With the rental market becoming more feasible for new tenants, it is no surprise that landlord horror stories keep popping up. Dealing with a bad landlord is one of the most frustrating experiences in housing, but thankfully, there are some steps that you can take to make your life easier. From documenting all the issues to installing cameras, here are some things you can do as a tenant in a bad rental situation.
For tips on what to do if you are dealing with a bad landlord, keep on reading!
General Tips for Tenants
Before we delve into some steps to take when dealing with your landlord, here are some tips on how to handle an unideal renting situation.
Check the Lease
Your first step for any contentions with your landlord should be the rental agreement. Make sure to go back and read the lease, making a note of any details that could either bolster your case. The fine print can contain some essential details. So ensure you are familiar with the rights and rules you have as a signed tenant.
Consider Legal Action
It might seem like the final action you’d like to take, but sometimes legal steps are the last line of defense for tenants. For instance, if your landlord is refusing to deal with repairs or replacements in the home, you can take them to court for an order to carry out repair work and pay you any necessary compensations. This is especially valuable if you or your family has suffered deteriorated health conditions directly caused by the landlord’s refusal or inaction.
Keep Records of Everything
Make notes and keep all issues with your rental property well-documented, including dates, descriptions, conversations, and even times. Try to get all communications in writing, via text or email, so that you can save these exchanges for future use, if necessary. Supplement any of your repair requests with a signed letter so that you have physical evidence to back you up—relying solely on what he or she said will be stressful and hard to prove if it comes to that.
Report Bad Landlords
Not only for your sake but for future tenants, consider reporting your unethical landlord to local authorities. You have many options here—local building and health inspection bodies can be called in to investigate and report, or you can share your experiences with a tenancy board or housing council, who can flag the landlord and property for the future.
Suppose you believe your experience is the product of housing discrimination based on gender, sexuality, religion, race, or other considerations. In that case, you can contact the Fair Housing Act or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Take Pictures for Evidence
Like keeping records, it’s crucial to take photographic evidence. Break out your camera or smartphone and document issues with the house on film, including damage to property or belongings, correspondences with landlords, video walkthroughs of the problematic areas, etc. Photographic evidence with dates and timestamps is hard to contest, should the worst happen.
What to Do if Your Landlord Enters the Property Without Permission
Landlords who access your rental property without authorization are not only nosy but breaking the law. Here are a couple of steps for dealing with this situation before pursuing legal action.
Remember, if you ever feel unsafe in your home—rental or not—you should go to the authorities immediately.
Ask for Acceptable Notice
Landlords can come into your rental property to make repairs, inspect the premises, or show it to potential renters. However, this must be done with reasonable notice in advance and tenant permission. Many state laws require written consent by the tenant for landlords to enter the property, and landlords must only enter for necessary visits.
If your landlord enters your rental property without your consent or notice, communicate with them about your concerns and privacy. Try to keep these exchanges in writing, and request at least 24 hours of consensual notice before they enter your rental. Exceptions to notice include emergencies such as gas leaks, fire, or major natural disasters.
Install Security Cameras
While it is illegal for landlords to supply security cameras within their rental properties to keep an eye on tenants, installing security cameras within your rental home as a tenant is perfectly acceptable. This is good for general security and provides evidence of unauthorized landlord entry into your home, should it occur while you are away.
Keep in mind that some security systems do require in-wall wiring and drilling holes in the wall or ceiling, which can go against your lease terms or security deposit understanding. But you can easily find wire-free security cameras with rechargeable batteries and adhesive or stand-based attachments.
What to Do if Your Landlord Raises the Rent Unfairly
Given the fluctuations of the housing market and economy, landlords occasionally need to alter their tenants’ rent. However, there is a fine line between fair increase and greed, so here are a few ideas for dealing with a raise in rent.
Check for Proper Notice
Because most states require your landlord to give adequate notice of rent increases, make sure that you didn’t simply miss it. The typical notice period is between 30 and 60 days before the change, but landlords should submit subsequent written notice before the final adjustment of rent. If you did not receive reasonable notification, it is a violation of municipal law, and you can refuse to pay the increase or even take legal action against the landlord.
Negotiate a Lower Increase
Landlords do have a legal right to raise the rent but should only elevate it a fair amount. If your landlord has given reasonable notice but wants to raise the rent beyond your budget, you can try to negotiate for a milder rent increase. By discussing the situation reasonably and patiently, you might convince your landlord to reduce the increase to keep you as a tenant—the rental market is difficult on landlords too, so they don’t want to lose good renters!
Sign a Fixed-Term Contract
If you plan to live in a rental property for a long time, opt for a fixed lease contract over something shorter like monthly or bi-annually. This will give you a more extended period where rent will not be raised, and you won’t have to worry about an unpleasant rise in monthly costs. Most landlords are happy to sign a longer lease because they won’t have to worry about filling the rental property.
What to Do if Your Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs
As a tenant, you are responsible for base maintenance around the home, such as changing lightbulbs or keeping air filters clean. But the landlord holds the responsibility for any significant fixes, from appliances malfunctioning to utility issues. The following are some steps to take if your landlord is attempting to sidestep these responsibilities!
Are They Responsible?
Landlords are typically responsible for the great majority of repairs around the rental property, but not all. If the home has sustained damage from you, your family, or your guest’s actions, it falls under your jurisdiction of repair. However, check in the lease for what areas the landlord is specifically responsible for repairing, replacing, and generally keeping fit for living.
Implement a Contact Deadline
Keep in contact with your landlord about the issue, even if they are not replying to you. Contact them repeatedly, if need be, to make sure they know what the problem is. You should submit these communications via letters or emails so that you have a physical record.
If you must, give your landlord a reasonable deadline to respond to your request, but try to be flexible for negotiations. When you contact them in writing, include such considerations as the following:
- Reminder of their responsibility to do the specific repair, as it falls under their jurisdiction as the landlord
- Suggestions of dates and times when the repair could be carried out, for everyone’s convenience
- Recommendation of the level of repair that you, as the tenant, would find acceptable—for instance, if the repair is a small fix versus a larger replacement where duct tape just will not cut it
Notice for Repair Requests
The easiest way to request repairs for all parties involved is by giving your landlord both written and verbal notice in advance, describing the issue, providing documentation, and suggesting repair scheduling. While landlords could still dodge the repair request, it is more difficult to do when plenty of preparation time and documentation has been provided. If there are neighboring tenants in the same position, you can unite with them and send a mass repair request to the landlord and building manager, making it harder to ignore.
Repair it Yourself
As a final option, tenants can either repair the issue themselves or hire someone to do it. Keep in mind that you are responsible for the standard of work if you choose this route, whether you make it a DIY project or hire a contractor. The landlord can charge you to fix any additional damage or issues caused by the repair work. In addition, there is no guarantee that you can recuperate the costs of repair from your landlord unless they have agreed to deduct the expenses from your rent and have given written authorization for it.
While dealing with a bad landlord is frustrating for everyone involved, we hope these steps can help you navigate around a bad rental situation.
If you found this helpful, check out our blog, where we compare buying vs. renting a home.