When your tenant rights have been violated you may feel angry and helpless as to what you should do next. Luckily there are steps you can take to protect yourself and get some peace of mind. Rights violations may occur for a number of reasons, and can vary in severity. For instance, your landlord may break your lease, illegally enter your apartment or you may be a victim of housing discrimination. Different situations may call for different measures to be taken but the following steps will help serve as a general guideline for how you should proceed.
Step 1: Record the Incident
It’ll work toward your best interest if you keep detailed records. Write down the day and approximate times that the incident(s) occurred, who was responsible for the violation and a summary of what occurred. Also keep a log of any verbal conversations you have with your landlord and any other person who is involved in the dispute. Make copies of any letters or forms you write or receive and keep those on hand as well.
It’s also a good idea to write down exactly what kind of remediation you’re looking for, whether it’s a simple apology or whether you’re looking for solid proof that the situation won’t happen again in the future.
Step 2: Contact Your Landlord Verbally
It’s amazing how much can be resolved by having a simple conversation. Even if your landlord is the same person who violated your rights, he or she is the first person you should speak to. Make sure your landlord knows how your rights were violated and what your landlord can do to fix the situation. Avoid getting excessively angry, using profanities or anything else along these lines. More often than not, this will only make things worse.
Step 3: Contact Your Landlord in Writing
If nothing gets resolved during your verbal conversation with your landlord, write him or her a formal letter wherein you provide specific details about your complaint and how the situation can best be resolved to your satisfaction. Writing a letter lets your landlord know that you are serious about your complaint. Legally, such a letter will also help you in the future if the situation should escalate further.
Step 4: Seek Advice
Your best place to get information on your tenant rights is your local housing authority or legal aide office. Tenant laws can vary depending on the state in which you live. Housing professionals may suggest additional steps you take to try to remedy the situation. Most offices will also have brochures that contain helpful tips as well as forms you can use when dealing with your landlord. In most cases these services will be free of charge.
Contact an Attorney
If all else fails, you may have no other choice than to hire an attorney. Fees for hiring an attorney can be steep so you’ll need to weight out the risks and the benefits; however, in some situations this may be your only shot at fully protecting your tenant rights.