Don’t fall for these 10 crazy landlord claims
Your landlord has a legal obligation to you and to the rental agreement you both signed. Learn about some of the false claims a landlord may make – and the truth behind them.
A landlord's claim: "You don't need a dishwasher; just wash them by hand." // © David C Ellis/Getty Images
If ever there is a time to turn up the skepticism, it’s when the landlord starts “explaining.”
Take these buzz phrases, which lead off one poor excuse after another:
“If you don’t like it ...”
“No one else ...”
“I can’t afford ...”
Please – someone hit the gong and put a stop to the show!
Like it or not, if you’re a renter, you are involved in a business transaction. The landlord isn’t dad, isn’t your dorm mother, isn’t even the goofy but lovable Mr. Roper next door. He’s a businessman, and no one promised that business dealings would be fair, ethical or even honest.
So before you sign, give in or pay, know first and foremost when to cry bull.
To help, here’s a starter plate of some typical outrageous landlord claims and why, according to the experts, you shouldn't swallow them. Perhaps you’ve already heard a few of them yourself, or even fallen for some. Read on, and don’t make that mistake again.
1. Landlord’s claim: ‘You can just do the dishes by hand.’
Tenant’s response: “Yes, I know it’s possible to do dishes by hand. I’ve even done it before. But the apartment that I am paying you to use came with a working dishwasher. That was the deal.”
“You can’t just let it remain inoperable and expect that you’re going to get the same rent,” says Janet Portman, a landlord-tenant lawyer and author of “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” “It’s just basic contract law.”
Portman cited the case of a tenant who, when the landlord refused to repair the dishwasher, put a pad and pencil in the kitchen and noted every hour he spent washing dishes. He then multiplied the final tally by the minimum wage and submitted the amount in court as damages owed.
“It was evidence, it was absolutely related to the fact that the dishwasher no longer worked, and the judge thought it was brilliant and he gave it to him,” Portman says. “And the landlord got the message; he fixed the dishwasher.”
2. Landlord’s claim: ‘It was like that when you moved in.’
Tenant’s response: “Oh, good, so you knew the blinds were broken. Great, now come fix them.”
Bing: Search & decide
This landlord excuse is also known as, “You rented the apartment ‘as is,’” and is an all-too-common line. Unfortunately, it may be a valid claim for cosmetic matters or shoddy workmanship. But it doesn’t give the landlord a get-out-of-repairs-free card. State law (in every state except Arkansas) guarantees tenants an “implied warranty of habitability,” regardless of when they spotted the flaw.
If it’s a safety or health issue, tenants in many states can deduct the cost of repairs or withhold partial rent. But be warned: Get advice from a tenant advocate first. You can’t just stop paying all rent, as many renters believe. Nonpayment is grounds for eviction. Instead, send the landlord a certified letter requesting repairs. Then search online or ask a city council member for the name of a tenant center in your area.
“We ask them if they want to stay or they want to move,” says John Fry, assistant director of the Illinois Tenants Union. “If they want to stay, we can help them pay reduced rent until they get repairs. If they want to move, we can help them break their lease.”
3. Landlord’s claim: ‘That will get fixed . . .’
Tenant’s response: “Great! Just give me a call when it’s fixed and that lease will get signed.”
“Again and again I hear, ‘The landlord promised me this.’ And that’s what it was, a promise,” Fry says. “Absolutely do not sign a lease, do not give a landlord any money, until what you see is what you want, because that’s all you’re ever going to get. Ever.”
Granted, it’s not easy. You may want to secure the place or start off on a good note and be trusting. But it’s your home, probably for at least 12 months. Do you know the landlord personally? Have the neighbors vouched that he makes good?
Remember, this is business.
“Repairs cut into profits,” says Ken Carlson, a landlord-tenant lawyer in California. “Need I say more?”
4. Landlord’s claim: ‘What a mess. I needed all your security deposit to fix the thumb-tack holes.’
Tenant’s response: “Oh my goodness. I am so sorry that while paying you $15,000 to live in your apartment last year, I actually lived in your apartment.”
“The landlord will make all kinds of claims that the tenant trashed the place and dare the tenant to do something about it,” Carlson says. “And because tenants have no idea what their legal rights are, they just pay it. So theft is rewarded.”
OK, here are the rules: A landlord may not charge a tenant for normal wear and tear. Small nail holes used to hang pictures? Normal. Ordinary paint discoloration? Normal. Minor scuffs on floors and carpets? Normal.
If you actually do damage something, the landlord should provide a written receipt detailing the repair costs along with the remainder of your deposit. And no charging for marks that were already there!
