It’s every tenant’s worst nightmare – clashing with your landlord is frustrating, time consuming and it can make you feel very powerless. However, as a tenant you are protected through your tenancy agreement and certain statutory laws, so if you have a problem, don’t panic; try to approach the issue as constructively as possible.
A lot of disputes take place when tenants are renting a house from a private landlord or use letting agents that only deal with paperwork; so communication about repairs and maintenance is arranged through the landlord and tenant directly. In these situations there is no third party to facilitate the conversations and misunderstandings or disagreements can spiral quickly when they are not handled delicately.
If you find yourself in a dispute with your landlord there are certainly things you can do to mitigate any spiralling issues, and if things go beyond what you feel comfortable handling on your own you can seek legal advice and mediation from third parties.
Here are a few tips to help resolve clashes with your landlord and make your life as easy as possible:
Stay calm and negotiate constructively
Disputes with landlords are notoriously stressful to deal with. When you feel like the security of your living situation may be threatened it’s easy to get upset and angry, which can quickly exacerbate the problem if your landlord already seems uncooperative or claims no responsibility for a problem. As frustrated as you may be, you need to stay reasonable and calm – communicate exactly what your concerns are and make your expectations about how the problem should be resolved very clear. This includes what needs to be done and the timeframe.
Don’t act in breach of your contract
It is essential that you read your tenancy agreement, understand what both party’s legal obligations and rights are, and then make sure that you do not do anything to breach the contract. As a tenant you will be legally obliged to meet certain terms, such as maintain the property to a high standard, arrange rent payment, and take out a home insurance policy (click here for recommended companies). If you believe that the dispute should be resolved in your favour, you mustn’t risk your position by breaking your side of the agreement. Remember, the contract is there to protect you.
Communicate in writing
Wherever possible, communicate about your claim in writing – either by post or email. If the dispute started via a conversation in person or over the phone, continue it in writing, state what has happened so far and quote any important exchanges. Request that your landlord only communicate in writing from this point on; this is important in case you ever need to refer back to what has taken place previously in the dispute. Ensuring all communication is recorded will also help to avoid either party from breaching the legal contract in any way, or making rash choices in how they respond.
If you have an agency, get them involved
If your property is managed by an agent (even if they don’t usually get involved in communication between the tenants and landlord) you should make them aware of the situation and ask for their input. Although they may not consider disputes between renters and homeowners to be in their remit, if either party is breaching their contract then it is their concern too. You should push for support from your letting agents.
Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or a mediation service
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can offer you advice either in person or via their website, which sets out your statutory rights and where you stand legally with your dispute. They may even be able to arrange an advocacy service for you, and their resources are completely free to access.
Charities like Shelter can also advise you on housing and financial issues, including how to access a mediation service – where a third party can help you and your landlord to communicate more constructively about the problem and seek to solve it without entering court proceedings.