8 tips for dealing with a difficult landlord

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Having landlord troubles? Are they unreachable, MIA (missing in action), or present but does nothing? On the flip side, you may have a landlord who enforces unreasonably strict rules and has a say on every little thing that happens in your home. If it is making your life hard, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.

Here’s how to deal with a difficult landlord:

  1. Know rental laws and your rights as tenant

    The first step is to know what you can do legally. This will depend on the nature of your complaint. Check the Residential Tenancy Branch website to know more about your rights and responsibilities. You can also read the Fact Sheet for Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities at the New Journey Housing website.

  2. Review your lease agreement

    Check the terms and conditions of your lease. Is your concern covered in the agreement? If there are terms that are not clear to you, ask for assistance. Call, write or visit the Residential Tenancy Branch and speak to an officer.

  3. Have proper documentation

    You will have greater success in resolving a complaint when you have proof. 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 photos or videos – Photo and video evidence can be the best ways to prove your point. Ensure that your footage has time and date stamps to show recency or coincide with your report.
      A note for the next time you move into a new rental home: Remember to take photos of the place before moving in. This will come in handy when you claim your security deposit at the end of the lease. Get close-ups of damage – for example broken light fixtures, old shelves, carpet or wall stains, etc. Also, get before and after shots if you intend to do improvements like a paint job or carpet cleaning. Don’t forget to ask permission first before doing any major repairs.
    • Keep records – File copies of payment receipts, 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. Always be clear but respectful. It is not in your best interest to antagonize your landlord. Work with your landlord, not against them.

  5. Pick your battles

    Don’t be the kind of 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 save yourself the stress if it’s only a minor issue.

  6. Never miss payments and be a good tenant

    Have you considered the possibility that your landlord is being difficult because you’re also hard to deal with? It’s not a mature reaction but your landlord is only human. Follow all the terms of your lease so that your landlord will have nothing to say against you when you file a complaint. This means paying your rent on time, keeping your place clean, and not disturbing your neighbours, among others.

  7. Talk to the other tenants

    If you live in an apartment building, ask other tenants if they are having the same problem. Check if there is a tenant’s association. If it’s a building-wide problem, filing the complaint as a group or through an association could have better results.

  8. Get help

    If you’ve written letters, spoken to your landlord, and made ultimatums to no avail, maybe it’s time to get extra help. Contact New Journey Housing. They can give advice and help you reach an agreement with your landlord. If this doesn’t work, file an appeal with the Residential Tenancies Branch. The RTB can mediate between you and your landlord in a dispute. When an agreement is made via this mediation, it is binding, final and enforceable. Goodluck!

Article updated May 18, 2021.
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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