Communicating with Your Landlord
Good communication is one of the most important aspects of being a successful renter, because it allows you to have healthy, positive relationships with your landlord and your neighbors. If you get along well with your landlord, you may also be able to ask them to be a reference for you on future rental applications.
Landlord vs. Neighbor Problems
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know who to talk to about housing issues: your landlord, or your neighbors.
Examples of landlord problems include:
- A broken pipe
- A faulty dryer
- A door that doesn't lock
Examples of neighbor problems include:
- Noise complaints
- Parking issues
- Storing items in hallways
When neighbor issues arise, you should try to address these problems with your neighbors first - you should involve your landlord only if it is absolutely necessary.
How you listen is just as important as what you say. Active listening shows the other person that you are making an effort to hear their concerns.
Simple Steps for Active Listening:
- Show the person talking that they have your full attention:
- Make direct eye-contact if appropriate.
- Let go of any distractions for the moment.
- Watch the other person's body language.
- Show that you are listening by using small gestures, such as nodding or smiling.
- Use small comments (e.g. "okay," "I agree," or even "uh huh") to show interest and give feedback
- Ask clarifying questions (e.g. "So what I hear you saying is..." or "Do you mean...").
- Avoid judgment.
- Don't interrupt.
- Give an appropriate response when the time is right.
When people feel strongly about an issue, their emotions may cloud their ability to clearly share their thoughts. This can lead to statements that come across as accusatory or angry. Another technique for solving problems is to replace negative statements with positive "I-statements." An "I-statement" is a sentence that helps people express their own feelings (using the word "I"), rather than focusing on blaming others.
These are some simple steps to creating I-statements of your own:
- Clearly state what YOU think, feel, or need.
- Avoid telling the other person what they are thinking, feeling, or must do.
- Make it your message. Use "I" instead of "you."
- Tackle one issue at a time - avoid confronting someone with a long list of problems.
- Explain the situation from your point of view.
- Avoid name-calling and accusations.
- Your feelings ("I feel..." or "I need...")
- Other person's action ("...when you do...")
- Reason for your feeling ("...because...")
- Your request ("I'd appreciate it if...")
Examples of Positive I-Messages
Each of the following negative statements has been re-worded as a positive I-statement.
- "You are always so loud. I don’t understand how you can be so inconsiderate!"
- "I have a hard time sleeping when you play your music loudly at night. I’d really appreciate it if you could turn the volume down after 10pm."
- "Move your car or I am getting it towed!"
- "I really need to get to work on-time, which is hard to do when I have to wait for you to move your car each morning. If you could switch to the other side of the driveway, that would help me a lot."
- "You better get up here and fix my sink!"
- "I am frustrated that my sink has not been fixed yet, because I asked about it last week. I would greatly appreciate it if you could please take care of that by Friday."
Steps to Settling a Conflict
Many of us try to avoid conflicts; however, that is not always possible (or healthy). Some conflict is inevitable. In these cases, it is usually best to work towards a solution rather than ignore the issue and hope it will go away.
Helpful Steps to Resolving Conflict:
- Set a time to meet when you are both calm and not busy.
- Begin by giving the other person a “positive message” about what is bothering you.
- Listen carefully to the other person’s point of view.
- Decrease areas of disagreement – find out what you can agree on.
- Offer solutions where you both give a little and get a lot.
- If you cannot resolve the conflict on your own, suggest a mediator whom you both respect.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process of settling conflict where a neutral third party (called a “mediator”) is brought in to help make sure the conversation is civil and productive. Mediation can be helpful when the conflict is especially volatile, or when there is a power imbalance – which can be the case in some landlord-tenant relationships. Landlord-tenant mediation services are available through United Tenants of Albany. To learn more, call 518-436-8997 x3.
Example Scenario: Communicating with a Landlord
You can use this scenario as a model for communicating productively with a landlord.
There has been water coming into your bathroom from the apartment above. It is a mess for you to clean up, and it is damaging the ceiling. You haven’t talked to the landlord since you moved in several months ago – you’ve heard from other tenants she can be short-tempered, so you are nervous about talking to her.
- What is the problem you need fixed?
- The ceiling is leaking.
- How is the problem affecting you?
- I have to clean up water all the time, and I’m worried the ceiling will get moldy from all the moisture and water damage.
- How do you feel about this?
- I’m frustrated – I pay rent every month, and this is what I get? I’m anxious that the ceiling will collapse or get moldy, and my kids could get sick.
Create an I-Message
“I’ve been feeling frustrated and worried, because there is a leak in my bathroom ceiling from the apartment above me. I need the leak repaired, because I am concerned about my children’s health and safety."
Try It Out
Find a friend or relative and have a practice conversation.
Planning: Next Steps
- What will you do if your landlord does not agree?
- The leak is a code violation, so I can call City code enforcement.
- What will you do if your landlord agrees to fix the problem, but does not follow through on their promise?
- If I don’t hear from her within a few days, I will email her to remind her (this way, there will be a written record of my request).
- If she still doesn’t respond, I will call the City.
- I will also call the Legal Aid Society to explore options for reducing my rent due to the code violation.