Landlord/Tenant Law

How to Deal With a Difficult Landlord: Tips to Follow When Your Landlord Is Being Unreasonable

If you are a renter, you know how important it is to have a landlord who you can trust and have a good relationship with. All of a sudden moving becomes a big gamble, because what happens if your new landlord doesn't measure up?

Many others are not so lucky. Slow response to maintenance, refusing to return security deposits, and nit-picking every supposed "violation" can be the norm from many landlords.

What can you do if you have a difficult relationship with your landlord? Maintaining a good relationship is important, because that landlord will often serve as a reference when you move into your next rental. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.

Understand Landlord-Tenant Laws

Most importantly, if you think your landlord is trying to take advantage of you, remember that you have rights. Depending on your state or city, you could have several protections available to you. These include:

  • Withholding rent if your landlord does not provide timely maintenance of essential services, such as water, heat, and electricity
  • Making repairs yourself and deducting expenses from your rent
  • Receiving sufficient notice of rent increases
  • Being able to convert your lease to month-to-month if you choose
  • Having a longer eviction timeline if you are unable to make rent payments on time
  • Setting a maximum amount for security deposits

Remember, these laws vary by state and city. It is important that you are aware of the specific laws that apply to you and your situation.

When your landlord fails to live up to their obligations, you should consider talking to an attorney who has experience in landlord-tenant litigation. They will be able to protect your rights and thoroughly explain your options about what you should do.

Document Everything

If your dispute with your landlord rises to the level of needing to speak with a landlord-tenant attorney, it is important to keep documentation. It is important to do as much communication with your landlord over email and text, so that you have records of your requests and issues.

Some examples of good documentation include:

  • Text messages, emails, and voice messages
  • Photos of your apartment (including when you move in, when you move out, or when you report any maintenance issues)
  • Recordings of noise issues (such as a noisy neighbor that the landlord will not address)

Understand Your Lease

This is not the fine print of signing up for a streaming service. This is your home. It is important that you review your lease, so that you understand your obligations in addition to your landlord's.

While it's true that some landlords may let some minor violations slide, even if they are in the lease, you need to have a good understanding of what your relationship with your landlord is: It's a business relationship, and if you break the rules, there may be consequences. That means you should be aware of rules regarding:

  • Late rent payment (penalties, grace periods, etc.)
  • How much notice you must give for renewing or moving out
  • Pets and any additional costs
  • Guests and whether people can be unattended
  • What happens to your rent if your roommate moves out
  • Subletting your rental

That is just a small sample of what you should look for. Your lease may be much more detailed. In any case: Read the fine print.

Be a Good Tenant

It goes without saying, but in many cases, if you're a good tenant from the start and continue to be throughout the life of your lease, this can prevent many disputes from developing. That means:

  • Paying your rent on time (or communicating when you can't)
  • Taking care of your apartment or home
  • Living up to your obligations in the lease (such as lawn care)
  • Reporting maintenance issues in a timely fashion

Of course, being a good tenant will not mean much if you have a lazy or hostile landlord who isn't interested in fixing problems. But if a dispute ever escalates to legal action, being a model tenant will work in your favor.

Be Respectful

If you are having a disagreement with your landlord, it's important to remember to be respectful, just as you would in any other type of customer service disagreement.

But remember, you are the customer. If your landlord is being difficult, you have a right to demand the service that your lease and the law requires. Be respectful, but be firm and persistent.