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How to Deal with a Deadbeat Landlord

What do used car salesmen, lawyers, and landlords all have in common? … People in all three professions are often the butt of jokes about—shall we say—low ethics.

Here are some jokes I’ve heard recently:

  1. What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? … A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer.
  2. I saw the most beautiful cars in the window of a dealership. A salesman came out and said, “Come on in. They’re bigger than ever, and they last a lifetime!” … Later I discovered he was talking about the payments.
  3. What do landlords do for fun? … How would I know? I haven’t seen mine in the past eight months.

Those jokes you hear are often unfair, but what makes them funny is the kernel of truth associated with them. And unfortunately for all the great, honest, just-trying-to-make-a-living landlords out there, the deadbeat landlord gives all of us a bad name.

So, just to show that all landlords are not untrustworthy villains, I would like to do my part by helping all the tenants out there who are stuck with a deadbeat landlord, meaning a landlord who is good at collecting the rent check and nothing much else.

There’s a Problem, and Your Deadbeat Landlord Has Disappeared

You won’t know you have a deadbeat landlord until a problem arises. The most common problem tenants have are maintenance ones. So what should you do when you notify your landlord that:

  • The heat went out during the winter (or the AC in the summer),
  • A window won’t lock,
  • Bugs are running around your kitchen,
  • Or any one of a number of possible problems

…and your landlord is M.I.A.?

First of all, here’s what you shouldn’t do: You should not withhold rent. Doing so could get you evicted.

Some tenants think that if the rental unit has a problem that means they don’t have to pay rent. If you stop paying rent, you will probably hear from the landlord—but not to fix the problem. It will be to evict you.

You do not have to live with a problem, either. There’s a concept in the law called the “implied warranty of habitability,” meaning that your landlord has to keep the place livable. Note that livable pertains to necessities, such as running water, not because you can’t bear the olive green walls.

The Appropriate Steps

Here’s what you should do if there’s a problem that needs fixing:

1. Make Contact (and document it)

Contact your landlord as soon as you notice the problem. A good landlord will respond right away, and will take care of the issue. But, since you have read this far, you probably have a deadbeat landlord, and you are being ignored. So go to step 2.

2. Send a Certified Letter

Send your landlord a certified letter if they don’t respond to your first request. State the nature of the problem, and the date it started happening. You’ll need to have this documented in case you need to take further action, so make a copy for yourself as well.

3. Wait

Wait to see whether your landlord responds. Tenants typically need to give their landlord 30 days to fix a problem that is not an emergency. But emergencies need to be addressed immediately.

4. Allow Access

If your landlord responds, let them (or their representative) in to make the repair.

5. Try to “Repair and Deduct”

If your deadbeat landlord still ignores the situation, there’s more you can do. Try the repair-and-deduct method if your jurisdiction allows this. You would arrange for a repairman to fix the problem, and you would then deduct the cost from the rent. Provide your landlord with a receipt.

6. Call the Authorities

Call your local health or building inspector. Someone will inspect, and that could force your deadbeat landlord to act.

7. Withhold Rent

I know I said not to withhold rent earlier. But there might be an instance where you can. Find out whether your state allows this, and if so, under what conditions. What you’d typically need to do would be to set up an escrow account, and put the rent in it. Let your landlord know that you’re putting the rent payment in an escrow account and will release the funds after the repair is made.

8. Break the Lease

If your rental is truly uninhabitable, and your deadbeat landlord won’t do anything to fix it, you might be able to break the lease. But first check with an attorney or legal aid for your area to see whether you have a case.

You Might Not Have a Deadbeat Landlord

Although you are entitled to have your landlord fix major problems, such as no heat, no running water, and a pest infestation, you are not necessarily entitled to have nonessential problems fixed, such as a leaky sink. Read your lease to see whether it addresses minor repairs, how those are handled, and whose responsibility they are. You might need to change out that lightbulb yourself.

Also consider that if you caused the problem, you need to fix it. If your hair clogged up the sink, you need to fix that since you caused the problem. If the landlord fixes a problem you created, they can deduct the cost from your security deposit.

Conclusion

You don’t need to put up with a deadbeat landlord. Try the steps listed here. If you have a deadbeat landlord story of your own, share it in the comments section, along with what you did to solve the problem!

Credit to Laura Agadoni

Laura Agadoni is a landlord and journalist whose articles appear in various publications such as Trulia, The Houston Chronicle, The Motley Fool, SFGate, Zacks, The Penny Hoarder and azcentral.

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3 Things You Should Do Before Applying for Your First Home Loan

By Catherine Alford

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Buying your first house is such an exciting time. You’ve finally decided not to send a rent check to someone anymore, and you’re now off on a journey to get something all your own. Sometimes getting your first home loan can be a challenge, though. Not everyone will qualify for a mortgage or be ready to make the payments on their first home.

However, there are a few things you can do before starting the home search process to make sure your finances are in order so that you have the best chance of securing a home loan at a great rate.

Here they are:

1. Pull Your Credit Report

You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Before you look at any houses, be sure to pull this report. If you are planning to purchase a house with your spouse, they should pull their credit report too.

When you get your credit report, look for any adverse accounts that may cause a lender to disqualify you from a home loan. See if you can settle any outstanding debts or fix any errors that may be on your account. According to a Federal Trade Commission study, at least one in five people have errors on their credit reports that could affect their ability to get the best loans, so be sure to scan your report thoroughly. Does every account on your report match one you currently have? Is there something on there you don’t recognize? If so, send a letter to the credit bureau and ask them to make corrections. This can help improve your credit score, which will make you a more desirable borrower to mortgage lenders.

2. Increase Your Savings

When you apply for your first home loan, your lender will ask you for copies of all of your bank statements. They want to know how much money you currently have in your accounts. You should be genuine about this because you’ll have to explain any amount that you have in your accounts that is unusually large.

The best thing you can do is to prepare for this by increasing your savings. Work extra jobs, have a big garage sale, or cut back on your expenses and save the difference. All of this is good because you’ll want to save a large down payment as well so that you can own a large portion of your home from the beginning. A sizable down payment also helps to keep your monthly payment low.

3. Shop Around for a Mortgage Lender

When it comes time to get a mortgage, you shouldn’t go with the first lender who offers you a loan. Instead, email or call several lenders to get pre-approved for your mortgage. When you go through this process, you can see how well you work with each of the lenders, how responsive they are, and if you think they’ll help you moving forward with your loan. These lenders will often offer different interest rates and terms, and they will often have different fees. So, if you shop around, you’ll be more likely to get the best possible mortgage for you.

Ultimately, buying your first home is a very exciting time, but to ensure that the process goes smoothly, it’s important to do your research, make sure you are financially ready, and shop around for the best loan for you.

Credit to  Catherine Alford

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