How to Deal With a Bad Landlord

There are few things that put a bad taste in your mouth about renting than when your landlord refuses to make repairs. The word slumlord quickly pops into your head. You pay rent and expect for the property to be in the same condition as when you first rented it right? Of course!! That’s not too much to ask for.

Now, your landlord doesn’t have to fix things your or your friends broke. I don’t know any landlords that do. Most likely, you’ll either bill or get it taken out of your security deposit.

Also, he isn’t legally required to repair items that are considered comforts like a broken dishwasher or dryer. Stuff like that will be spelled out in the lease. A broken AC unit or heater is NOT considered a comfort. Be sure none of those exceptions apply to you when you ask for a repair to be made. 

Another example is if you are late on your rent. He could decide to evict you and find another tenant instead. 

Here’s a scenario: you flush the toilet and nothing happens. The paper swirls and the bowl fills with water. You try the plunger. Nothing. You wait a few hours. It still hasn’t gone down. What do you do?

Notify the landlord

The simplest way is to just call the landlord. Tell him know what needs to be fixed. Most of the time, a phone call will be enough. A clogged toilet is an easy fix so if he hasn’t sent anyone over in a few days; follow it up with a text message.

The text can say something like this: “Hey, I wanted to let you know I’ll be home tomorrow all day in case you want to send a plumber to fix the clogged toilet I told you about 2 days ago.” All texts are time stamped with the date and time. Take it a step farther and screen shot it.

Texting and calling is easy, but you still need to send a certified letter with return receipt requested. “Ughhh!! Why do I have to do that when he has the text?” Because that’s the way the courts like notices to be delivered.

Sending a text might be enough to prove he knew about the repair, but why chance it? He can always claim he never got it. By calling, texting, and mailing; you’re reaching him in many different ways.

The landlord has 7 days or what is considered “reasonable time” to make the repair. A minor issue like a clogged toilet can be fixed in 7 days or less. Bigger issues like AC parts that need to be ordered most likely will take longer than 7 days and fall into the reasonable time category.

Side note: make sure your rent is current. A landlord could choose to evict you instead of paying for repairs if you owe a balance. 

Remedy

Your landlord knows about the problem, but still won’t fix it. Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Some landlords are slumlords; there’s no way around that. Their only concern is collecting rent. Others, don’t have the money to fix it. Regardless, they still need to fulfill their duty of providing a safe and secure place.

So, what’s your next step? You can either move or get a court order to make the landlord do the repair. To tell you the truth, neither options are ideal. Nobody wants to pay full rent when something is broken. You can overlook minor things, but when they start to negatively affect the way you live in the house; it becomes a problem.

Here’s what you should ask yourself:

  • Am I okay with a broken (blank)? Sometimes the broken item is not a big deal
  • Do I have enough money to move? You’ll need first month’s rent and security deposit
  • Is my rental record good? Landlords want tenants who don’t have evictions, felonies, or judgments against them.
  • Do I have the money or time to get a court order? You can get reimbursed, but you’ll need to have the money to pay first or get an affidavit saying you can’t afford the costs. Factor in the time to go the court house too.
Withhold Rent

The one thing you CANNOT do is stop paying rent. That’ll get you evicted quickly. This is Texas not one of those liberal states like California; the judge won’t feel sorry for you. 

I was in eviction court and a tenant said she stopped paying rent because the landlord was a slumlord. The judge told her point blank “You should’ve moved then.” 

Conclusion

Having to deal with a cheap or shady landlord sucks. I feel your pain; I really do. When I moved to Houston, I rented for a little over a year before I bought a house. Fortunately, you have options and organizations that can provide you legal help. 

landlord’s duty is to provide a safe and secure property for the tenant. As a tenant, enforce it. You have rights and should not have to accept a slumlord.

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