You want attention and results when dealing with your landlord about an issue that arises during your tenancy. But not all landlords are professional or courteous enough to respond promptly. Sometimes, it can be tough just to get your landlord to return your phone call.
Many types of problems can arise during your lease term that may require the landlord to take action. For example, an appliance may break, the heating may stop working, you may need to end your lease early, there may be a pest invasion in your apartment, or a neighbor may be causing trouble. If you find yourself needing your landlord's attention, the last thing you want is to wait weeks for a response.
When you need to contact your landlord, here are some communication tips that will help ensure you get the prompt attention you need:
- Follow your landlord's own procedure. First, check if your landlord has a procedure or a preferred method of contact when problems arise. If she does, then following this procedure is your best bet to get a prompt response. Plus, if your landlord is slow to respond to your question or complaint, when you try again you can point out you're following the landlord's own directions.
Your landlord may, for instance, direct tenants to call a super or a management company when most issues arise. For specific problems, your landlord may prefer that you deal directly with a certain professional. For example, your landlord might ask that you call her plumber's 24-hour emergency number directly when plumbing problems arise.
- Look for special contact directions first in your lease. This information may also appear posted in an area such as the entryway to your building or near mailboxes. Landlords may also communicate this information to tenants through a memo or in a newsletter, if your building has one. If you're about to sign or renew your lease, ask whom you should contact about problems, if you don't already know the answer.
- Put your requests and complaints in writing. Chances are, your first attempt to contact your landlord about an issue will be by phone. If you've tried twice to get through without success, start keeping a log. Note the date, time, method and outcome of your communication attempts. If you send letters or e-mails, keep a printout or copy with your log.
Documenting your efforts to contact your landlord will help strengthen your case if you need to go to court. It will also help you remember when and how you first tried to contact your landlord about a problem, in case you need to reference it in a subsequent letter.
- Point out what's in it for your landlord. For many people, pointing out a benefit of responding or complying -- or a risk of not doing so -- helps inspire them to take action. For example, if a neighbor is creating a serious nuisance and your landlord isn't returning your calls, consider sending a letter noting that you may need to withhold rent if the landlord doesn't respond and lets the nuisance continue. Or, if bulbs break and this causes the lighting to be inadequate outside part of your building, point out the danger -- that it's just a matter of time until someone trips and falls or becomes the victim of a crime.
- Be persistent. Don't give up after just a couple of phone calls. If the person who takes your call tells you that someone else will call you back, ask when you should call again if you don't hear back from that person. This helps ensure the person will take your call seriously, and it lets the landlord's office know that you're not going away until you speak to the right person and you get the matter resolved.