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My Landlord and I Hit A Rough Patch

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Finally, you're no longer stuck in a crowded dorm or under your parents' roof. You've gained your freedom. You're close to it, anyway. When you moved into your first apartment, the place seemed perfect. However, it's not so great anymore. Sadly, it is a common occurrence for landlords and rental companies to mistreat their young tenants, especially in areas near colleges. I've had to put up with this many times and experience has taught me the importance of standing up for yourself to get what you're entitled to.

Preventing Future Trouble Begins at Move-In Time

It should already be obvious to everyone, but it's important to make records of every tiny detail that could be considered wrong with the unit. Even if it's something un-fixable like a scratch on the sink, it should still be documented. Use a digital camera or cell phone to take pictures of even the smallest dings and blemishes. You'll find them incredibly helpful when your landlord tried to pin all of it on you in order to pilfer your security deposit or collect for damages.

It's best to start with the essentials. When you receive your keys, take note of how many there are. Keys that are bent are likely to break later down the road, so consider requesting a new set.

Look around the dining and living rooms. Inspect the ceiling for new, old or fixed damage and record it. Also look along the walls and make note of any nails or hooks still in them. Places where they used to be should also be documented, even if they've been painted over.

Keep an eye out for damaged tiles or mop boards, as well as discolored or nonexistent grout. Also inspect the carpet's condition. Check and test all of the electrical sockets, switches and fixtures to make sure they work and are safe. It's extremely important to pay close attention to your doors, window covers, knobs and windows to confirm they're intact and working. Check the peep hole, too, since it may get painted over.

In the kitchen, try the stove and oven and make sure everything is clean. I once had a stove with two broken burners! The refrigerator and freezer should be inspected for cleanliness and damage. All cabinets should close fully and the drawers shouldn't stick. Check the counter and cabinets for chipping or stains.

Inspect the dishwasher, sink and fixtures. Next, check the condition of any electrical fixtures, windows, doors or anything else of importance. Be sure to make note of any damage, repaired or not, that you find.

Visit the bathroom and check that the toilet is clean, sturdy, leak-free and in good working order. Look in the shower for disrepair or mildew problems and make sure all of the fixtures work. All of the towel bars should be firmly secured to the wall and ideally, there should even be a toilet paper holder. Check on the essentials of this room, too.

If you've been blessed with a porch or balcony, check it, too, especially if they're constructed of wood. Inspect the supports and check for rotting. I had one which collapsed because the landlord refused to fix it. Fortunately, everyone was okay.

Stay Cool When Things Heat Up

It's commonly said that you'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Address your landlord in a casual, friendly manner and tell them something needs repair. If they're a decent person, it'll work. If not, then more drastic measures might be necessary.

It helps to be on friendly terms with the building's maintenance guy. One time, I had no heat because the maintenance man was out. When he returned, though, he stayed late to fix my heater because we knew each other. Once you've befriended the maintenance guy, see him first for your problems.

Keep notes on every issue you take up with your landlord. If they don't act the first time, keep on them about it until they do. Don't be rude or indignant, simply be friendly but firm. If it still doesn't get fixed, look through your lease to locate your landlord's address and send them an official demand letter.

Be specific and detailed when stating the nature of the problem, when and how often you've reported it and the refusal to repair it. It absolutely must be sent via certified mail with a return receipt. Unless there's no heat, water or electricity, they have 30 days to remedy the issue. Upon the second notice, they have 15 days and 7 upon the third. Each time, it should be sent the same way using certified mail and a return receipt. If they continue to do nothing, you can file a lawsuit.

I wish you good luck in getting a decent apartment with pleasant management and that you'll be free from problems like the ones above. Unfortunately, the chances are good that you'll have to deal with an apathetic landlord at some point. Just remember to stay calm and be friendly, but to also remain firm. Acting reasonably will get your repairs done more quickly than acting angrily.

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