How to Write a Complaint Letter to Your Landlord

There are more households being rented now than in the past 50 years, according to Pew Research. One of the many advantages of renting is that tenants don't have to worry about property upkeep, repair, and maintenance the way homeowners do.

There are more households being rented now than in the past 50 years, according to Pew Research. One of the many advantages of renting is that tenants don't have to worry about property upkeep, repair, and maintenance the way homeowners do. However, problems do arise and landlords can't be everywhere which means tenants sometimes need to bring these issues to the landlord's attention.

The 10 most common complaints reported by J Turner Research are:

  1. Rental rates
  2. Poor grounds/common area upkeep
  3. Disorganized staff/lack of communication with staff
  4. Quality of response to maintenance requests
  5. Overall customer service of management staff
  6. Quality of parking/parking availability
  7. Concerns over security / safety / lighting
  8. Lack of upgraded amenities
  9. Pets not on leash/poor pet waste removal
  10. General lack of preventative maintenance

Most landlords appreciate knowing when their properties (or other tenants) are not up to par because, for the majority of property owners, their property is an investment . This being said, there are important things to keep in mind when filing a complaint with your landlord that will help protect you, as well as ensure your landlord receives the information they need to remedy the situation. When done properly, effective communication can help you have a great relationship with your landlord .

Before Writing The Letter

A letter of complaint to a landlord should be thoughtfully written and organized. Before you draft your letter, make sure you:

Don't Overwhelm Them

Don't Overwhelm Them

Landlords have a slew of things to manage and organize, plus they're only human. Be sure your letter targets just a few items, rather than a barrage of grievances. For many landlords, property ownership and management is their main source of income (ie, their jobs), and as with any career, being overwhelmed can reduce productivity, create stress and depression, and cause burnout . Try to be empathetic when you are considering your complaints.

Have Documentation and Proof

Have Documentation and Proof

This will not only verify your complaint but provide your landlord with specific information they will need to rectify the situation. Ambiguous complaints like, "Water is coming from somewhere," or "I saw a rat!" are not clear and concise enough for your landlord to tackle the problem. Instead, try to keep a log of specific dates, times, and locations where the problems exist. Snap photos when possible.

Reference Your Lease/Rental Agreement

Reference Your Lease/Rental Agreement

Every lease and rental agreement has stipulations. Although the two types of agreements  are different , each should generally have stipulations regarding aspects of your complaints. Scan over your agreement for issues regarding maintenance, landlord/tenant responsibilities, and dispute resolution. As you are researching the items in the lease agreement to cite in your complaint, also be mindful of your own responsibilities as agreed upon in the agreement and make sure you have fulfilled your side of everything.

Cite Local Laws

Cite Local Laws

In general, landlords are responsible for rentals to be safe and inhabitable. Local, State and Federal laws might be applicable to your complaint.  Research your individual state laws to determine if you can attach these references to your issue. For example, many state laws have noise ordinances so if your complaint is regarding noisy neighbors, give your landlord the legal foothold they might need to address the situation. This helps you both.

Be Prepared With Options

Be Prepared With Options

Your letter of complaint should include ways in which you will remedy the situation should your landlord fail to respond or repair the problem(s). However, be sure you do not include anything that you cannot (or won't) back up. If your intention is to withhold rent so that you can address the problem yourself, be sure to state this clearly so your landlord understands. In the worst cases, you may want to take your landlord to court but it can be costly and time-consuming to do so without proper documentation, proof, and legal footing so before you mention litigation, be sure you are prepared to back that up.

Writing The Letter

As with any professional correspondence, your letter should be professional, concise, and direct without being abrasive and threatening.

Be Professional

Be Professional

Avoid using slang words, contractions (can't, don't, won't), harsh words, or jargon. Nobody likes to feel attacked so if you present your landlord with a candid but composed letter, they will be more receptive to it.

Get Straight To the Issue

Get Straight To the Issue

While opening your letter professionally such as, "Dear [name], I hope this letter finds you in good health," is okay, beating around the bush with small talk will detract from the purpose of the letter.  Communications experts suggest you ask yourself two questions before beginning your message: "What am I asking for?" and "What's my main message?".

Include Details

Include Details

A clearly-written, easy-to-understand letter will help make reading it easier for your landlord. Address each item independently and follow each item with supporting evidence and documentation before moving on to the next issue. If writing is not one of your strong points, consider using an online outline maker which is a free and useful way to create precise lists with topics and subtopics.

Request Specific Resolutions

Request Specific Resolutions

For each complaint, include the specific results you want to see. For example, if there is a problem with a pest infestation, indicate you want to see the property sprayed and treated so there is no more evidence of the infestation by a certain time. Or, if you are seeing water damage, inform the landlord that you want to see the water stains removed and the source of the problem fixed by a certain time. This will give your landlord a clear picture of your expectation as well as provide protection for you in the event that your request is not fulfilled.

Explain Your Intentions

Explain Your Intentions

Calmly let your landlord know what your response will be if these complaints are not addressed and remedied. Depending on the severity of the complaint, your options could be anywhere from witholding rent for repairs to contacting the local housing authority for code violations. Whatever your stated intentions are, be sure you are prepared to follow up with them.

Allow Reasonable Time for Response

Allow Reasonable Time for Response

Experts say response time for landlords is dependent on the severity of the issue - ranging from 24 to 48 hours. However, allow your landlord one to two weeks to respond to your complaints, especially if you have multiple issues. Inform your landlord of the best way to contact you to and explain by what time you expect to hear a response.

Proofread and Edit

Proofread and Edit

Before printing your letter, read back over it to make sure there are no typos or errors, and it follows the guidelines above. Once you are satisfied, print a copy and proofread it again. It can also be helpful to ask a friend or partner to read it as well. Be sure you include your contact information and date and use a proper professional letter format .

Be sure to keep a copy of the letter for yourself, along with the supporting documentation and proof you have, before sending your letter. It can be useful to send the letter by certified mail which will ensure that your landlord receives it directly, and also provide you with the proof you need to show that you have contacted them with the information, should they not respond. Conversely, digital communication is becoming more widely used among tenants and landlords so an email, followed by a text message alerting them of it, might also suffice as it will also provide proof that the letter was sent.

Most landlords want to have happy tenants so working with your landlord in a professional manner is a great way to ensure both of you have a good working relationship.

If you have any questions about how you can address property issues with your landlord, contact us today and let us help your landlord discover new and creative ways they can keep the lines of communication open.



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