Renting a place means reckoning with the people around you. You have to consider, least of all, who your neighbors are, whether they’re amiable or atrocious, whether their children are troublemakers or well-behaved, whether their pets are rabid or tame. Easily lost in all these musings is the spectre of the property owner or the landlord designated to manage the property. It’s easy to forget that half the peace of being a renter depends on the ability of your landlord to empathize.
Some landlords are too inept and meddlesome for comfort, however. There’s the landlady who only shows up to collect rent, who’s nowhere to be found when you need something repaired. There’s the landlord who inspects your property without permission. There’s the property owner who harasses you about the tiniest mess.
Here are some tips on how to avoid these problem landlords, or if you’re in too deep the rental, how to interact with them.
8 Tips to avoid problems with landlords:
Ask and ye shall receive (peace)
Before striking any deal, do a little sleuthing on your prospective landlord. Ask tenants, current and former; they will be the best judge of his or her character. You can also search reviews of landlords online.
Review before signing
Know exactly what you’re getting into. Read and review the terms of your lease carefully to know what exactly you’re paying for. Find out if your landlord intends to increase the lease after a certain period of time; the terms of increase should state the percentage increment and how you will be notified. If your lease is for the long term, be aware of the penalties for ending it earlier. Also see if your rent already covers utilities. You also need to know the procedure for retrieving your full security bond. Lastly, review your lease if it’s a good fit for your lifestyle. Too often landlords ban, among others, smoking and noise: not suitable if you’re the kind who invites friends over.
Know your rights
Don’t sign anything if you’re not aware of your rights as a renter. Brush up on your state laws first. You may not know, for example, that there are percentage limits to increasing rent. You may also not know that landlords don’t have the right to evict you arbitrarily, let alone on the basis of your ethnicity or sexual orientation. Also, it’s worth remembering that landlords have no right to inspect your property without your permission. By checking up on appropriate laws, you will know when your tenancy rights have been stymied. A better tip: Have your tenant rights written as part of your tenancy agreement.
Make it a point to keep records of transactions related to your stay, including receipts of rental payments at the very least. Take a picture of your unit the day you move in. Note the time and day of any conversation over the phone. Have a friend witness meetings over disputes. These will stand as solid pieces of evidence in case of legal wrangling.
Maintain a respectful line of communication
Even if in the heat of conflict, endeavor to be civil in all your interactions with the landlord. Don’t raise your voice or make any hostile remarks. Fall back on the legal system only as a last recourse. Work out a truce in your own backyard, so to speak.
Handle repairs gracefully
You should realize that not all repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. You will know which ones are yours in the tenancy agreement, once again underscoring how important it is to review everything before putting your signature on it. As for those repairs in the landlord’s court, the agreement should specify when he or she must commence them after receipt of a complaint. To get utmost attention on your request for repair, put it in writing. Complaints by phone call tend to be forgotten.
Never miss a payment
If you have to follow any advice, it is this: Do not skip on your payments. Also, pay the full amount. This is basically you saying to the landlord: “Hey, I’ve done my part. Do yours.” If you’re the busy or forgetful type, you can arrange to have your bank do the payments for you automatically. Be upfront with your landlord if you can’t pay on time or in full. Many landlords are open to extensions or penalty-free installment plans.
Even the best-behaved tenants can’t do anything much about an abusive landlord. It pays to remember that the courts, by default, would side with property owners in disagreements. This is exactly why you should have proof that you have paid your rent in good faith, that you have fulfilled your end of the agreement. If your landlord is truly proving to be a caustic presence, then it’s time to accept that this relationship is beyond repair. In life as in apartments, seek a place where you are wanted.