The relationship between a landlord and a tenant can be complex. On one hand, both parties stand to gain if they are able to work well together in the long term. The renter will ideally enjoy a prompt response to repair requests and the landlord will have someone who takes care of the space and respects their neighbors. However, it’s not always this easy, and both parties often feel that the other is not holding up their end of the deal. When disputes arise, what is the best way to solve them?

A recent article addressed this problem in the context of repairs to a rental property. It is very common for renters to feel like they aren’t having repair requests met quickly enough. Some may feel that they have no recourse against an unresponsive landlord, while others may go directly to fighting and create a larger conflict. There is some middle ground to be found.

Legal advisors for renters say that one helpful method to avoid dispute is to leave a paper trail. When you call to report a problem, send a quick email to confirm the date, time, and specific request that you made. It can also be helpful to establish a timeframe for the repair and then follow up if the repair is not made within it. Another thing that renters can do to help keep fact, fiction, and emotional turmoil separate in disputes with the landlord is to take pictures. Legal experts say that taking a picture of the mold on the ceiling or the broken window screen along with a date and time notation can help establish if the landlord has a pattern of neglecting repairs or if the dispute is the result of a misunderstanding.

The last line of defense for unsatisfied renters is to report problems to the city. This is generally most effective for resolving health or safety code violations.

If disputes between you and your landlord persist, or if you are a landlord who has an ongoing dispute with a tenant, it may be helpful to contact an attorney for advice on your specific problem.

Source: New York Times, “When a Rental Needs a Repair,” March 22, 2012.

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