Advocate for yourself: 10 ways you can deal with difficult landlords

It’s time to switch things up, the landlords have had the upper hand for too long

After months of scouring the Bristol housing market to find your ideal (or maybe not) student house, you find yourself moving in, filled with hope after finishing what feels like a bigger task then your actual degree.

But now comes the real luck of the draw: What kind of landlord you get. Some get lucky with landlords who reply to their WhatsApp messages and actually fix that broken front door lock, but others aren’t so fortunate. Landlords can be a pain- here’s the best ways to ensure they don’t take the piss too much.

1. Know your landlord’s responsibilities

Whilst they might try and avoid responsibility as much as they can, they’re actually in charge of a whole lot. Landlords have to fix things in a ‘reasonable time’, especially if they make your home unfit to live in, such as a broken boiler in the depths of winter. These include:

  • Sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains
  • Gas and gas appliances
  • Electrics and electric appliances
  • Mould and damp. Black mould is especially important to flag up
  • Pest infestations

And if they cause even more damage when trying to make repairs, guess what? They’re fixing those too.

2. Know your responsibilities

It’s easy to turn your landlord into a villain if they haven’t fixed that mould problem. But if it wasn’t there before you moved in and you’re living in a musky hole, never opening your windows, they might not have to. Here’s what you’re responsible for as a tenant:

  • Ventilation to prevent mould and damp
  • Cleanliness to help prevent pests
  • Breakages by you, friends or family
  • Checking fire alarms
  • Reporting issues

3. Find out who your landlord is

Sometimes landlords try and hide under the safety blanket of a letting agency. Fortunately for you, they can’t hide for long. You have the right to issue a written request to their agency, or whoever you pay your rent to, for their name and address, which must be responded to in 21 days. Now that you’ve removed the middleman, you can badger them a bit more efficiently.

4. Find out how to report repairs

Don’t be that guy who complains about your broken bed but hasn’t even reported it. Having reports in writing, such as an email or text, means you have evidence to back up your claims. It’s also worth finding out the best reporting system for your landlord or agency. If all else fails, turning up on your letting agency’s doorstep with a stern word is never a bad idea.

5. Hold them to their word

Landlords make a million promises when you’re looking around to try and get you to rent out their place, and too often you end up moving into a dirty flat with a toilet that still doesn’t flush. To hold them to their word, make sure you get these promises in writing and preferably with a deadline before you move in. You don’t want to be picking up previous tenants’ slack.

6. Your rental agreement and inventory are your best friends

Knowing your contract and inventory can save you a whole lot of “he said, she said” disagreements. Keeping copies of them means you can cite them when you need, and won’t leave you disputing over a broken washing machine that was actually bought by tenants seven generations ago.

7. Protect your deposit

Picture this: It’s the end of your tenancy and you have all chosen a day to work your arses off cleaning your flat to get your deposit back. It’s sparkling clean and you think you’ve got this one in the bag, but your landlord has run off with your money. Make sure your deposit is under a protection scheme. The landlord has 30 days to do this from receiving it, or you could win back four times the amount in a small claims court (don’t let this tempt you – it’s risky business).

8. Advocate for yourself

As a young renter it can be hard to stick up to the 50-year-old bloke you pay your rent to. Don’t be scared to defend yourself. Make sure you’re helping yourself and your flatmates by all banding together to get things sorted. Student renters have no less rights than any other renters.

9. Turn the tables and invoice them back

If at the end of the year you’re being charged an extortionate amount for a professional cleaner to hoover up a speck of dust, ask for an invoice of what your deposit deductions have gone towards. This will stop the cheeky ones from lying to you and actually using your money to fund their Easter ski trip. If they can’t prove it, you can challenge it.

10. Report them

When your landlord has fundamentally been taking the piss and you’ve had the worst experience ever, file a formal complaint to the council. They can mediate the issue more effectively and make sure you don’t get retaliation for asking for basic rights. No one wants to feel like the bad guy, but remember: you could be helping out future yous.

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