Protect Yourself Against Unprofessional Landlords
Bad landlords are an unfortunate part of many renters’ lives, but there are ways to protect yourself from their poor manners, lack of ethics, rudeness and lame excuses. A nasty or difficult landlord makes you really appreciate finding a better place to live, with highly professional rental staff. It pays to be careful when you find an apartment that you like. Interview the landlord and see if this person is someone you can negotiate with, ask for repairs from, and in general expect good treatment from. If the person is abrupt, rude or unfriendly, it’s better to walk away than commit to doing business with this person on a monthly basis. Sometimes it is better to rent a higher priced apartment than to go for a bargain, where maintenance may be nonexistent. A cheap apartment may cost you more money in the end in repairs, if your landlord is shady.
Fortunately, most of my apartment dwelling days have been positive experiences. After living for nearly twenty years in the same, reputable apartment complex, I moved down to Florida and took my chances with a new rental in a strange new city. My duplex was really cute, with windows everywhere, nature all around and privacy. It was near downtown St.Petersburg, in a stylish neighborhood. My landlady’s backyard was a fence away and she and her daughters weren’t home much. It seemed perfect. Recently divorced, Sara was a nurse, and at first glance, seemed to be a good choice for a landlady. Her husband left her for another woman, and to pay the bills, she had this duplex. Little did I know, she had no interest in taking care of it, ever.
A year went by and the toilet acted up the whole time. She fixed it once, and tried to blame me for it malfunctioning. It was old and in disrepair inside, yet she felt the need to blame it on me. She said, “I’ll pay for it this time. What did you stick down it?” The truth was that she was trying to get me to pay for a new toilet to replace this ancient one. I told her that it was old, and needed replacing, which was no fault of mine. I didn’t add in, that many other things like outlets, window screens and other various problems had never been addressed or fixed, either. The place looked good initially, but underneath it was a disaster waiting to happen. It was a shame, because the place was cute. It had great hardwood floors and a sunny office. I’d overlooked everything because it was so cute and I just had to have it. Big mistake. Sara became meaner and more accusatory as time went on. She hated being called to repair or fix anything and used the opportunity to bash me to any repair personnel who showed up. I would then let her own it and tell her that the place is falling apart, and it was her negligence, nothing more, that led to each problem needing to be fixed. Another nice touch to shut her up was a working security camera, to record her bad behavior for proof later, should it end up in court.
After two years, I had just had enough of the drama and rented a high quality place far from this difficult woman. It was a good place, and I would miss it, but not the stress that went with it.
I gave my thirty day notice, and breathed a happy sigh of relief as my movers pulled their truck out of the driveway for one last time. I then walked through my former home, taking photos of everything with my camera. The landlady slithered by, as predicted, seeing that I was now done with moving, to get her last dig in. “The toilet still needs work,” she whined. I told her “It’s your responsibility, not mine.” and she told me she wanted more money. I just chuckled at her brazen attempts to squeeze money out of me. I had photos and witnesses to back up that this place was treated well, and told her so. With that, I left. I mailed her the keys, registered mail with return receipt requested. That way she couldn’t say that the key was never given to her. I knew better than to fork over the key to her with no witnesses around to see it.
If you’re dealing with a landlord who wants to nickel-and-dime you to death, fight back by documenting everything. Bad landlords may resort to lying and blaming when you move, so it pays to have proof that you left the place in pristine, clean condition. The bad ones don’t want to refund your deposit, and will find any little thing wrong, just so they can justify keeping it. Take pictures of doors, windows, faucets, and anything else that a money-grubbing landlord may try to charge you for. I took photos of the peeling paint on the exterior, and the unswept outdoor walkways, buried under large piles of ficus leaves. Be firm, polite and don’t take any bullying from anyone. Bad landlords have had practise with previous tenants most of the time, and they know what works and what to charge tenants for. Be smart about it, so you won’t be conned. Educate yourself by reading up online about rental rights for your state. Don’t just roll over and write a check. If it goes to court, go in there with photographs, and any other evidence and simply prove your case. This situation didn’t come to that, but she knew I wasn’t afraid to take it further. She was a tough-talking bluffer and I knew it.
The more savvy you are, the less the bully landlords will prey on you. If things get really ugly, before you move, you can always ask for an inspection by the City Inspector. Doing this will anger the landlord, so have a place to go to before doing this. The inspector will write citations to the landlord for any improper issues with the unit itself. If you have bugs, that is something to point out. There are health standards that must be followed by owners of rental property. If you see ants and the super won’t take care of the problem, photograph them and show the inspector on your way out. These are major flaws that may get a bad landlord in a lot of financial trouble, paying fines.
A lovely apartment really isn’t worth dealing with a terrible landlord. It’s better to find a place that treats you with respect, lets you live a life of quiet enjoyment and repairs things without blaming or charging you for it. Be proactive when you rent by asking questions, observing and interviewing other tenants. Know your rights and be professional in dealings with new management. Pretty soon, you’ll have a new apartment, that is free of the stress and trouble. Breathe deep and be proud of yourself for being picky, and taking the time to find the right place for your needs.