8 tips for dealing with a difficult landlord

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Having landlord troubles? Are your requests for repairs or missing amenities falling on deaf ears? Is the landlord unreachable, MIA (missing in action), or always present but imposing unreasonable demands? If it’s already making every day living hard for you and your family, it’s time to take action.

How to deal with a difficult landlord:

  1. Know rental laws and your rights

    The first step is to establish if what you are asking for is within your rights. Go the Residential Tenancy Branch page to know more about your rights and responsibilities or the Fact Sheet for Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities at New Journey Housing’s website. Learn about the acts and regulations of the province. See what you can legally do to solve the problem. Showing that you know your rights (and invoking them when push comes to shove) can be an effective way to remind the landlord of his responsibilities. It also sends a strong message that you are a well-informed and reasonable tenant.

  2. Review your lease agreement

    Another important step is to revisit your tenancy agreement. Check the terms and conditions of your lease. Is your particular concern covered in the agreement? If there are stipulations that are not clear to you, you can ask for assistance. Call, write or visit the Residential Tenancy Branch and speak to an officer. And just a reminder: It is always a good policy to read and understand the lease agreement before signing it.

  3. Have proper documentation

    You will have greater success in resolving a complaint when you have proof to back it up. Paper trails are useful for establishing timelines. It will also help you prove your landlord’s action or inaction on a particular concern if you have written proof showing your landlord’s responses or commitments. To ensure that you have proper documentation:

    • Always make your requests in writing (and keep the replies in your records) – Communicate your requests clearly in writing. Send an email, a letter, or text. If the landlord contacts you by phone or visits you in person, make a record of the date, time and a detailed description of the conversation or agreements discussed.
    • Take a photo before moving in – Take photos of the place before bringing in your furniture and other things. This will come in handy when you claim your security deposit at the end of the lease. Get close-ups of damage, if there are (e.g. broken or old shelves, carpet or wall stains, etc.). Get before and after shots if you intend to do improvements like a paint job or carpet cleaning. But remember, ask for permission from the landlord first before doing any major repairs.
    • Keep records – File copies of receipts for payments, cancelled cheques, or any agreement. Keep digital copies of email exchanges and photos securely.
  4. Stay respectful

    Be calm, kind and reasonable in all communications. Keep a level head and make all your communications clear but respectful. It is not in your best interest to antagonize your landlord. Your goal should be to arrive at a solution, not to win a debate. It’s not a contest. Work with your landlord, not against them.

  5. Pick your battles

    Don’t be that tenant who complains about everything. Your landlord cannot attend to every little thing, especially if there are other tenants. If there is something that you can do to solve a situation (and it does not break any of the contract terms), do it yourself. Value your time (and your landlord’s) and save yourself the aggravation if it’s only a minor issue.

  6. Never miss payments and be a good tenant

    Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe your landlord is being difficult because you’re hard to deal with as well? It’s not a mature reaction but your landlord is only human. So make sure that you pay your rent on time. Keep your place clean. Don’t disturb your neighbours. In short, follow all the terms of your lease to the letter so that your landlord will have nothing to say against you when you lodge a complaint.

  7. Talk to the other tenants

    If you live in an apartment building, ask your co-tenants if they are having the same problem. Ask around or check if there is a tenant’s association. If it’s a building-wide problem, lodging the complaint as a group or through an association could yield better results.

  8. Get help

    You have written letters, spoken to your landlord several times, followed-up, made ultimatums … and you still haven’t resolved the issue. Maybe it’s time to have extra help. You can ask for assistance from New Journey Housing. They can provide advice to help you reach an agreement with your landlord. If this still doesn’t work, file an appeal with the Residential Tenancies Branch. The RTB can mediate between you and your landlord when you have a dispute. When an agreement is made via this mediation, it is binding, final and enforceable. Goodluck!

Sources: 7 tips for dealing with a difficult landlord, Apartments.com; How to deal with a bad landlord, Earth and Money; Residential Tenancies Branch website; and Winnipeg Rental Network. Retrieved March 1, 2019.

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Community Resources

Attend New Journey Housing Workshops to become a well-informed renter. You’ll also learn about home maintenance, budgeting, purchasing a house and many others.

Winnipeg Rental Network has resource guides and links to other resources related to affordable housing and related topics. You can download their Tenant & Landlord Resource Guide pamphlet which is a handy directory for information and help for all your rental housing concerns.

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