Are You a Pushover Renter?

Zillow

By Alex Starace for MyFirstApartment.com

Some people are too nice. Often renters, especially new renters, fall into this category: they’re so concerned with being a “good” tenant that they let their landlord walk all over them. It’s fine to be friendly and understanding – but if your landlord is taking advantage of your kindness, it may be time to stand up for yourself. Here are some instances where you should know your rights:

Landlord Keeps Entering Your Apartment

Yes, the landlord owns your property. And, yes, he or she should expect that you’re taking reasonable care of it. However, that does not mean that your landlord can enter your apartment any time of day or night. It’s still your apartment after all.

Most states have laws governing this type of behavior. In Illinois, for example, a landlord must give two days notice to enter an apartment in a non-emergency situation. In the case of an emergency, or building repairs for which the landlord unexpectedly needs access to your place, the landlord can enter without notice, but must give written notice of having entered your unit within two days of the incident. If the landlord is repeatedly entering your place, even in a lawful manner, it can qualify as harassment under Illinois state law.

Check the laws in your state, but if you feel like your landlord is making up excuses to enter your place, you likely have cause to take action. 

Landlord Does Not Make Timely Repairs

Your landlord keeps telling you that the dishwasher in your unit will get fixed “next week,” except that now it’s been two months. At first, you were understanding, but now it’s becoming ridiculous – it doesn’t seem like the landlord’s ever going to fix that dishwasher.

Again, most states have laws governing this type of situation. The general outline of what to do is as follows (though check the specifics within your state): first, make the request for repairs in writing and mail it to your landlord with certified mail (including return receipt). Wait two weeks (or whatever amount of time prescribed by your jurisdiction), and then, if you get no response, call a contractor and have him or her make the repairs. Pay for the repairs out-of-pocket, but keep the receipt. The next time your rent is due, deduct the cost of the repair from your rent check, and include a copy of the receipt. Voila! Your dishwasher has been fixed, it didn’t cost you anything, and you followed the law to the letter.

Renewal Comes, and Your Rent Goes Up – A Lot

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do – perhaps you’d been getting a deal because the landlord didn’t realize how popular (and expensive) the neighborhood has become – and the raise in rent is just a correction. Or perhaps the rental market in your area has tightened considerably, meaning there are several renters in line behind you, who would be perfectly happy to take your place at the new rates.

In other cases, though, you may have some leverage, particularly if you’ve been a responsible tenant. It’s a pain for everyone if you have to move: not only do you have the bother of moving, but your landlord will have to spend time finding and vetting a new tenant, repainting and sprucing up after you move out, and hoping that the new tenant will be suitable.

So, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower rent price – if you want to stay and your landlord wants you to stay, you could probably lop off a few bucks. Often, the landlord will expect you to ask – and will plan on making at least a small concession, if not more. But you won’t get it unless you get up the nerve to ask.

And that’s the lesson from all of this: being a good tenant is different from being a doormat. If you stand up for yourself, you’ll have a better living situation, and your landlord will respect you all the more for it.

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