Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time renter, you need to know your rights when it comes to dealing with your landlord. Rather than butting heads over disagreements, if you understand your state’s tenant laws, and you’ve negotiated a reasonable lease, you can calmly and knowledgeably address concerns as they arise. Renting an apartment is almost like having a boss – within reason, you have to do what they say, but they’re obligated to meet certain standards and you have the right to expect these standards are met.
1. Review Your Lease Before You Sign
As Ben Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Hedge your bets against any potentially difficult landlord by reviewing your lease carefully before you sign. Look for restrictions on overnight guests, noise, pets, digital antennas or satellite dishes, and smoking. Make sure your lifestyle complies with the lease’s requirements.
Also look for added fees, such as amenities charges or monthly pet rent, and be sure to ask whether utilities are included with your rent. You need to know exactly what you’re paying for and how much you’ll owe each month. Pay particular attention to penalties associated with breaking your lease before the term is up, and understand what you must do in order to receive your security deposit back in full. These are sticking points that can come back to bite you if you don’t understand exactly what you’re signing.
2. Research Local Laws
Next, research your state’s laws regarding tenant renter rights. These laws govern the standards landlords are required to meet when providing domicile to tenants, and they also detail how tenants can legally exert their rights in the event of an abuse.
3. Keep Records
If you start to experience problems with a landlord, it’s vitally important that you keep bulletproof records. Retain copies of cancelled checks for rent payments and always keep a paper trail of email exchanges you have. Keep detailed records of any phone conversations, including the time and date you had them, and what was discussed. If you plan to have a face-to-face meeting over a disputed issue, bring along a witness to vouch for what is discussed.
4. Pay Your Rent
In order to avoid arguments, never miss a rent payment. Sign up for automatic payments through your banking institution, or use a website like Manilla to receive text or email updates when your rent is due. The best defense against a difficult landlord is a good offense, so even in the event of a dispute, continue paying your rent in good faith as you work out the details with your landlord.
5. Maintain Respectful Communication
No matter what the issue, always maintain a respectful line of communication with your landlord. Losing your cool, raising your voice, or making inappropriate remarks does nothing to further your cause, and if you have to take your dispute to court, you want the judge to be able to look kindly on all of your interactions.
6. Seek a Peaceable Solution
Whatever the disagreement, view law enforcement or the court system as a last resort, and try to seek a peaceable solution on your own. If you plan to continue living on the property, unnecessarily involving the law can damage your long-term relationship with your landlord.
7. Request Repairs in Writing
If your AC unit goes on the fritz, your plumbing malfunctions, or your garbage disposal stops working, request the repair in writing. Landlords are busy, and if you simply phone in your request, it might be overlooked. A written request serves the dual purpose of providing your landlord with notice of the problem, as well as documentation for your own records, just in case the request is ignored.
Generally speaking, when it comes to landlord-tenant disagreements, the courts are likely to side with the landlord. Landlords are renting their property out to tenants, then must bear much of the burden when bad tenants wreak havoc on the residence or skip out on rent payments. This isn’t to say a bad landlord will get away with poor property management, but the burden is on you to prove that you’re following your lease in good faith and that the landlord is failing to meet their legal requirements. This is why it’s so important for you, as the tenant, to be respectful of the property you’re renting and to always keep up with your rent payments. These factors give you a leg to stand on in the event you have to take your landlord to court.
PS. Do you have a difficult landlord? How do you deal?