“We were in one situation where a landlord used a hole in the wall to steal the security deposit and he never repaired the hole,” Fry said. “We had three tenants and they all moved in with the hole in the wall, and he never fixed it and he stole all of their security deposits.”
5. Landlord’s claim: ‘Water? Noise? Talk to the neighbor.’
Tenant’s response: “OK. How about if I go talk to the neighbor about what an unresponsive landlord you are?”
Karen Tuominen, a communications consultant, rang her landlord the day she moved in to her Brooklyn two-bedroom to say that it was raining — inside.
“He literally said to my face, ‘You should really say something to the guy upstairs because he takes these wild baths. He fills it up. He’s got candles all over.’
“It was outrageous,” she says. “And I guess he didn’t think I would ever ask the guy. But his bathroom was completely dry. And now he’s a friend of mine.”
Later the tenants bonded again, this time when the landlord refused to exterminate for bedbugs and blamed individual tenants instead.
In both cases, he was forced to make repairs. A tenant’s contract for a habitable dwelling is with the landlord, not the neighbors.
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Everything you see online is about horrible or crazy Landlords: what about crazy Tenants who make irrational, unverified claims such as: mysterious fumes, odors, oily water, mold, toxic environment, etc. all of which having been investigated (time & expense to the Landlord) by numerous town agencies and others (Water, Fire, Health Dept., HVAC experts) and remain unconfirmed - then break the lease still owing for utilities, additional services provided not stipulated for in the lease, physical damages, late payment of rent fees, etc. I had one tenant who complained about an ant "infestation" - exterminator did not see a single ant when called in at significant cost. The exterminator commented that he saw this "all the time" and that "tenant must be looking to break the lease".
There are many good, responsible landlords that get ripped off and are harassed routinely by their tenants. All landlords are not rich, miserable people and many rely on rental income to survive.
Tenants need to learn that if they wish to break the lease, most landlords would be happy to discuss this and would probably agree to an early termination as long as it does not leave them high and dry - i.e. giving them anywhere from 30-90 days notice so they have adequate lead time to re-let. No landlord wants a tenant that cannot afford the rent or someone who is generally not happy in the rental.
As a landlord and as a past tenant I will state it's all about the individual. When I rented my first apartment I had a security deposit equal to the rent. After vacating the unit 7 years later I received the entire deposit back. During the leasing period the landlord repaired all issues that where needed. As a tenant I returned the home in the way the landlord delivered to me. "That is called being responsible".
As a landlord myself I have taken on the same responsible approach as I was taught. Yet, not everyone has adopted the same behavior. Example, I have a 3000 sq. ft. home that was well maintained until I rented to the tenants from 6e**. I should have known when the first months rent was late, it was going to be a dad situation. I noticed during every inspection that the place was going to pot. From the exterior to the interior. Then we have the calls about this and that. The home came with a trash compactor. I informed them that the compactor should be kept clean in order to keep the pest of ever kind at bay being that the home is in a farming community. They did the opposite and used it for all trash. When I examined it I suggested that they discontinue using it because it will create a problem, and it sure did. I ended up with a pest problem which resulted in a destroyed trash compactor. After that the well. The husband who did not work was a know-it-all and started screwing with the pump. He drained it and didn't reset it properly which resulted in a $2,800.00 motor replacement. Follow came the irrigation system that was damaged due to heavy equipment running over the PCV pipes which flooded my property, the neighbors property and caused trees to die because of lack of water. When the AC went out and they withheld over 50.00% of the rent I knew it was time to contact my attorney.
My attorney informed me of my rights. I had the AC and Heating system replaced which was very expensive. Then I sent a certified letter which included their 60 day notice. The day before they where to vacate I informed them that I will be taking possession of the property the next day. The response from the wife was "I work nights and I could not get a truck until the 3rd". Yet they had over 60 days to get a truck. Five days later, Saturday, I return to a home that was still occupied by the tenants. They had tons of items left behind including furniture, clothing, electronics, "trash", dirty rooms and baths and a "dog". I waited until nearly sunset when the husband came alone stating he was there to clean. Trust me, he alone could not clean that place in one day because it took two full days and three active humans just to clean what "he" eventually left behind - including the dog.
I could go on-and-on about this experience and share other things that happened. Bottom line is "TREAT PEOPLE AND THEIR STUFF LIKE YOU CARE ABOUT IT". If you know you are not the cleanest person on the planet "get someone to help you" as you would if your car is broken and you know you can't fix it.
This goes for both "landlords and tenants". Each side has a responsibility!
PS. The security deposit didn't cover half of the costs.
House are apartment. Depending on how long a person has lived in the rented unit.
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