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Your dryer breaks, so you call up your landlord and ask them to send maintenance. They say they’ll send someone over soon — but “soon” turns into weeks when you’re hit with the thought that “my landlord is ignoring me.” Despite your attempts to communicate, it seems as though your landlord isn’t on the job like they promised. What do you do when your landlord doesn’t pick up the phone?
So, what do you do when you’re stuck with the thought that “my landlord is ignoring me”? Here are a few tips and tricks to consider:
1. Take a Breather
Up until now, you may not have faced any issues with your landlord. They may have personal matters that need attention, or they simply forgot about your request. You should always make maintenance requests through email or text. If you can keep a paper trail of your communications, that’s even better. After a week passes, send a follow-up message and ask about the request.
If they continue ignoring you, it’s time to take another route. Use social media to write a quick note — and if there’s still no response, it’s wise to consider more official actions.
2. Tip the Super
While tipping the landlord or property manager shouldn’t be your first course of action, it’s a quick and easy way to convince them to make repairs. Plus, tossing some extra cash their way will make them more likely to help you out in the future so you don’t have to wait so long to receive a call back next time.
Not sure whether or not to tip your super? Reach out to them multiple times and consider whether your issue is an emergency. Often, how much you value the repair will determine how willing you are to pay for it — or if you even should.
3. Know Your Rights
Every state’s law differs, so you need to identify your rights individually. For example, Pennsylvania law states that only serious or critical repairs fall under the “implied warranty of habitability” within your lease. A broken dryer may not count when compared to a roof leak or flooded bathroom. Take some time to research your area’s laws so you know what’s next.
You may be able to take matters into your own hands. In Pennsylvania, if you’re unable to reach your landlord, you may be able to deduct the amount for the repair from your rent.
4. Collect Enough Evidence
Before you think about a legal battle, gather the proper documentation. Most landlords have up to 30 days to respond to your maintenance request. If you need a security deposit back, that’s another story. You should understand your local laws before taking this step so you know how to approach the issue. This way, you can use those rights to your advantage.
Be sure to print out emails and texts that detail your communication. Take pictures of any broken fixtures, whether their problems are immediately visible or not. You should also write down a timeline of when you started this process. If necessary, ask a few friends to serve as witnesses. These steps may seem like overkill, but it’s best to have more information than you need.
5. Find Strength In Numbers
Have your neighbors mentioned leaky faucets or an ant problem lately? If they’re dealing with the same issues as you, teaming up with them to contact the landlord is a brilliant idea. Reach out individually and, if it comes down to it, show up at the clubhouse as a group and demand to speak to a manager. There is strength in numbers, you know.
Working together can also make it easier to afford legal representation if you need it. Plus, you have more eyes and ears on your side, which can help you collect evidence and present a more convincing case against your landlord.
6. Try Official Communication
A more official contact method may work best. If you still can’t get in touch with your landlord, it’s time to send a certified letter. You should type up a request that details what your issue is and when you first started communications. Ask them once more to address the problem and use formal language to convey your thoughts. Then, sign and date the paper.
Send your letter through USPS Certified Mail, where the recipient has to sign a delivery slip to verify that it’s in their hands. You can also add a tracking number. This way, if you need to head to court, your landlord can’t deny that you tried to contact them multiple times.
7. Find an Attorney
Unfortunately, landlord-related concerns can escalate quickly. If your landlord isn’t such a fantastic person, they could try to evict you if they find out you intend to deduct rent. For some issues, you can contact your local code enforcement agency to fine your landlord. This department is helpful when your landlord shuts off your utilities or refuses to make repairs.
Even still, you may want to find a consumer law attorney. You can schedule a consultation and present your concerns. It’s vital to note that this move may be a waste of time if your problem isn’t an emergency. That broken dryer doesn’t qualify as a necessity, so only take the legal route when it’s essential. Aside from refusal to repair, negligence can become an entirely different issue that you need to address.
8. Alert Health and Building Inspectors
If you’ve exhausted all of your options and are dealing with unreasonable or unfair living conditions, it’s time to call 311. This number will connect you to health and building inspectors in your area so you can report unsafe conditions and make complaints about repair needs.
Once the housing department receives your complaint, they’ll likely send out an inspector to determine whether the landlord is violating any laws or health codes. If they decide that the landlord is being negligent, they may require them to pay a fine or show up in court to contest your and the inspector’s claims. Then, they’ll have no choice but to resolve the issue.
9. File an HP Proceeding
Some cities, like New York, categorize violations into three groups: A, B and C. These categories include all sorts of common renter issues, from peeling paint to rodent infestations. If your issue falls into one of these categories, you can file a Housing Part Proceeding, which allows you to sue the landlord and the city for failing to enforce local laws.
Typically, the court clerk will help you prepare the necessary papers, since proceedings are simple and you won’t need a lawyer. However, your landlord may face significant fines if they fail to make necessary repairs within a certain period.
10. Leave a Review
Most tenants tend to leave a review of the rental property and landlord upon vacating the unit. However, there’s no one stopping you from writing one now, before you move. Often, a one-star rating and public complaints will get their attention and prompt them to reach out and finally make repairs, especially if you share it on social media.
However, if your landlord doesn’t bat an eye at your bad review, it may be helpful to involve your neighbors again. Ask them if they’d be willing to leave similar complaints on the apartment’s website, Yelp, Google and apartment listing sites. If they’ve been dealing with the same problems as you, odds are good they’ll be more than happy to comply.
11. Break Your Lease
You probably never envisioned having to move due to a terrible landlord. However, if you’ve tried everything and your living conditions are still unacceptable after months of complaining, it may be time to get out of there and find someplace new.
Review your lease agreement and look for clauses that would allow you to break the lease. What kinds of conditions or circumstances nullify your agreement? Will you be penalized for moving out early, or is there a loophole in your contract? Talk to an attorney and make sure you have a solid case and aren’t violating the lease by vacating your unit.
12. Take Responsibility
Did your friend drunkenly punch a hole in the wall last month? Maybe you accidentally spilled nail polish all over the bedroom carpet. Either way, these problems are completely your fault, and you should be willing to take responsibility for them. That may sound harsh, but your landlord isn’t responsible for damage and other problems you create.
Therefore, it’s best to make repairs yourself — if your lease allows it — or hire a professional to fix major issues. Otherwise, your landlord will withhold some, if not all, of your security deposit when you move out. Consider asking your destructive friends for some financial assistance, too, if they’re the ones who caused problems.
13. Practice Patience
While it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with a landlord who’s blatantly ignoring you, it’s best to practice patience and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many landlords have been struggling to pay property management staff during the pandemic, which can put many well-meaning owners behind on repairs. Thus, if they haven’t answered your call for a few days, they might just be busy working on other units.
Likewise, if your complaint doesn’t require immediate action on the landlord’s part, they may have a month or more to respond to your requests. Once again, it’s important to review your lease to determine how long landlords have to make repairs. If they have already waited too long to make things right, then you might have grounds to take more extreme action against your landlord.
Use These Suggestions When You Can’t Reach Your Landlord
“My landlord is ignoring me” isn’t a pleasant thought. It can often lead to uncomfortable interactions — and even legal battles. Fortunately, you can protect yourself by learning about your rights and managing your issue correctly.
You can also prevent certain issues from recurring and prepare for bad landlords by investing in renter’s insurance. Depending on where you live, this kind of insurance can cost just a few dollars per month. Meanwhile, your policy will cover you if a disaster strikes and damages any of your belongings. This way, you won’t have to go after your landlord for financial compensation.