How to Handle a Landlord

Relationship Tips for your House or Apartment Owner

How to Handle a Landlord
October 1, 2014

If you rent an apartment, condominium or single-family home, then you have likely interacted with a landlord or with his/her property manager. (For simplicity’s sake, in this article we will call this person your “landlord” even though it reminds us of how much we miss “Game of Thrones”.) These interactions so far may have been generally good, bad or indifferent. Nevertheless, regardless, having a good relationship with your landlord should contribute to a more positive rental experience and can lead to valuable references downstream.

Here are five tips for building a good relationship with your landlord:

  1. Pay your rent on time — every month. This is the first tip listed here for a reason: You cannot expect to have a good relationship with your landlord if you are not willing to fulfill your most basic responsibility as a tenant — paying your rent on time.

    Remember that your landlord is running a business. There are expenses he or she must pay associated with owning and managing the property, but they cannot be paid if rent is not collected in a timely manner. By paying your rent on time every month, or even a couple of days early if you can, you will lay the foundation for a healthy and mutually beneficial tenant-landlord relationship.

    If your rent will be late for any reason, let your landlord know as soon as possible so he or she can plan accordingly.

  2. Learn your legal rights as a tenant. Do some research to find out what your specific rights are as a tenant from a legal perspective. They will vary from state to state, so research tenant’s rights in the state where you live. These laws will dictate the specific standards that landlords are required to meet when renting an apartment or home to tenants, as well as how you as a tenant can exert your rights if you feel that they have been violated.

    Once you know your legal tenant rights, you will have a better idea of how to approach your landlord if there is a problem. Of course, it will be better from a landlord relationship standpoint if you can resolve issues without resorting to legal action. However, as not all landlords are responsive or fair in honoring their obligations to you, it is important to arm yourself with the full knowledge of your legal rights.

  3. Always communicate with your landlord in a respectful way. This is the area where landlord-tenant relationships often break down. One side or the other gets upset or frustrated about something and then the communication devolves into angry shouting matches (or texts or emails) that make the situation deteriorate.

    No matter how frustrated you might get with your landlord, always try to keep your cool and not lose your temper. Keeping all communications respectful and non-confrontational will make it easier for you and your landlord to find a mutually agreeable solution to most situations.

  4. Be reasonable with regard to your expectations but also be fair to yourself. If you are experiencing a problem in your apartment or home, you probably want your landlord to take care of it right away. Moreover, you might even be within your legal rights to expect a fast resolution, depending on what the specific problem is.

    Nevertheless, remember that your landlord is probably managing many other apartments or homes in addition to yours. It might not be reasonable to expect your landlord to drop everything else and respond to your requests immediately. Some requests, like leaky pipes that are flooding your apartment or home or a broken heater in the middle of winter, do merit immediate attention. But for other, less-urgent matters, try to show your landlord a little patience. This will help build goodwill that may come in handy in future situations. Additionally, if and when a major problem does occur, your landlord will be more likely to respond affirmatively and quickly in meeting your needs.

  5. Keep careful records and take photographs. This will provide you with the backup necessary to support your case should you ever have a dispute with your landlord that actually ends up going to court. For example, be sure you have access to canceled checks (either paper checks or via online banking) to prove that rent payments were made on time. Keep copies of any email or text exchanges and take detailed notes of any phone conversations in which issues or problems were discussed with your landlord. Also, make any repair requests in writing (including the date the request was made) so you can produce this if proof is ever needed.

    Finally, a picture really is worth a thousand words when it comes to documentation and backup with a landlord. Take photographs of your apartment or home before you actually move in so you can demonstrate its move-in condition when you move out and request that your security deposit be returned in full. Also, take pictures of any repairs that you are requesting from your landlord.

The tenant-landlord relationship does not have to be a contentious one. By following these tips, you can lay the groundwork for a friendly and productive relationship with your landlord.

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