Dealing With a Difficult Landlord

Dealing with a difficult landlord could be challenging but it’s best you handle such matters with great care in order not to take the laws into your hands and turn the sword around. Caution is the appropriate word in this scenario…

Here’s a short story of a tenant who is faced with a ruthless landlord, this event is not alien to many people, in my opinion, 75% of landlords act alike, hence if you have similar experience to this, the answers provided should suffice accordingly…

“I rented an apartment somewhere in Lagos, and when I moved in I discovered the house was leaking water everywhere, according to the landlord, the leakage is just in two spots, but I think he is wrong, the roof leaks in at least 10 places in the apartment. He promised to fix the roof immediately after I moved in, or refund part of my house rent to me if I were to take up the repairs… Its four months already and he has still not repaired the roof nor has he refunded me part of my rent to handle the repair, every time it rains while I’m away everything gets soaked, I have lost most of my household equipment to rain and it’s not getting any better. My landlord has more than 6 shops and a 2-storey building yet he kept giving the excuse that there is no money. I’m tired, someone please help me, we are of the same tribe in this Lagos and I’m 25years old, I need my roof repaired or a refund so that I can look for another apartment”
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To come out of this problem, you will need to act smart to win your landlord in this game, he knows the implication of what he did to you but maybe this has persisted because he noticed you are knowledge deficient or incapable of staging a challenge. However, here are some steps to help you navigate such a situation:

Understand Your Rights:

Every tenant has a right enshrined in the Landlord-Tenant law in the state you’ve mentioned, this law varies between states, so you should get familiar with one that best applies to your location to enable you to scoop out the paragraph that protects your rights in this circumstance. It’s obvious that the landlord is wrong from all indications, he is only playing on your intelligence maybe because of your age, but it’s time to take this matter seriously by identifying the law that applies to this scenario.

Document Everything:

One mistake many tenants make is to go oral, in law this will not favour you, material evidence is always the advantage that a tenant uses against difficult landlords, hence gather all necessary documents such as recorded telephone conversations, text messages or WhatsApp notes of him promising to fix the roof at inception, keep the original copy of your house rent receipt, take videos of the condition of the roof before you rented it and the condition after the four months of being in occupation. Document all the letters you’ve written to the landlord concerning your roof repairs and a copy of his responses, whether handwritten or electronically.

Communicate Clearly and Politely:

In your written requests (recommended) make sure you express your concerns respectfully and politely with facts, try not to play into the landlord’s mental attacks, be specific and concise about your requests and emphasize their relevance and urgency. These would add up in your evidence when it’s requested.  

Request Repairs in Writing:

The request should be in writing and time-bound. In most cases the landlord will reply to your written request in writing, you should endeavour to keep both copies. During oral discussions or agreements, you have to put your phone on record to cover the entire event. Never take everything your landlord tells you without a backup for any future eventuality that may creep in.

Keep Records of Rent Payments:

Make sure you have all original payment receipts, bank tellers, and statements of account as evidence for the house rent you paid for the apartment. If rent is paid in instalments, keep the receipts or bank tellers, where these are not available, request a written acknowledgement from the recipient of the rent. The dates and time the money exchanged hands must also be at hand.

Know the Eviction Process:

Difficult landlords are usually in the habit of plotting an eviction of any tenants that appear difficult to manipulate. You need to know and understand the eviction process in your area of residence. You can take a cue from the landlord-tenant law and especially from your tenancy agreement. For example, if you are a yearly tenant, you are eligible for a 6months notice to quit. Half-yearly tenants get one month’s notice etc. Don’t be caught unawares…

Mediation or Seek Legal Assistance:

If your landlord insists on going back on his promises to repair your leaking roof, you may engage the services of a lawyer to counsel you and proceed to court if the need arises for legal redress. The lawyer will need all the evidence available to help you get the much-needed justice that you deserve. The landlord’s lawyer may not have an edge if all evidence points to the fact that he gave a written or recorded assurance of fixing the leaking roof and failed to do so. Particularly if the tenancy agreement states the landlord’s obligation to keep the property in a tenantable condition before letting, provided the tenant complies with his or her rental obligation as and when due.

Seek Help from Human Rights:

Activists or Agencies: You may also seek the help of a certified human rights activist to come to your aid, likewise, a heap of evidence against the landlord puts up a brighter outcome. Lawyers are also excited to fight a legal battle they perceive as a possible victory over their counterparts. The human rights activist will carry out his own investigations to ascertain that your pieces of evidence are not false before proceeding to fight on your behalf.

Consider Relocation:

If the issues escalate, you might consider relocating but should be after getting justice through a competent Court of law. After judgment (if it’s in your favour) you must plan to relocate to a more suitable accommodation where you would get peace of mind. If at all you decide to remain in the property, the landlord must repair and put the apartment in a tenantable state, don’t hesitate to still keep evidence of the repairs and confirm that it’s not shadily done to spit you.

***The evidence you gathered will be presented in Court by your lawyer as exhibits against the landlord who will be allowed to counter them or prove to the court that the documents didn’t emanate from him. When he fails to prove otherwise (that is, if he is overwhelmed with evidence), the court will rule against him and judgment will come in your favour.

Remember, keep the evidence and don’t take laws into your hands….stay focused.

If this recommendation does not solve your problem, feel free to contact me here

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