Being a good tenant requires a lot of responsibilities. A good renter keeps the place clean, follows the lease agreement, and pays rent on time. It also means communicating with your landlord if there are any issues. A lot rests on being a good tenant—both if you’re renting currently or plan to rent in the future. If you cause issues for your landlord, they can evict you. A bad tenancy record can affect your ability to rent in the future. Renters might wonder, though, what to do with a bad landlord?

What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities?

To know what to do with a bad landlord, you need to understand a landlord’s legal responsibilities. A landlord is responsible for the upkeep and safety of the property. Dealing with a bad landlord can seem like a big task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Landlords must follow federal and state laws, and oftentimes local laws as well. Sometimes the lease agreement lists their responsibilities, but not always. These laws ensure that the rental property is habitable, safe, and running correctly. These laws include anti-discriminatory rules, which are pretty self-explanatory. Others, like meeting state security deposit laws and keeping the property habitable, can be convoluted. Even worse, a bad landlord may try to find loopholes or ignore these responsibilities outright.

What to Do With a Bad Landlord: Tenant Responsibilities

Some renters might feel intimidated by their landlords because of the perceived power dynamic. It can be really easy to trick yourself into thinking you don’t have rights as a renter because your landlord can kick you out. Tenants, however, have rights. As long as you’re a good tenant and follow the right steps, dealing with a bad landlord can be simple.

Signs Your Landlord Isn’t Doing Their Job

If something that your landlord does feels fishy to you, chances are you should look into it and see.

Rent — Raising rent unexpectedly, especially mid-lease, is illegal. In Colorado, landlords can’t increase rent more than once in a continuous 12-month period. Even in cases where renters don’t have a written lease agreement, landlords must provide 60 days’ notice of a rent increase. Knowing what to do with a bad landlord means knowing when they can and can’t raise rent.

Maintenance requests — Maintaining the property is up to both the renter and the landlord. Renters are typically in charge of general maintenance. These responsibilities can include replacing light bulbs, replacing smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries, and lawn care. Renters are also in charge of communicating with the landlord when bigger repairs are necessary. If the maintenance request goes continually ignored by the landlord, you’re dealing with a bad landlord.

Building safety — Landlords are legally obligated to make sure their property is livable. If important repairs, like fixing a heater or a toilet, go undone, you’re dealing with a bad landlord.

Security deposits — This one can be especially annoying when dealing with a bad landlord. We’ve all heard horror stories about landlords who refuse to give back a security deposit. It can be hard to know what to do with a bad landlord who won’t return a security deposit when the property is in excellent condition upon leaving. If a landlord refuses to return a security deposit, they should be able to provide adequate documentation. If they cannot—or refuse to do so—you could be dealing with a bad landlord and should inquire further.

How to Report a Bad Landlord

When dealing with a bad landlord, there are a few options for renters. First, review your lease agreement. Depending on the situation, the solution might be in your lease agreement. Checking here first can save a lot of time and energy when dealing with a bad landlord

After looking through your lease agreement, start documenting the problems you’re dealing with. If the washing machine stopped working and the landlord ignored your maintenance requests, keep records. Take pictures/videos of the washing machine not working and keep documents of requests, all with time stamps. These receipts will save you if you decide to make it a legal case. Another way is to send requests as certified letters. That way the request is official and you have a copy. 

Knowing what to do with a bad landlord doesn’t always require legal intervention. If the building isn’t livable, tenants can withhold rent in Colorado until the landlord makes repairs. Renters can also report a bad landlord or file a complaint if the landlord is working for a property management company. 

If nothing else works when dealing with a bad landlord, renters can seek legal advice. This can mean moving forward with a civil lawsuit. However, threatening legal action when dealing with a bad landlord could be enough. If the landlord knows they’re in the wrong, they could admit fault without it turning into a civil lawsuit.

How to Avoid Bad Landlords

Unfortunately, bad landlords are common when they’re working by themselves. Sometimes dealing with a bad landlord can just mean dealing with someone who doesn’t know that property management is a business. You can take the route of knowing what to do with a bad landlord

You can also avoid these kinds of landlords all together by renting with a property management company instead. If you’re looking for a reliable, informed property management company, Henderson has you covered. Knowing what to do with a bad landlord shouldn’t be your responsibility. Renting with Henderson means not dealing with bad landlords. Check out our renter overview for more information.