Complaints To Landlords: 4 Mistakes Everyone Makes

If there's a problem in your apartment and your landlord hasn't fixed it, you need to register a complaint, but you don't want to say anything that can get you in trouble. Here are the four biggest mistakes people make with complaints to landlords that you need to watch out for. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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4 Mistakes People Make With Complaints To Landlords

  1. Not putting it in writing. Your landlord might claim you never told them about the problem. Send a complaint letter that includes all the necessary information so you have a record of when you told them.
  2. Not checking the lease. You need to understand the terms of your rental agreement so you don't get taken by surprise.
  3. Making threats. Arguments can escalate quickly, so avoid a confrontation and don't threaten your landlord.
  4. Not holding up your end of the bargain. If you don't pay your rent, you might get evicted, so find an attorney who can help you explore your legal options before withholding rent.

Help With Fighting Your Landlord

Rank by population State Resource
1 California Tenants Together
2 Texas Texas Tenant Advisor
3 Florida Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
4 New York Tenant Protection Unit
5 Pennsylvania PaLawHelp
6 Illinois Illinois Legal Aid Online
7 Ohio Franklin County Law Library
8 Georgia Georgia Legal Aid
9 North Carolina North Carolina Consumers Council
10 Michigan Michigan Legal Help

Can I Withhold Rent If My Landlord Won't Make Repairs?

Rank by population State Is Withholding Rent Legal?
1 California Yes, but only with proper notice and some limitations
2 Texas Not unless it affects your immediate health or safety
3 Florida Yes, after seven days' notice
4 New York Yes
5 Pennsylvania Only with permission from the state department of health
6 Illinois No, but repairs can be deducted from rent
7 Ohio Yes
8 Georgia No, but you can repair and deduct
9 North Carolina No, except in highly specific circumstances
10 Michigan Yes, in certain circumstances

My Landlord Claims I Damaged The Apartment Even Though It Was Like That When I Moved In. What Should I Do?

Hopefully, you documented the state of the apartment when you moved in, so you have proof that the problem existed before you got there. If not, you may have a hard time getting your deposit back. Luckily, there are laws in every state regarding how a landlord must go about deducting money from your deposit, and if your landlord violates these laws, you might be able to get your money back. Check out this guide to getting security deposits back for more information.

Tenant Advocates In Major US Cities

City State Resource
San Francisco California Housing Rights Committee Of San Francisco
New York New York City of New York
San Jose California SanJoseCA.gov
Boston Massachusetts Massachusetts Laws About Landlord and Tenant
Los Angeles California LA Tenants Union
Washington D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate
Oakland California Oakland Tenants Union
Seattle Washington Solid Ground
San Diego California Housing Opportunities Collaborative
Miami Florida Miami-Dade Police Department

Metropolitan Areas With The Highest Eviction Rates

Rank City State Eviction Rate
1 Memphis Tennessee 6.1%
2 Phoenix Arizona 5.9%
3 Atlanta Georgia 5.7%
4 (tie) Indianapolis Indiana 5.6%
4 (tie) Dallas Texas 5.6%
6 Las Vegas Nevada 5.5%
7 Louisville Kentucky 5.3%
8 Houston Texas 5%
9 Virginia Beach Virginia 4.9%
10 Cincinnati Ohio 4.8%

Eviction Laws By State

Rank by population State Information Resource
1 California California Courts
2 Texas Texas State Law Library
3 Florida Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
4 New York New York State Unified Court System
5 Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act
6 Illinois Southern Illinois University School of Law
7 Ohio Franklin County Law Library
8 Georgia Georgia Legal Aid
9 North Carolina North Carolina Bar Association
10 Michigan Michigan Legislature

In Depth

It'd be nice if your living situation went perfectly, but let's be realistic. Chances are there will be problems your landlord never gets around to fixing. These are the four biggest mistakes people make when complaining to their landlords that can make the problem much, much worse.

Mistake #1: not putting it in writing. While you may see your apartment as your home, to your landlord, it's a business, and they're trying to minimize the amount they spend on it. That means they'll benefit if they can avoid making repairs and get you to spend your own money on them instead.

There are also more sinister reasons they may avoid helping you. A New York landlord was accused of cutting off families' heat and hot water in the winter in an attempt to harass them until they moved out, so he could replace them with tenants who would pay more in rent.

There are also more sinister reasons they may avoid helping you.

If you need to ask them to make repairs, you want a paper trail. If you don't put your complaint in writing, they may do what some Chicago landlords are accused of doing, ignoring tenant requests and claiming they were never told about the problems as a way of skirting responsibility. An official complaint letter sent by certified mail will give you proof that you told them what needed to be done and when.

You'll want to include all the necessary information without making any ill-advised claims, so don't write your letter without help. Be sure to read our full guide to landlord complaints. You can find it right below this video.

Mistake #2: not checking the lease. Here's a quick question: are you sure your landlord is required to do the thing you're complaining about? You won't have much leverage in an argument if you haven't carefully read your lease. Make sure you understand it, and don't sign any lease that puts all the responsibility on you.

Make sure you understand it, and don't sign any lease that puts all the responsibility on you.

You also need to know your legal rights so your landlord doesn't try to evict you for bogus reasons, which can go beyond just complaining about repairs. Landlords have threatened to evict tenants for their political views, and threatened to call immigration on tenants as a way of keeping them quiet. There was even a landlord who threatened to evict his tenants because they refused to date him.

The laws regarding what a landlord can evict you for differ with each state, so refer to our full guide to complaining to your landlord. On this page, you can find it right beneath this video.

Mistake #3: making threats. Arguments between tenants and landlords can get heated, which is why a written notice is the best way to keep your cool and not start a fight. Whatever you do, don't threaten your landlord with violence, as it could get you arrested. And any threat as to what you might do if your demands aren't met can only escalate the situation.

Arguments between tenants and landlords can get heated, which is why a written notice is the best way to keep your cool and not start a fight.

There are many stories of violent disputes over apartments, sometimes involving weapons and law enforcement. Tenants have been threatened with everything from table legs to chainsaws, and there have been some instances where landlords physically harmed their tenants. If it gets that far, you should definitely call the police.

We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but no matter how tough and mean you think you are, your landlord may be even tougher and meaner, so avoid a confrontation that could get heated and handle things in a professional manner.

Mistake #4: not holding up your end of the bargain. Many frustrated tenants get the idea of withholding rent until necessary repairs are made as a last resort bargaining tactic. The problem with doing this is that by not paying your rent, you've violated your lease, and your landlord may try to evict you.

Many frustrated tenants get the idea of withholding rent until necessary repairs are made as a last resort bargaining tactic.

In some places, it's within your rights to withhold rent if the landlord has violated the agreement, or to use that money to make repairs and deduct it from your rent. But you still owe the money, and you may have to fight them in court, prolonging the conflict. And in Arkansas, you can be arrested if you don't pay your rent, meaning you could end up in jail if you don't win this fight.

You never want things to get that far, so if you think you're out of options, don't try to solve this yourself. Find an attorney who can help you understand what your rights are and what actions you should take to resolve the situation. For more resources on fighting your landlord, check out our full guide found right beneath this video.

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