Common Landlord and Tenant Disputes

Whether you are the landlord or the tenant, the relationship between the two is delicate and tricky. On one hand, the landlord relies on the tenant for income. Without the tenant, the landlord would have to find someone else to fill their vacancy or risk losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in rent every month. On the other hand, the tenant is living in a house or apartment that is owned by the landlord and has certain responsibilities and regulations to adhere to because of that.

It does not seem to matter whom you speak with, everyone has either had or knows somebody that has had a bad experience with either a landlord or was a landlord with a “bad tenant”. But how can these situations be avoided? If issues, like subleasing and ending leases early, are so common, why don’t people know how to properly handle them?

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common disputes that landlords and tenants have, and how they ought to be handled.

Subleasing is when the original tenant is unable to stay in their rental unit for whatever reason and is unable (chooses not to) terminate the lease early. For some landlords subleasing is not a problem, for others it is unacceptable. Generally, it is not the landlord that finds the subtenant. This can pose some concern and problems for landlords who are thorough and strict about background and credit checks.

Common concerns that landlords have with subleasing include

  • That the subtenant will not be financially reliable.
  • Any possible confusion as to whom the subtenant believes is actually in charge of the rental unit - an example of this would include contacting the original tenant about a problem with an appliance as opposed to the landlord.
  • Concern that the new subtenant might not have an acceptable credit score and might, therefore, be deemed unreliable by the landlord’s standards.

It is not uncommon for a building or a landlord to say that a unit is “not pet-friendly” or that there are “no pets allowed”. Although this can sometimes be changed upon speaking with the landlord and potentially paying an additional (or increased) security deposit, some landlords do not want animals in their rental units at all. This is where it is best, to be honest. If you are caught with a pet and have not spoken with your landlord about it being there, after having signed a lease that specifically states that pets are not allowed, your landlord has the right to terminate your lease early.

Now by no means does this mean that all will, however, it is important that you be aware of the potential consequences of not information a landlord of your animal friend.

Terminating a Lease Early
Life happens. Everyone knows this. And sometimes, our plan of staying in one spot for 8 months or a year, is just not feasible. This might be due to a change in your relationship, school, a change in employment…etc…There are lots of reasons. However, when a change results in having to terminate a lease early, you could be in for a bumpy ride.

How this situation plays out really depends on a few factors: how you approach your landlord, what kind of tenant you have been, how iron clad your lease is and your reason for leaving. Sometimes when life changes suddenly, especially when it is due to something completely out of your control, landlords try to work with you to either accept a subtenant or simply let you out of your lease without a problem. However, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, there are times when cases like this end up in court. Not due to any damaged property or anything like that, but due to the fact that the landlord has lost money because of your departure.

One of the best things that you can do is to speak to your landlord about your situation and see if there is any way that you can find a middle ground, or help to find a new tenant early.

Property Damage
There is a reason that now, most leases involve a security deposit. For a long time, landlords were stuck dealing with damages brought on by unruly tenants, or tenants that were simply not concerned with the state of their house. Now, while it is still the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the unit is in good and safe condition – tenants are being held responsible for paying a security deposit for any damages that they might cause to the property. This does not mean that if the oven that has been there for years breaks you as then the tenant will lose your security deposit. However, if you have put holes in the walls to hang pictures and have not filled them, or if you have painted a room without your landlord's permission you might lose part or all of that deposit.

Roommates that are not on the Lease
This last example of a common landlord/tenant dispute is perhaps one of the most common. When you sign a lease, you are signing for yourself – not for yourself and a friend 3 months of then. While it is sweet to want to help a friend or family member out during a time of need, allowing someone to stay for an extended period of time can be a huge problem for your landlord.

Think about it

  1. Your landlord does not have any background information on this person/people. If they do background checks on tenants, why would they be comfortable with random people staying in their building for an extended time frame?
  2. Suddenly maintenance becomes increasingly expensive – this includes utility bills and the use of appliances.

It does not matter if you are thinking about getting a pet or have a friend who needs a place to crash, a lot of the time the easiest way to avoid a major fallout and potential court dispute with your landlord is to speak with them. Often, speaking, and trying to negotiate a middle ground can avoid major problems and blow-ups between landlords and tenants. Keeping things peaceful and friendly for your both you.

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