How to Handle a Non-Responsive Landlord

What is my landlord's problem? Why won't the landlord return my calls? After all, s/he cashes my check every month...!

If you've experienced this frustration you know how aggravating it can be when a landlord is MIA. Here is a list of escalating strategies to get your landlord's attention.

Be the Squeaky Wheel
First, maintain your cool. Call your landlord every day. If no one answers, leave a detailed message. If someone else answers, still leave a message and ask for the best time to reach your landlord. If you are polite yet persistent chances are good that your landlord will contact you, if only to shut you up. If you sound angry you probably won't get an immediate call back.

Start E-mailing

Depending on the severity of the issue at hand it might benefit you to send a short e-mail to follow along with the call. Again, the mood should be persistent but polite. This gives you a trail of attempts to get his/her attention to a specific matter. If your issue is one that could wind up in court, it is a good idea to start a paper trail.

Get Certifiable

If the combination of e-mail and phone calls still hasn't had any effect, it is time to send a letter by certified mail. In it include a request to hear back from your landlord by a certain date. Purchase a signature return receipt and keep a copy of the letter for your records.

Find Local Assistance

Many areas offer assistance to tenants experiencing specific issues. For example, if your landlord is not providing heat during the winter, this is a fair-housing issue. Remember, you have rights as a renter.

Get a Mediator

It may be gratifying to yell, "I'll see you in court!." But the reality is that taking your landlord to court is both extremely costly and can take years to push through the court system. If you are mad as hell and aren't gonna take it anymore, seek out a mediator. Here is an example of a group in San Diego who facilitates mediation between landlords and tenants.

Whatever You Do, Do Not Withhold Your Rent Payment
Withholding rent may seem like an attractive tactic but it can cause trouble in three ways. First, it angers your landlord and will make him or her less inclined to hear you, let alone help you. Second, a sneaky landlord may try to weasel out of responsibilities by calling you a non-paying tenant. Third, it will likely escalate your problem, not solve it.

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