Bad Landlords to Avoid - picture of woman holding out keys

Bad Landlords to Avoid

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Even the best-behaved tenants can end up dealing with a crappy landlord. However, many bad landlords show their colors early in the application process and you can avoid them if you know what to look for.  Before signing a lease, make sure that you won’t be renting from one of these types of bad landlords to avoid:

The Greedy Landlord

Some renters naively assume they’ll receive their deposits back in-full if they leave their apartment or rental home in decent shape. Unfortunately, many landlords are interested in keeping tenants’ security deposits – no matter how great their rental looks when they leave.

To avoid having a security deposit withheld, document everything upon the initial walkthrough. Any minor flaws- including nicks and scratches on walls and doors- should be written down and recognized by both the tenant and the landlord. Written proof and time-stamped photographs help tenants attest to damages existing before their leases, legally protecting them from financing repairs. Make sure documents are dated and signed by both parties. If a landlord refuses to sign walkthrough documents, it’s a major red flag for tenants who should consider searching for new apartments rather than risk being taken advantage of.

The Lazy Landlord

Part of the appeal of renting is not being responsible for structural repairs and other building upkeep. Unresponsive landlords, on the other hand, make leasing more stressful. Not only are maintenance issues left unaddressed, they can’t be fixed by tenants themselves. Furthermore, renters who call repairmen on their own might end up footing the bill.

If a request isn’t addressed right away, continue to attempt to reach property management. Make sure to document each correspondence, including the date of contact, problem at hand, and response (or lack thereof) by the landlord. If property management does not respond within 30 days, forward the documented message(s) by mail and request a return receipt to record a postmarked attempted request. If no response, send another letter and wait 15 days. Finally, send one last attempt and wait seven days. If there is still no response, the tenant can take the landlord to court.

As a preventative measure, befriend the maintenance crew. It’s easier to ask repairmen for favors directly than trying to submit minor requests through your landlord. This way, inconsequential problems such as clogged toilets and burned bulbs can be fixed without filing unnecessary paperwork.

The Invasive Landlord

Although renting out someone else’s space, tenants still have a right to privacy. The property manager may feel they have the right to drop by whenever they please, often to “check something out” or make friendly conversation. While it’s great for landlords to genuinely like their tenants, there should still be a degree of professionalism involved. Asking them to back off can make the situation even more awkward and ruin positive renting experiences.

Watch out for landlords who are a bit too friendly early in the process. Observe how they behave during the application process and their relationships with other residents. Typically, obtrusive landlords are more common in single family homes or small apartment communities. Inquire if property management lives on-site, as that is sometimes the reason landlords unintentionally cross boundaries.

Have you ever dealt with a landlord that falls into one of these categories?  If so, how did you handle it?

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36 Comments

  1. My version of the lazy landlord was when I lived in a house share and we split the bills equally. Sometimes the landlord would sit on them for a couple of months and front the cash, and hit us with two or three months of bills all at once. At that point, they definitely added up, so you needed to be more careful than she was and make sure to note which ones you had paid already just in case there was a duplicate in the stack from the previous go around. I don’t think she was trying to cheat us, just generally a flake sometimes.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad landlord thank goodness. These days we are landlords ourselves and we try to be good about it. Our current tenants in one of our rentals are pretty high maintenance, though. They once called us because they didn’t like a tree in the front yard and they wanted us to pay to have it removed. Um, no. Otherwise we try to take care of the genuine issues.

    1. We have had a few high-maintenance tenants before, but we don’t have any now. I’m glad!

  3. Hey Holly, I’m so happy I’ve never had to deal with any of these issues. I could imagine how annoying it would be to have a property manager show up at any time they wanted. Hopefully I’ll never have to deal with that. I’ve got a pretty sweet deal going on now. My landlords are in Hawaii and leave me alone…as long as rent is paid, they’re happy!

    1. Sweet. That makes sense. Do they use a property manager?

  4. I work really hard not to be any of these types of landlord. All of these are going to cause frustration for the tenant and ultimately drive them away. That will eat into profits and cause more work in finding new tenants all the time. If you are going to run a rental business, I really don’t understand why you would act in any of these ways.

    1. Me neither =) I try not to bug people as well. As long as they pay me and don’t break anything, I’m pretty happy.

  5. We had a lazy landlord. Our house got broken into and the landlord didn’t address the broken door and we got broken into 10 days later. It was a clear violation of the lease because the lease stated all repairs pertaining to personal safety would be dealt with in 48 hours. They refused to let us fix the door (all we wanted to do was nail it shut we would still have 4 more exits out of the house besides that door). They tried to say it was our fault we got broken into in the first place…

    Long story short, I got all my crap taken care of from renter’s insurance and my roomates got all their crap taken care of by a small claims court judgement.

    1. Yikes! Where were you living at the time? Sounds scary!

      1. 71st and Keystone. Not the worst neighborhood, but not the best. It was more our house location was the problem. Giant vacant lot on one side and surround by trees in the back and on the other side. So it was easy for someone to sneak in from the back.

  6. We had a lazy landlord one time and it was awful because we would tell him that something was broken and we wouldn’t hear back from him for days and then he would just give us a number of someone to call and handle it ourselves or he would ask us to find someone. It added a bunch more work to our schedules that we didn’t need from a rental.

