Polite conversation and prompt communication go a long way to making any relationship pleasant, especially if that relationship is with your landlord.
What happens, though, if you don’t get along with your landlord? What happens if the situation is bad. Like, scary bad?
As a tenant, you are entitled to a number of provisions, including:
- A space that is habitable. That is to say, a place where you can live, which includes access to running water, sewer, and heat. If your landlord turns any of these off for your unit, that’s a serious — and potentially life-threatening — situation.
- Your privacy. Only in very limited circumstances may your landlord enter your dwelling without prior notice, sometimes up to 24 hours. While there are some real horror stories out there about landlords installing hidden cameras and the like, things don’t need to go that far in order to be considered an invasion of privacy.
- The terms of your lease. Your landlord is not allowed to raise your rent in the middle of the agreement or charge you retroactively (for “back” rent). You also cannot have amenities provided for in the lease removed during your lease term.
- Access to your dwelling. Your landlord is prohibited from changing the locks to either the building’s main entrance or to your specific unit in an effort to prevent your gaining entry. If you have been paying rent and otherwise following the terms of your lease, the landlord could be hit with trespassing or even burglary charges.
To be clear: your landlord painting your walls blue instead of the shade of green you wanted isn’t likely to be considered a legally actionable offense. But if these or other tenant rights have been violated, it might be time to report your landlord. But for the more extreme violations, you can:
- Leverage government resources. The website for the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a helpful “Find Rental Assistance” feature. That’s also where you’ll be able to locate information on your local housing counseling agency.
- Speak with an attorney. If the issue progresses to this point, you will do yourself a favor by having well-kept documentation of your communication with the landlord. Your mind is likely already made up at this point, but make sure you consider every angle. Alternatively, you can file suit in small claims court without utilizing the services of an attorney.
Begin looking for apartments. If your landlord has done so much to antagonize you and violate your trust, the writing is on the wall: you need a change. ApartmentSearch has a number of free guides available online to help, including guides specific to many of the U.S.’s largest cities. These guides are sure to help you find your next home sweet home. One that you truly enjoy and love!