4 Common Problems Faced by Tenants and How to Resolve Them
Today, we’re diving into what you need to know as a tenant when your landlord starts interfering, and how to deal with it. Like, what can you do when your landlord isn’t responding to your repair requests? How can you ask for more privacy? And how do you get your security deposit back?
These are some of the situations you may face as a renter. To handle them, you’ll need to be familiar with state laws, understand what your landlord might do, and know how to appropriately navigate the situation.
Let’s discuss each of these in a bit more detail.
You Need Repairs Done, But There’s No Response
According to state law, landlords in Michigan must provide tenants with a rental that meets the basic health, safety, and structural standards. Some of their responsibilities include maintaining the following:
- Dwelling structures
- Water, heating, and plumbing
- Garbage removal
- Railing and staircase
- Fire exits and smoke detectors
- Pest control
Given your legal right to a livable home, reach out to your landlord and bring up the issues that need their immediate attention. Decide on a repair schedule, and eventually, a maintenance schedule.
But, remember, you must still comply with state requirements. Check Michigan state laws that detail the following information before taking any action:
- Inform your landlord about any necessary repairs in your home through a letter or email. Be sure to document all communication and damages.
- If you live in an apartment building, reach out to the building inspector and book an inspection. This is important if it’s for a big repair, like a possible gas leak or water damage.
- If your landlord hasn’t followed through on the repair request, get three repair estimates from professional repairmen, and send copies to your landlord.
- If you decide to DIY some repairs, you need to inform your landlord and obtain their approval, preferably in writing…
- Make yourself available for maintenance workers during normal business hours or give them permission to access your home while you are not there.
You Can’t Enjoy the Privacy of Your Rental
Under Michigan common law, you have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of the rental. This means the government will protect you from landlords entering unannounced or without your permission. They’ll deem the act as trespassing, which is not allowed.
The only time landlords can enter are in the following situations:
- When you permit them to do so, often for conducting repairs, improvements, or to show the property to prospective buyers and new renters.
- When there is a real emergency that threatens life or the property (e.g., a fire, cracked water pipes, serious gas leak, and other similar circumstances).
- When the landlord has posted notice of legal entry for a specific day.
- When the landlord has reasons to believe that you’ve abandoned the property without giving notice or returning the keys; usually attempting to enter the property after a 24-hour notice.
If your landlord enters the home without your consent or providing proper notice, you can start by discussing the problem with them. Most landlords will be receptive to your request. After all, a little communication goes a long way.
Here are some of the personal rights you can bring up, if necessary:
- Your Right to be Alone: Your landlord can’t invade your privacy by spying on you, interrogating your visitors, being intrusive at odd hours, or entering the property without reason.
- Your Right to Quiet Enjoyment: Your landlord can’t breach the “covenant of quiet enjoyment” clause in the lease agreement, where you have the right to undisturbed use of the rental.
Now, if the landlord is a bit hard to talk with and the conflict continues, you can take it a step further by sending a demand letter. Emphasize and explain your concern amicably. Listen to what your landlord has to say, and try to find common ground and compromise. Clear and open communication saves you the trouble of escalating the issue.
You Disagree with the Security Deposit Deductions
The majority of the time, you should get the entire security deposit back at the end of the tenancy. However, your landlord can rightfully withhold the amount if you have unpaid rent, outstanding utility bills, or you’re leaving the property with damages beyond wear and tear. After all, the deposit is there to help the landlord protect their assets.
If none of these reasons apply, then you should get the entire amount when you move out.
Here are some tips to ensure that you get your security deposit back:
- Give a Forwarding Address: Provide a forwarding address to your landlord (in writing) before you move out, or at least without four days of leaving the rental. Without it, your landlord may keep the security deposit until you do something about it. Draft your letter with a template, so it’s easier.
- Document the Condition When you Move Out: Take pictures or a video on the day you turn the home back over to your landlord. Send to your landlord to make sure they play fair.
- Make Sure Your Landlord Follows Through: Your landlord should get back to you within 30 days. They’ll either return your deposit in full or show a list of damages with the corresponding balance left. Respond within 7 days, or you automatically “agree” to the statement of damages.
- Objecting to the List of Damages or Costs: If you want to object to the list of damages, you need to detail every point of your disagreement – you cannot just state you disagree with everything. You should also provide any proof to support your stance.. If both of you can’t come to a unanimous decision, your landlord can file a suit. The judge will then decide the proper amount that is owed.
If your landlord is charging you for existing damage when you moved in, you can refer back to the move-in checklist and the pictures you took before moving in to prove your innocence—and your landlord can’t deduct the cost from your deposit.
You’re Being Evicted without Cause
Your landlord needs to comply with the specific rules and procedures for evicting tenants. In most cases, they’ll send an eviction notice (e.g., 7-day notice due to nonpayment of rent). This simply asks the tenant to leave if they can’t meet the demands. Landlords also have legal grounds for issuing an eviction, such as intending to use the rental for themselves.
However, that may not always be the case, and you may not agree with the landlord’s reasons for evicting you. So, if you have a solid reason to fight the eviction, you can show up to the eviction hearing with a defense argument to explain your side of the story.
Here are a few examples:
- Retaliation: The judge may dismiss the eviction if you’re only trying to enforce your rights under the lease agreement or other laws. One example is if you reported a safety violation, but the landlord responded with eviction instead of doing the necessary repairs. NOTE: the landlord can evict you if a necessary repair may put your health at risk.
- Discrimination: The judge will deny the landlord’s request if the basis for eviction is discriminatory toward you. For instance, your landlord can’t evict you for having a certified service animal for your disabilities.
- No Cause in Public Housing: The judge won’t allow the eviction from a government-operated property (e.g., Section 8 or HUD homes) if there’s no cause for it. They’ll only accept reasons like lease violations, disturbances to other families, or illegal use of property other than a home.
These aren’t the only situations where the judge will stop the eviction from happening, but they are the most common ones that you might encounter. Keep them in mind when you’ve received a notice to evict to see if your landlord has a just cause.
By learning how you can handle these common problems, you can enjoy your stay in the rental without worrying about getting repairs done, having more privacy, receiving your deposit in full, and dealing with unreasonable eviction notices.
Of course, it’s always best to avoid these stressful situations—your landlord doesn’t want them either! Be open to communication and compromise, so you can have a smooth relationship with your landlord and a peaceful stay in your home.
Do you have other concerns? Leave a comment below, and our team will gladly get back to you.