How to Deal with a Bad Landlord

Angry Portrait | Source: jenschapter3 on Flickr via CC BY 2.0 LicenceA few weeks ago I posted about some of the reasons why renting may be a better option for some than buying a home. There’s one big reason though why buying can be better than renting – the bad landlord. Does anyone actually like their landlord? I’ve never had a landlord that I liked. Even just the name, ‘landlord’, predisposes me to not like them. I don’t like that they are the ‘lord of my land’. I don’t live in the middle ages. I don’t plan on mounting a revolution to reclaim my land. I just want to rent an apartment. So why can’t landlords just be property managers and manage their properties with ethics and standards. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is. I have a bad landlord right now. We are trying to move from one unit in our building to another, bigger unit in our building. The new unit is currently rented by a relative of ours, who is moving out. I proposed that she just assign her lease over to us. That seemed like a simple solution. We were even willing to let the landlord raise the rent if she wanted since the building is under rent control, and a change of tenants is the only time you can significantly change the rent. Given that we’ve already been in the building for over a year (and completed our original lease), we should be renting on a month-to-month basis now. But as with every landlord I’ve had, the solution to every problem must be as complicated as possible. In order to simply move from one unit to another, we have had to give notice on our current unit (with no guarantee of being given the other unit), complete a new application for the new unit (even though we already live in the building and they know who we are), and agree to a new one-year lease. On top of that, they wanted to raise the rent by an exorbitant amount with no guarantee that they would do some necessary repairs to the unit – thankfully we were able to talk them down on the rent a little bit, though we still only have a verbal assurance about the repairs. You might be wondering why we’re even staying. We live in a very nice neighbourhood within walking distance of work and all amenities. Its one of the only apartment buildings in the area. We don’t want to move somewhere else and in the end, it’s worth the hassle (or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself to stay sane).

So if you have a bad landlord, what are some strategies you can use to deal with them and save yourself some heartache:

  • Get Everything in Writing: This is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. If you don’t get promises in writing, then you have little recourse later if they don’t come through on what they said they would do. If they agree to make repairs, get that written into the lease when you move in, or written in a letter signed by the landlord. On that same note, if you ask for something, ask for it in writing and keep a copy of whatever you give them. Keeping a written log of all your interactions will help you dearly if it comes down a situation where you have to prove something to a tenancy board or courtroom.
  • Read Your Lease: How many people rent a unit without properly reading their lease? Its not hard for a landlord to slip in some wording that might prevent you from doing something you wouldn’t even think of. Make sure you read the lease right down to the fine-print before you sign it, and keep a copy for yourself. Don’t agree to anything that you don’t think is fair and don’t be afraid to go back to your lease and show it to your landlord if they aren’t doing something that they are obliged to do.
  • Know Your Rights: Most landlords, sadly, have no idea what the laws are regarding renter’s rights and responsibilities. In many jurisdictions, the laws favour the tenant, and you can give yourself a big leg up if you know your rights. For example, in Ontario, it is illegal for a landlord to prevent you from having a pet – even if you agree in your lease that pets are not allowed on the property. Make sure you understand what you can do in terms of subletting or assigning leases, and what the landlord is allowed to do in terms of raising rent. Another Ontario-based example, any rented unit first occupied before 1992 is subject to rent control which is typically tied to inflation.
  • Stay Cool, Stay Rational: Sometimes, the urge might be strong to get upset at your landlord. Doing so will only strain relations. Be the bigger person in every situation. Remember, even though the law is often on your side, when you’re in the moment, the power dynamic is often shifted to the landlord. Do what you need to do to stay level headed and deal with the situation in an appropriate manner. Remember the value of your time, and don’t drown in a never-ending argument or battle.
  • Talk to Other Tenants: If you’re in an apartment building, or multi-tenant building, find out if you’re the only one having issues with the landlord. If its a building-wide problem, think about forming a tenant’s association and go forward with power in numbers. If your building already has a tenant’s association, go to them if you have an unresolvable problem and see what they can do for you.
  • Know Who to Contact in a Last Resort: If it comes down to it, contact your local government and find out what resources are available to you as a tenant. In Ontario, we have the Landlord and Tenant Board that can help resolve issues.

Standing up to a bad landlord can be a tricky and intimidating process. But whether you own it or are renting it, your home is your home. You should be comfortable in it and you should want to spend time there. So its worth fighting to have a nice place to live. Don’t let a bad landlord ruin your home.

Readers, have you had an experience with a bad landlord? I’d love to hear your horror stories and how you dealt with them!

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16 thoughts on “How to Deal with a Bad Landlord

  1. This is a great post because I’m sure there are tons of people out there who don’t know their rights. When I rented my first apartment in university, I read the lease top to bottom and also read the Tenant’s Act in my province. It’s saved me a lot of headaches. Luckily I’ve have great landlords for about the past three years (having landlords who are relatives helps!) but I’ve had my share of crappy ones. The worst one had no sense of privacy and would walk right into our apartment with no notice. We only stayed there a year.
    Jordann @ My Alternate Life recently posted..How Not to Take Your Dog to WorkMy Profile

  2. Ha, I just wrote a post a month or so ago about my bad landlord. Complete with part of my kitchen celing coming down. Right now, I just want out of the house and don’t want to deal with them right now. So we are saving like crazy to be out in December instead of staying there for a few years like the orignal plan was.
    bogofdebt recently posted..SickMy Profile

  3. I’ve had some pretty good landlords in the past. So I guess I’m pretty lucky. My current landlord is kinda useless though. When I moved in they totally cheaped out and didn’t pay anyone to clean the place. We even took a break during the move because they claimed the carpets were being cleaned that afternoon. Well those carpets weren’t damp at all.

    That’s really surprising that a tenant has every right to a pet in Ontario. I should check if BC has a similar law. It sure would help with finding a better place to live.
    Modest Money recently posted..Creating New Income Streams: The Changing Face of Financial SavingsMy Profile

  4. I definitely agree with being cool and rational. The moment you get fired up the situation gets worse by 10 fold. Staying calm and objective definitely helps to have productive conversations.

    I also agree with getting things in writing. That paperwork is always great to fall back on when you need it.

    They raised the rent on my hubby’s apartment before we got married enough that it made us move. Sometimes the rent price doesn’t make staying worth it.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..The Peach Tree BattleMy Profile

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  6. Pingback: Best Personal Financial Planning and Personal Investment Articles this Week from Personal Finance Blogs |

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