It’s always best to resolve problems directly with your landlord or management company when possible—just like it’s best to work out conflicts with your neighbors rather than escalating the issues to management or legal action. Unfortunately, not every situation you encounter as a renter will be easily resolved. For example, some landlords may be slow or reluctant to make repairs.
The good news is that when your landlord or management company is slow to respond to your issues, you typically have other options available.
My Landlord Won’t Make Repairs
Your remedies when your landlord won’t make repairs will depend on the nature of the problem. Although specific rules and remedies vary from state to state, your landlord typically has longer to make non-essential repairs than repairs impacting health and safety. Where health and safety is involved, you may be able to get help from your city or county building inspector or health department. Check those departments’ websites for information specific to your location.
In some cases, you may be able to make the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your next rental payment, but make sure you educate yourself about the law in your state before taking such action. There may be limits on the amount you can spend, and you may be required to wait a certain amount of time for the landlord to make repairs and/or to follow certain procedures to document your efforts to get the landlord to take care of the problem.
My Landlord Ignores Complaints about My Neighbors
If you’re unable to resolve a neighbor problem directly and your landlord won’t help, you will again want to look to your local ordinances and state law. Problems like loud music, pests and barking dogs are generally addressed in city or county ordinances and law enforcement, the health department or animal control may be able to assist you.
Steps to Take When Your Landlord Isn’t Responding
- Read your lease: chances are good that it spells out specifically how long the landlord has to make repairs and what rights you have to “quiet enjoyment” or the property;
- Document your efforts to work with the landlord directly (and the neighbor, if applicable);
- Check local ordinances and state law to understand your rights and your landlord’s responsibilities; and
- Ensure that you follow any procedures set forth in your lease, local ordinances or the law.
If all else fails, consider whether the landlord’s failure to act constitutes a breach of your lease. If the landlord fails to take action required of him under your agreement and you've followed the steps required of you, you may be able to terminate your lease based on the landlord’s breach. However, you’ll want to be very certain that the landlord has legally breached the lease and you are free to terminate or you could make an expensive mistake. If you've reached that point, it would be wise to consult an attorney or a local renters’ organization before you act.