Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
The relationship between a landlord and tenant can be complicated, since the arrangement is usually a professional contract concerning personal living quarters. There are contractual obligations on both sides, such as timely repairs or rent payments, but there are also personal privacy issues as well. From time to time, conflicts between landlords and tenants are bound to arise. Some may be settled with an informal handshake, while others may require legal action or outside arbitration. There are a number of ways for landlords to resolve tenant problems without threatening the overall relationship.
One way to resolve tenant problems is for a landlord to be very clear on his or her plans to address a situation. Tenants with major health and safety concerns about their housing do not want to hear vague promises or open-ended plans from their landlords. A conscientious landlord should provide as much concrete information as possible. If a plumber cannot make an emergency call, then the tenant should be told of the delay. If a repairman cancels an appointment, the tenant should be told of an alternate date to expect him. The more open communication there is between a landlord and tenant, the easier it should be to resolve tenant problems without conflict.
Some tenant problems such as repeated noise violations or poor sanitation fall squarely on the tenants themselves, but a landlord may want to make compliance as painless as possible. A landlord could agree to rent a large capacity dumpster on the condition that the tenant fill it with his or her excess trash and junk. A landlord could suggest that a noisy tenant move to a more isolated apartment unit with fewer neighbors. Serious tenant problems do not always have to end with threats of eviction or other coercive tactics. There may be some underlying reasons for a tenant's inability to comply with the terms of a lease, such as a physical limitation or disability.
There are times, however, when serious tenant problems cannot be resolved through open communication or accommodation alone. If the situation has reached the point where outside legal intervention becomes necessary, there are still several options a landlord can pursue. Many cities have special agencies which handle landlord/tenant disputes before they reach the level of a small claims court. A trained arbiter can listen to both sides of the dispute and decide what action should be taken to resolve the issues out of court. During arbitration, both the tenant and the landlord must agree to adhere to whatever terms the arbiter decrees.
If arbitration does not work, a landlord can pursue a legal eviction process against the tenant. However, legal eviction is a process, not an immediate action, so the tenant does have a certain amount of time to rectify the situation before a landlord can take the matter any further. Simply paying the overdue rent, however, or agreeing to remove a junked car does not necessarily mean a tenant cannot be evicted if other issues remain unresolved. A judge would determine if an eviction is appropriate before allowing the landlord to remove the tenant and his or her property from the premises. It's also possible that a judge may order the landlord to make essential repairs and allow the tenant to remain in those premises until the end of the lease period.
A landlord's goal should be the peaceful and timely resolution of most tenant problems. Landlords should be prepared if a tenant decides to fix the problem himself and withhold an equivalent portion of the rent payment. This is why swift repair arrangements benefit landlords, since they may be able to make the repairs themselves for free or hire a versatile handyman instead of the more expensive repairmen tenants generally contact. The key to it all is open communication and a willingness to make appropriate accommodations before tenant problems become major legal issues.
I think a good landlord shows respect for tenants as fellow human beings. I've had to report some electrical problems in previous apartments I've rented, and sometimes the landlord would tell me there was absolutely nothing wrong with the wiring. I wasn't a professional electrician, so what would I know about breaker boxes and shorted wires anyway? I'd get extremely angry, because I thought my landlord at least viewed me as an intelligent adult who knew a little something about home wiring. I at least knew when a brand new lamp suddenly stopped working.
I'd say that a good landlord should take a tenant's claims seriously enough to investigate before jumping to conclusions. It's still possible that the tenant didn't flip the right switch or accidentally tripped a breaker, but the landlord should still treat him or her as a competent adult. Some bad landlords act as if their tenants are creating problems deliberately just to be a nuisance.
I've had landlords who took every tenant complaint seriously and took care of the problem immediately, and I've had landlords who let things deteriorate while they figured out the least expensive way to go. I think a good landlord needs to have good working relationships with all sorts of repair and service professionals in the area. If the tenant says the garbage disposal is clogged, the landlord knows exactly who to call and knows what to expect when the repair bill arrives. A bad landlord might try to fix the disposal himself without any training or tools, then claim sticker shock when the tenant calls in a professional.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!