    1. Hmmm….that’s strange! You would think he would want his property in working order?

  7. My “landlord” is a big property management company and for the most part they are pretty good. Although there was a rash of burglaries at one point in some of the units, the response from the management company was “you have renter’s insurance right?” Not too reassuring, but eventually they did change the lock and installed cameras.

  8. I think either I personally or since we’ve been married have dealt with all of these. The lazy ones are the worst, especially if you’re always waiting to get something done. With our greedy one we had to take them to small claims court to get our deposit back. They didn’t show up so they found in our favor. Thankfully we had a check copy from a rent payment which had their account number on it. The court let us use that to get all but like $5 from them.

      1. Yea, it was a headache. They weren’t our original landlords as the original one had gotten out of real estate. Their contract stated that the new one was responsible for security deposits and the new one claimed they weren’t. The contract was all the judge needed so since we had the returned check from our bank with their account number on it they pulled the money right out of their bank account. 🙂

  9. I was a landlord! There are always 2 sides to these situations. Finding an apartment is a lot like an interview, you need to look for signs of problems. You can cure a lot of these issues by just asking questions upfront. If you do not like the answers, you should go elsewhere.

  10. I had a landlord in college who would show up on no notice (not allowed!) and then see men’s shoes by the front entrance and tell us that the other group of tenants didn’t appreciate us having overnight visitors. My roommate’s boyfriend at the time lived out of town! When we called them on the fact that they needed to give notice, they then started doing work outside on no notice at 9 am because it didn’t require entering.

    My post-college landlords were much better since I always rented from large buildings with on-site leasing agents. They just liked to raise the rent a lot. Oh well, now I own my place and I just have to deal with property taxes and HOA dues going up!

    1. That’s creepy. It’s none of their business if you have a guy stay the night, right?

  11. #3 above is especially important if you’re a single woman. Several acquaintances have mentioned receiving more in-person calls than was necessary.

    Fortunately, we’ve been fortunate when we rented. One was a woman whose husband passed away and we rented the house. She never upped the rent, but the quid pro quo was we paid for the maintenance. Worked out well for both, because we left the place in better shape than we found it, and in the end the rent was a real bargain.

    1. That’s always nice.

      One of our renters probably has the house better than they found it. They put some really nice brick work in the front flower beds and keep the place spotless! They even edge the lawn.

  12. As a tenant we definitely don’t want to end up with these kind of landlords. It’s important to have everything documented and/or agreement on non-written rules. Nevertheless, I think the relationship goes both ways. If both parties are cooperative everyone will end up happy — since not all tenants are good tenants either I guess.

    1. Yep, there are bad tenants and bad landlords. It goes both ways!

  13. My last landlords were pretty lazy. I think it was because they were very lax about most things. Thankfully nothing major ever happened, but there were small inconveniences here and there that went days without being addressed after we brought it to their attention. I was a bit worried about intrusiveness as we rented a basement apartment, but other than kids being nosy and looking into our windows, we didn’t have any problems.

    1. Ha! I don’t know how I would feel about a basement apartment honestly.

  14. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    My last apartment, we moved into a place that was painted horribly. We had email proof of the apartment not being repainted before move in. They only gave us $400 of our $1,250. We forwarded them the email proof with the time stamp about the lack of paint before we moved in. We then got all back except for $100, which was fine with us. They are legally allowed to keep a reasonable amount of the deposit so it wasn’t worth fighting over the remaining $100.

    At our current place, we never got a walk through (management is not great at returning calls) so I have a sneaking suspicion we might have to pay some out of our deposit for issues that really weren’t our fault, like cracked tile due to being installed on uneven, sagging floors. They do make repairs quickly, however, so I have no complaints. They’re Orthodox Jewish so when it’s a high holy Jewish holiday and they’re gone for a week, we really can’t get in touch with them. When the building’s boiler died, the superintendent couldn’t get approval for the repairman to come replace parts because they were off. that was the one time our management truly sucked!

    1. What? That’s weird. We always paint between tenants and we’ve never charged them for it. It’s just common courtesy!

  15. I strongly believe that our apartment turned into a “show” apartment because we kept it so clean and tidy. When we were moving out it was probably shown 15 times. We were moving out so we were over it but I definitely can see how property managers can be obtrusive. I try my best to not be obtrusive to our tenant in the basement, but when you don’t hear from tenants all that often you start wondering if there are issues you aren’t hearing about. I might just be paranoid, though : )

  16. I had a lazy landlord before. He would take forever to fix things, or never fix things at all. It was extremely aggravating, but the rent was so low that we just let it all slip.

  17. I have never had a landlord, other than Uncle Sam. But I have heard of many horror stories. But no matter how many bad landlord stories there are, there are 100s as many bad tenants out there.

  18. forklft rental says:

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  19. When renting, I usually avoid landlords that is just my neighbor. They become more nosy than usual.

  20. I had a bad landlord that I ever meet. We paid rent on time rvery month when something broken down, called her she just asked me to call home serve or British Gas to sort the matter out. When the house guttering block tell her , she asked me to cleaned it. She asked us to move out, and finally she not happy and said she won’t give me a references.what the hell!!!

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