There are plenty of things that can go right when you first move into a new apartment. You’ve got a fresh start in a new place and things are looking up! However, with ups come downs, and one of those could be a bad landlord. Though you may not realize it at first, your landlord has a lot of say over what goes, including everything from repairs to living conditions. If you’re unsure of how to approach a landlord that isn’t living up to the lease, learn how to handle the situation and if needed, file an official report.
Put everything in writing. Before you even move into an apartment, you sign a lease. That lease is a binding agreement between parties the moment it is signed—the same goes for the landlord’s responsibilities. If the issues you’re disputing weren’t originally included in the lease, be sure to document what you want and send it to landlord, in writing, asking them to fix the problems. If problems persist and they refuse to take responsibility, document any correspondence that takes place. Take photos, write down dates, save emails and jot down phone calls. This documentation may come in handy down the road.
Be persistent. Make sure your issues were heard and that the landlord actually received your message and requests. Do you have their correct email address, phone number, or mailing address? Before you run to the court of law, make sure the landlord can’t legitimately claim that they didn’t receive your messages.
Know your rights. Since most cases will vary based on state, it’s important to know the tenant laws, rights, and apartment building codes for your specific state. Be informed about apartment laws and tenant rights by finding out where your issues fall within current housing regulations.
File a complaint. If it’s truly time to get outside assistance, you can file an official complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) online. HUD will also reach out to the landlord telling them that an investigation is underway, so be sure that you’ve tried to get a hold of your landlord before filing the complaint. Complaints could range from safety and maintenance problems to cases of fraud and discrimination.
Be active. Though it’s not as easy (and certainly not as cost-effective), hiring a lawyer can be beneficial to strengthening your case. However, if you’re short on cash and want help for a fraction of the cost, consider seeking help from a third party (like this one in Austin, Texas, for example). There are numerous organizations that will counsel tenants for free in almost every state.
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