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Great apartment? Check. Perfect location? Got it. Easy relationship? Not so much. No matter how great your new property may seem, as a renter you sometimes have to struggle with bad landlords. Instead of sulking over this blip in your living situation, try the five tips below to improve it.

1. Be a Good Tenant

It may seem obvious, but you should be the best tenant you can be even (and perhaps especially) if you have a landlord with his eye on you. It’s important to always pay your rent on time, follow all the rules outlined in your lease (no pets means no pets), keep your apartment clean and be respectful of other tenants. If you are unclear on anything, be sure to go over any questions as close to the start of the lease as possible. This strategy will hopefully give your landlord less to gripe about and even keep you from stooping to his or her level. Even if your landlord is behaving badly, you should not.

2. Know Your Local Laws

It’s a good idea to get to know your state and local laws regarding renters. These spell out the standards landlords need to meet if they have tenants and outline how tenants can take action if they think there is an abuse.

3. Keep All Communication Respectful

Whatever the issue, it’s important to be respectful with your landlord and communicate your needs clearly in writing. Sometimes landlords aren’t responsive right away so be sure you are clear about what you need and why it matters. By doing all of this communication in writing you will have a paper trail if the dispute escalates and ends up in court. Plus, that paper trail will show you handled the situation well.

4. Create & Keep Accurate Records

Starting at the first walkthrough of the apartment, document all you can. Take pictures of every room and especially of any imperfections or broken things before you even move in. This can protect you from being held liable for issues that existed before you lived there. Also, make repair requests in writing or email, write down the times and dates for any phone or in-person conversations and keep track of any maintenance that is done while you reside there. It’s a good idea to keep any documents until you have your security deposit back.

Also, you may want to use certified mail to send any rent checks so that there’s a clear paper trail of when you sent payments to your landlord. This can protect you from any accusations the landlord may make about unpaid rent or late payments. A landlord has the power to wreck your credit if they try to get a judgment against you for unpaid rent, and this can help you rebut any actions like this.

5. Talk to Other Tenants

If you are having serious landlord problems, you probably are not the only one. Talk with the other people in your building and see if they are experiencing similar issues. Building-wide problems open the possibility to approach the landlord as a group. Even if they aren’t, they might know solutions to your problems you were previously unaware of. Perhaps they’ve found a way to encourage action from the landlord (times of day when he or she is most responsive) or methods of communication that work best (letters over email or vice versa).

Ultimately if you just don’t want to have to deal with landlords anymore, you might just be ready to start looking for a home of your own.

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