The landlord-tenant relationship can be a difficult one to navigate, especially if it involves a lot of renter complaints.
But that doesn't mean it's impossible to build a strong foundation with your landlord. Both parties have a lot at stake.
For you, it's your home and your security deposit, and for your landlord, it's their income and the property in which they have invested time and money. It's not uncommon for tension to arise at some point, but how you handle difficult situations can make or break the relationship with your landlord moving forward.
The best initial step you can take to avoid a less-than-stellar landlord is to include an assessment of your potential landlord as part of the decision process when searching for a new place to live. Have they been easy to contact so far? Have they answered your questions and addressed your concerns? Do some background research and see if you can find any reviews from past tenants.
If you do find yourself experiencing one of these common renter complaints, there are steps you can take to try and resolve the situation.
Many renters deal with a lack of communication from their landlords and feel that they're unaware of certain rules or expectations as they relate to the property. Maybe you sign your lease agreement, move into your new home and never really hear from your landlord again. Or, maybe you're having trouble with your landlord's responsiveness to issues like maintenance requests, noisy neighbors or other important questions.
Early on in the relationship with your landlord, ask if they can walk through the lease agreement with you and point out any rules or expectations that are especially important to them (something a good landlord should do on their own.) As a tenant, it's your responsibility to read through the lease agreement in its entirety and bring up any questions you may have.
Do your best to keep lines of communication open with your landlord — make timely contact about any issues or questions that arise and don't be afraid to ask for help. If your landlord lives in the same building or is frequently on the property, be sure to be friendly and say hello when you cross paths. Establishing this relationship from the get-go will build trust.
Maintenance issues and repairs are one of the main reasons you'll have to get in touch with your landlord throughout your rental experience. Whether it's something minor like a lighting fixture fix or something major like a water leak, your landlord should be responding and repairing your requests in a timely manner.
Establish your landlord's preferred method of communication from the get-go. Can you text them a picture of the issue to make sure it's catching their attention and not getting lost in an email inbox? Are they not as tech-savvy and prefer you give them a call directly? If you don't already have a tenant portal, ask your landlord if they would consider setting one up so you can easily submit maintenance requests and your landlord can easily track everything in one place.
Be clear on what your responsibility is as a renter and what your landlord's responsibility is. Make sure to check in on your local laws to figure out what the expectations are on important maintenance issues like water, heating or other habitability issues.
Sometimes, a landlord might be on the property without actually entering your home. He might comment on whether or not your front porch had been cleared of leaves or whether or not the recycling bin was too full, and it always felt like an invasion of privacy to have him pop up unannounced.
As a tenant, you absolutely have a legal right to the quiet enjoyment of your home and your landlord is required to provide you with at least 24 hours notice before entering your property (unless there's an emergency situation). If your landlord is showing up for maintenance or inspections without notifying you first, bring it to their attention right away.
If your landlord performs regular inspections, ask if they would be willing to come on the same day every month or give you a schedule for the entirety of your lease agreement. If language around routine inspections isn't included in your lease agreement, be sure to ask about it before you sign.
It's always upsetting to move out of a property and learn that your security deposit refund is much smaller than you were expecting — especially if you followed all move-out instructions and didn't cause any major damage.
It's important to understand that typically, landlords are not profiting off of your security deposit — they're using the finances to repair an issue that occurred when you were the renter. Of course, there are situations where this isn't the case and legal action is the only feasible option.
Before you move out, ask your landlord to provide you with a move-out checklist or clearly state their expectations. Refer to any checklists or inspection documents that you may have completed upon move in to make sure you're leaving the property in the same condition you found it.
Ask your landlord if they would be willing to do a property walkthrough with you before you hand over the keys to address any issues that can be fixed or cleaned before you leave. Take pictures upon move out so you have evidence to show your landlord if need be.
If you are charged or your landlord withholds your security deposit, ask for an itemized list of the deductions so you can clearly see where your money is going.
Establishing a positive relationship with your landlord from the beginning and keeping lines of communication open will make it easier for both parties to deal with any issues that arise down the road.