Good communication is the key to any successful relationship. Therefore, take the time to get to know your landlord. For your personal benefit, make an effort to know all rights and responsibilities.
Navigating Issues with Your Landlord
If a problem with your landlord arises, you have several options. Initially, attempt to remedy the problem by notifying the landlord with a written description of the issue you’re facing, preferably by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This lessens the likelihood of later misunderstandings and further serves to maintain a record of your attempts to have the problem solved. After being notified of a serious defect, the landlord has a “reasonable time” to rectify the complaint. The legal definition of a reasonable time depends on the circumstances of each individual case. If notification elicits no response from the landlord, there are several agencies that can help you with landlord information and problems. Don’t duplicate efforts – contact one agency. If the agency accepts your case, be sure to give them enough time to get results before contacting another agency. The agencies are as follows:
- Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
- Baltimore County Human Rights Commission
- Maryland Legal Aid Bureau
- Disability Rights Maryland
- Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
- University of Maryland, Baltimore JustAdvice® Project
Repairs and Reimbursements
- All tenants should strongly consider buying renters’ insurance. The landlord’s homeowner’s insurance will not cover the loss of your possessions. This includes loss due to theft or damage to the property such as fire or water damage.
- Never make repairs to the landlord’s property without first getting written permission. This includes a signed and dated statement about reimbursement to you.
- If the landlord neglects to repair the property and those repairs are health and safety violations, the tenant should call the housing code inspector for their respective county.
In any relationship, communication is of the utmost importance. Make it a point to communicate with your landlord in writing for any of the circumstances listed below. Send the letter by certified mail (return receipt requested) or take two copies of the letter to your landlord and have the landlord acknowledge receipt in writing on your copy.
When to Contact a Landlord via Certified Mail
- When damage has occurred between your pre-lease inspection and move-in
- Gas leaks, electrical problems
- Roaches or rodents
- Any other serious problems
- When you intend to terminate your lease (30 days notice is typically the standard)
- When you intend to sublet the apartment
- After move-out and after an inspection has been completed by your landlord to request a list of damages charged against your security deposit
A user-friendly and detailed pamphlet from the Maryland Attorney General on landlord and tenant issues for students can be found online.