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A Guide to Successfully Confronting Your Landlord

Some landlords can be difficult to deal with while others are pleasant and willing to address any reasonable request.  Whether you are afraid of notifying your landlord about repairs needed to your apartment, have an issue where your landlord will not address your concerns or have a situation strenuous enough to warrant moving out, use these tips to ensure that your housing situation and relationship with your landlord is the best it can possibly be.

Remain Professional

The relationship between a tenant and landlord is, at its core, a business relationship.  Your landlord is selling you a product: housing.  There are terms of the transaction that each party is bound to as stipulated in your lease.  Often, it can feel extremely personal when there is an issue with your apartment, and even more so if your landlord delays addressing these issues.  This is something that is directly impacting your comfort or ability to live in your home.  Still, it is important to remain professional and respectful in all contact and correspondence with your landlord.  It is best to communicate over email or text so there is documentation of your requests.  Always communicate with your landlord or management company as if you were communicating with someone in a professional setting.  If you show respect and do not use accusatory language or tone, your landlord is more likely to be willing to complete your requests in a timely fashion.  While there are many laws that bind landlords to completing reasonable requests, I find that the relationship between landlord and tenant is like any other relationship—if one party is negative or accusatory, the other party will also be negative.

Know Your Rights

Many cities and states have tenants’ rights laws.  It is also important to know what each section of your lease means and understand your legal obligations.  Both the landlord and renters have a legal right to an official, signed copy of their lease.  Be sure that you do not lose your lease.  Consult it especially for what repairs you are responsible to pay for.

For Pitt students, the Off-Campus Living website has resources about tenants’ rights and understanding a lease.  This website is a good source for other general information about renting an off-campus place, including the Landlord Survey which has a directory of landlords in the Pittsburgh area and previous experiences with them.

Breaking a Lease

If you must break a lease, be sure that you have a justifiable, legal reasoning and are completely ready to confront your landlord.  Documentation is key, so be sure to collect any evidence—all emails, text messages, and other information—including your lease.  If you must move out for reasons that are not due to issues unaddressed by your landlord (such as roommate issues), be aware that you may be responsible to find someone to sublet or may be responsible to pay the remaining amount you owe in rent depending on the terms of your lease agreement.  Be sure that you understand these terms and have a signed copy of your lease (by both yourself/all tenants and your landlord).

If you are having issues, do not hesitate to reach out to your university’s housing department or a local organization dedicated to tenant rights or housing security.  To understand the laws in your area, reach out to campus police or a local elected official’s office.  Typically, city council offices and housing authority departments at a city level will be your best resource.  For Pitt, contact Panther Central for any urgent housing issues and emergency housing.  City Council offices can help interpret the city code, and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is another great resource.

Many cities also have laws limiting the number of unrelated persons allowed to reside in the same unit, house, or building.  Houses split into two units or more must have separated living spaces for each unit and be zoned as multifamily housing.  For Pittsburgh, no more than three unrelated individuals are permitted to live in one rented housing unit.  This is the code for many cities, including Philadelphia.  Reach out to the office of local elected officials (on a city, municipal, or county level) for information about the law in your area.

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