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How Do I Resolve a Dispute with My Landlord?

May 20, 2020
How Do I Resolve a Dispute with My Landlord?

Tenant Rights

You have rights as a tenant, and you have options for resolving a dispute with your landlord through negotiation or court. As a tenant, you should feel comfortable going to your landlord for help when an issue arises in your residence. Unfortunately, not all landlords provide the quality of customer service they should or even abide by laws and regulations. If you experienced a problem in your home that led to a dispute with your landlord, know that you have rights and options.

Disputes Between Landlords and Tenants

First, let’s address some basic terms you will need to know. As the renter of an apartment or home, you are the “tenant.” The owner or management company that acts on behalf of the owner is called the “landlord.”

Some disputes between these two parties include:

  • Rental deposit refund disputes

  • Disputes related to the lease

  • Disputes related to needed repairs or habitability
  • Disputes over rent increases

Whatever the dispute, being proactive may help you address the initial problem with your residence that started the dispute.

Give Your Landlord the Benefit of the Doubt

Assume that your landlord is a good person and wants to do the right thing. There is definitely a chance you can get your issue resolved both by being a good tenant and by approaching the problem with a positive attitude.

There’s no real trick to being a “good tenant.” It starts with the basics, such as paying your rent on time. Taking care of the property. Abiding by the lease, including any restrictions.

Other things that will help include letting the landlord know as soon as the problem arises and being honest about how it evolved. You missed some shifts at work and will be late on rent, or you accidentally dropped a toy down the disposal, for example. By knowing the truth of the situation, you equip your landlord with more of the tools they need to fix it.

If you have risen to the occasion of good tenancy, congratulations. Your chances of working out your matter directly, politely, amicably and effectively may dramatically increase compared with the alternative.

Seek Resolution

Good tenant or otherwise, always give your landlord a chance to work things out. A few additional skills may go a long way in solving a dispute.

The Right Mindset

Keep in mind throughout this process that the key to negotiating is for both sides of the table to walk away feeling like they “won.” This, too, is a good strategy for any negotiating effort. Schedule a time to meet and discuss the issue, and come prepared to offer solutions, not just present problems. Be willing to hear the landlord’s side and to incorporate their concerns into the solution.

Handling Resistance

If your landlord is smart, they will also implement these skills, and you will enjoy a productive and pleasant discussion. If this does not happen to be the case, try to remain courteous throughout your discussion while still remaining firm in your convictions. Courtesy and conviction are not mutually exclusive concepts. If needed, you can present the landlord with legal information, excerpts from state building codes, etc., and let them know you are willing and able to move the dispute to a more formal venue, but you would rather not take this route, in the interest of good landlord-tenant relations. If you have access to legal assistance, allow your attorney to advocate for you. If you are a LegalShield member, you can have your provider attorney write a letter or make a phone call on your behalf.

Be Prepared if There are Problems Later

Be sure you to keep a copy of your written lease and document the terms of any changes or addendums to the agreement, having both parties sign and date the document. Keep financial records and receipts for all payments. Document and keep evidence/pictures related to any problems with the rental property. Keep a copy of any notices received and make sure you provide proper written notices when required. Have a third party who can testify if needed and have an expert available if the landlord may claim damages to the property. Have the property inspected with the landlord present and document any problems with the landlord before you move in and at the time you move out. Make sure you keep a copy and if possible, have a third party present. Don’t just ignore a problem, especially if you receive a formal notice or are served with court documents. Seeking review, advice, and assistance from an attorney prior to signing any documents and as any question or problem arises, can help you limit the potential problems later.

Small Claims Court

If you are served with court documents, you need to be prepared to appear to avoid a default judgment. You should seek advice and assistance from an attorney. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm and get them a copy of the documents immediately. One of the disputes that may wind up in small claims court involves security deposits. Typically, in these cases, the landlord refuses to refund the tenant a portion or all of their security deposit.  They may issue a walk-through inspection report that details damages to the property that exceed standard wear and tear, the need to do extensive cleaning, beyond what is considered standard between tenants or outstanding rent that is due. You will need to be aware of all deadlines if you need to file a counterclaim for your own damages as a defendant or if you need to file an initial action as a plaintiff.

If you don’t have access to an attorney, some states offer landlord tenant dispute hotlines to help you with your court-related representation and decisions. Sometimes, you can find pro bono legal aid through a local or nearby law school.

LegalShield May Have the Answer You Need in Handling Your Landlord Dispute

You have rights as a tenant. Do not let a landlord intimidate you into thinking that you don’t. For more information and access to help with your landlord tenant dispute, contact LegalShield.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.

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