for insufficient payment of rent."

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  6. You have noisy neighbors, and you want to break your lease. "Unfortunately, having rowdy neighbors may not be sufficient grounds to get you out of your lease," Loving says.

    If you're in an apartment community, Loving says you can try complaining to the common leasing office. They might be able to issue a warning or eviction to rowdy tenants, or better yet, it's possible they'll relocate you without any additional obligations.

    "Or, if you want to leave, you should see if your lease provides for a lesser early-termination penalty, or see if your landlord will negotiate one." 

  7. A landlord turns down your application because you have bad credit. Although approving your application is ultimately a landlord's call, there are some things you can do to help your case, according to Donovan Reese, the market president at Renters Warehouse.

    "First, provide your potential landlord with any or all of your previous rental records," Reese says. "You want to show the landlord that you have a good rental history, despite any bumps in the road with your credit. You may also want to include a letter explaining exactly what your credit issues might be and how you're working to correct them."

    If you are able, offering to make an additional deposit or pay a couple of months' rent up front will show good faith, and increase the chances of a potential landlord seeing you as a good candidate. 

 

Image via iStock.com / nensuria

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