It’s All About Keeping Your Cool and Communicating Effectively.
There are few places in the United States that don’t explicitly say so in the law: if you rent a home — or apartment — from someone, they as the landlord are responsible for maintaining the viability of the residence. In other words, if the roof in the guest bedroom starts to bow downward or a tree falls in the backyard, it’s their responsibility to make sure that the issue gets fixed.
Just remember, your leasing a home not a hotel room with a concierge. So, just as if you leased a car and would be expected to fix a flat tire, replace a cracked windshield or get regular oil changes, you are expected to perform basic maintenance and repairs. There also might be guidelines of what you’re required to handle yourself. So, you should only call your landlord after you’ve checked your responsibilities covered in your lease and if it’s something beyond the basics.
When you need a repair, some landlords seem to be difficult. Maybe they seem like they’re avoiding you, maybe they’re just too busy to answer the phone — whatever the case, there are some easy enough steps you can take that will get your landlord on task without endangering your relationship with them.
Step 1: Try Talking
See if you can get to your landlord by simply visiting their office. If they have a habit of being out, call and find out when they’ll next be in. If you can get some face-time, you’ve basically achieved your goal — all you have to do is convey the problem without getting upset. Tell them what’s wrong, and ask them for an estimate of when they’ll be able to get to it. Write everything they say down (along with the time and date that they said it.)
Step 2: Leave a Message
If your landlord never seems to be available at the office, call and leave a message. If they don’t respond within 48 hours, do it again and use a service like SaveYourCall to record the message with a time and date stamp — and tell them that you’re doing it. Don’t be accusatory, just factual: “This is my second message, and I’m recording it with a date and time stamp. I have a problem that needs your attention…” Don’t be rude or confrontational; simply give the facts and move on.
Step 3: Send an Email
On the same day, send an email to your landlord — most property managers have a form on their website where you can turn in requests, or provide an email address. The email should simply repeat the same request as you made in your phone call, and point out that you left a message as well. This will convey to them the fact that you’re serious about getting help, and you should be able to word it without coming across as rude or passive-aggressive.
Step 4: Send a Registered Mail Letter
This is your last attempt to be nice — but make sure you’re still nice. Send your landlord a registered letter with receipt confirmation, and keep a copy of the letter and a copy of the receipt.
Step 5: Get a Lawyer
Give the landlord a week to respond to your letter. At this point, if your landlord still hasn’t acknowledged your efforts, it’s time to get serious. Talk to a lawyer, and show him all of the evidence you’ve kept of all of your previous attempts. Tell him you’re considering withholding rent, and ask for his advice. Many states support this practice, but some do not, and some municipalities add extra complications to the process, so never withhold rent without talking to a lawyer first.
Even if withholding rent isn’t a viable option for you, the lawyer will be able to guide you toward the correct next step — and your landlord will eventually make the necessary repairs if they don’t want to be giving you a free place to live.