4 Ways to Get Your Landlord to Make Repairs

Originally posted on January 23, 2017 7:57 am
Updated on February 10, 2017 11:58 am


The best thing about renting an apartment as opposed to buying a home? Your landlord is legally responsible for making repairs! You don’t have to spend money on them. The worst thing about renting an apartment as opposed to buying a home? Your landlord is responsible for making repairs, and probably hates spending money.

It’ll come as no major shock that a lot of landlords can range from lazy to outright negligent regarding their attitudes towards proper upkeep of the property that you’re living in, even though you have it in black and white in your lease who’s responsible for making repairs. If you’ve ever found yourself screaming at your phone because your landlord and maintenance person both refuse to pick up the and acknowledge your right to such luxuries as clean water/working air conditioning, read on for a few strategies that you can use to help them help you. These are ordered from friendliest to most confrontational and should be tried in the order they’re written.

1. Make it easy for them.

Sometimes, a landlord simply isn’t getting your repair done because they’re busy and overwhelmed. This doesn’t make it OK, you deserve a nice place to live, but it is the easiest to work with. Let’s do an example! You’re a frustrated tenant living in a house with water that smells of sulfur. No matter how many times you email your landlord, you cannot get them to install a water filter. You might be surprised at how far you’ll get with a simple change in tone. If your emails had looked like this in the past:

“My water smells like sulfur and you need to fix it.”

Try writing this:

“Hello! As you know from my recent emails, we’ve been having a pretty serious water issue, but haven’t seemed to be able to reach a firm plan of action for fixing it with you. I want to make this as easy as possible for you – is there anything I can do to move this along faster? I’d be happy to order the parts and supervise the labor so all you would have to do is pay the bill I forward you. Additionally, I’ve been happy living in the house other than this issue – I would love to write you a testimonial for your website once this has been fixed.”

See what a difference that is? You’re empathizing with their needs, offering to make their lives easier, and then providing a strong incentive for them to help you out.

2. Write a certified letter.

If your landlord doesn’t respond to you playing nice, it’s time to bust out the medium-sized guns: the written word. Type up a letter detailing exactly what your complaints are, hand-sign it in blue ink to make it look official, and send it via certified mail. What that does is it requires your landlord to sign it in order to receive it. What’s the benefit of this?

Your landlord cannot claim they never got your complaint. You have absolute proof that they are aware of the condition that needs repair, which is so important if you need to pursue steps 3 or 4.

3. Get local organizations involved.

If you still can’t get your landlord to respond, it’s time to involve others. Putting in a complaint with any local tenants’ rights organizations might help here, as would getting a formal test from a city/county approved agency to provide solid and concrete evidence of what needs fixing. If presenting this evidence to your landlord and their getting calls from different organizations still doesn’t do anything, it’s time for step 4.

4. Pull out the big guns.

DISCLAIMER: WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS. Please do not take this as legal advice, and be sure to consult a licensed attorney if you have any questions or wish to institute legal action.

In most states, if you’ve provided proper notice to a landlord that a substantial defect exists in your residence and they fail to reasonable respond within a period of time, you can threaten to withhold rent or move out entirely unless they fix it. What they are doing by refusing to provide essential repairs is constructive eviction, and if you follow the proper procedures, you can withhold rent or move out with no further obligation.

Remember, getting expert certified legal advice is essential to making sure that these procedures are followed properly (this is also why we sent the certified letter and got an independent expert evaluation in the previous steps – the landlord can’t claim that nothing was wrong or they didn’t know about it).

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