Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tale of the Crazy Lady – Moral of the Story

The Crazy Lady debacle of ’07 was a harrowing experience to be sure, but it also taught me a lot. I learned how to take matters into my own hands, the channels one must take in being proactive with landlord issues, and, in general, how to be aggressive, b-e aggressive. I now pass that knowledge onto you, dear reader, should you find yourself in similar circumstances.

At the first sign of trouble:
Contact your apartment manager and explain the situation. Use the, “I just want you to know what’s going on,” approach.You want him or her on your side and the last thing you need is to be seen as a Drama Queen or The Complainer

If your manager seems sympathetic, tread calmly but continue by asking for possible solutions to your problem and how you can be proactive in getting results. Apartment managers are busy people, and by asking how you can take action shows that your claim is serious and that you are ready to take the next step.

Remember the cardinal rule of potential battles - document, document, document:

After your meeting with the apartment manager, send a letter thanking him or her for his/her time and recapping what was decided during the meeting. It is important to have everything in writing, so keep a copy for your records

Most complexes have procedures for complaints and tenant issues. Find out what that procedure is (i.e. Incident Reports), and follow it to the letter. Document EVERYTHING in writing – incidents, contact, phone calls, meetings, etc. I cannot stress that enough.

Take it to the next level:
If you are not seeing any progress in your situation, be patient. Building up a case takes time, and things may get worse before they get better.

If, after being patient, you still see no results, take your complaints to the next level of management within the company – property managers, regional managers, etc. In all of your contact across management levels, remember to keep documentation of all contact and conversations.

Know how to play hardball:
At this point you have done your part, but your landlord and company have not done anything. Now is the time to play hardball. Do a little research to find the president and/or shareholders in the company and inundate them with your complaints – all of your past documentation will come in real handy

What if you live in a place with only a landlord and no upper management or Property Management Company? If things ever get too bad, call the police. Multiple police visits due to your neighbor’s disruptions will help prove your case. Use only if necessary though, our public servants are busy people and it is a shame to waste taxpayer’s money. If only Congress felt the same.

The Better Business Bureau may be a long shot, but chances are you are not the only person with complaints at this apartment building. In many cases, bad landlords have a track record, so feel free to contact that BBB or your local Department of Housing to state your complaint.

The world of apartments used to be a renter’s world in that leases and laws gave more rights to the individual who was renting – not the landlord. Nowadays the opposite is true. Leases are binding agreements that are very difficult to get out of once you are contractually obligated. If it comes to that point, a lawyer will be your best bet in navigating the legalese in these contracts, and finding clauses that help you, the renter, end your lease before it’s time. A lawyer will also know more about your state’s laws and your rights as a renter.

There are also a lot of resources on the Internet to help guide you through your landlord-tenant issues. The above tips pertain to this author’s situation in that they assume your Landlord and Co. will not be receptive to your grievance. Hopefully you will find a more sympathetic and believing audience, and you will not need most of this advice.

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