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How to spot a bad landlord

How to Spot a Terrible Landlord Before you Rent



I’m an expert on bad landlords. But not by choice. I’m just lucky, I guess.

My most interesting landlord story happened a few years ago. He had an odd habit of showing up, unannounced, just to “check on the place.” When his drop-bys started happening after dark, I told him to knock it off.

A few weeks later, I had been out of town. I came home late one night and headed straight to the shower. Mid-rinse, I thought I heard a noise. Wrapping myself in courage and a towel, I stepped out to the hallway – and saw my landlord sneaking out the front door.

Realizing he thought I was still out of town and had let himself in to snoop, I was furious. I called him, he started screaming, and it all went downhill from there. I moved out a week later.

The moral of the story: Never rent from a terrible landlord.

Renting a property can be an exciting experience, offering freedom and flexibility. However, it can also come with challenges, especially when dealing with bad landlords. A bad landlord can turn a dream rental into a nightmare, causing stress, frustration, and potential legal issues for tenants. In this article, we will explore the signs and types of bad landlords, providing valuable insights to help you identify and navigate such situations effectively.

Understanding Bad Landlords

In the realm of property rentals, encountering a bad landlord can be an unfortunate reality for tenants. It is vital to grasp the concept of bad landlords and the negative implications they can have on the renting experience. A bad landlord is someone who consistently fails to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities towards their tenants, leading to a host of problems and frustrations. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of bad landlords is essential for tenants to safeguard their rights and ensure a harmonious and satisfactory living arrangement. By delving into the world of bad landlords, we can shed light on their impact and empower tenants with the knowledge to navigate such situations effectively.

Bad Landlord Statistics: Understanding the Scope of the Issue

Dealing with a bad landlord can turn a dream rental into a nightmare. Unfortunately, many tenants have experienced the negative consequences of renting from irresponsible or problematic landlords. To shed light on the scope of the issue, here are some key statistics related to bad landlords:

  1. Tenant Complaints: According to a survey conducted by, approximately 15% of tenants reported experiencing issues with their landlords. These issues ranged from delayed repairs to intrusive behavior and unfair rent increases.
  2. Lack of Property Maintenance: The lack of proper property maintenance is a common complaint among tenants. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) reported that around 43% of rental properties in the United States were considered substandard or in need of significant repairs.
  3. Evictions and Illegal Practices: According to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, there were over 2.3 million evictions filed in the United States in 2016. Some landlords engage in illegal practices, such as wrongful evictions, discriminatory actions, or unauthorized entry into rental units.
  4. Landlord-Tenant Disputes: Landlord-tenant disputes are not uncommon. In a study by the American Bar Association, it was found that 25% of lawyers surveyed reported that landlord-tenant disputes constituted a significant portion of their caseload.
  5. Tenant Harassment: Tenant harassment by landlords is a distressing issue. In a survey conducted by the Urban Justice Center, it was found that 5.8% of tenants in New York City reported experiencing harassment from their landlords, including threats, intimidation, and unauthorized entry.
  6. Legal Complaints and Violations: The Rental Protection Agency reported that approximately 90% of the complaints they received from tenants involved violations by landlords, such as failure to make repairs, illegal entry, or unfair practices related to security deposits.

These statistics highlight the prevalence of bad landlord practices and the negative impact they can have on tenants. It is crucial for tenants to be aware of their rights, document issues, and take appropriate steps to address problems with their landlords.

Note: It is important to recognize that statistics may vary across different regions and may change over time. The provided statistics are based on available research at the time of writing and are intended to provide general insights into the issue of bad landlords.

Types of Bad Landlords

When it comes to renting a property, having a responsible and reliable landlord can make all the difference in creating a positive and stress-free living experience. Unfortunately, not all landlords fit this description. There are various types of bad landlords that tenants may encounter, each with their own unique traits and behaviors that can turn a dream rental into a nightmare. From the neglectful to the intrusive, understanding the different types of bad landlords can help tenants identify red flags and navigate challenging situations effectively.

The Negligent Landlord

The negligent landlord is characterized by a lack of care and responsibility towards their property and tenants. They fail to address maintenance issues promptly and disregard tenant concerns, resulting in substandard living conditions and deteriorating rental properties.

The Absentee Landlord

An absentee landlord is rarely present or available to address tenant needs. They may live in a different city or country, making it challenging to reach them for urgent matters. Dealing with an absentee landlord often leads to delayed responses, unresolved issues, and a sense of neglect.

The Intrusive Landlord

An intrusive landlord invades tenant privacy by frequently visiting the rental unit without proper notice or legitimate reasons. They may snoop around personal belongings, causing discomfort and a lack of security. Dealing with an intrusive landlord can be emotionally distressing and violate the tenant’s right to privacy.

The Unprofessional Landlord

The unprofessional landlord lacks the necessary skills, knowledge, and professionalism to manage rental properties effectively. They may exhibit rude behavior, engage in unprofessional communication, or mishandle important administrative tasks. Interacting with an unprofessional landlord can lead to frustration and a breakdown in tenant-landlord relationships.

The Harassing Landlord

The harassing landlord engages in abusive, discriminatory, or harassing behavior towards tenants. This can include verbal or physical threats, invasion of privacy, or discriminatory practices. Dealing with a harassing landlord is not only emotionally distressing but also potentially illegal, requiring immediate action to protect one’s rights.

Signs of Bad Landlords

When searching for a rental property, it’s essential to not only consider the location, amenities, and price but also the quality of the landlord. A good landlord can ensure a smooth and pleasant renting experience, while a bad landlord can quickly turn it into a nightmare. Recognizing the signs of a bad landlord is crucial for tenants to protect their rights and well-being. From unresponsive communication to neglecting property maintenance, there are various indicators that can help identify a problematic landlord.

Unresponsive Communication

One of the primary signs of a bad landlord is unresponsiveness. When you encounter difficulties reaching your landlord or receiving delayed responses, it can hinder your ability to address urgent issues or concerns. Lack of communication often indicates a lack of care and attentiveness towards tenants.

Neglecting Property Maintenance

A responsible landlord takes pride in maintaining their property. However, bad landlords may neglect essential repairs and maintenance, causing inconvenience and potential hazards for tenants. Persistent issues such as leaky roofs, faulty plumbing, or malfunctioning electrical systems are red flags to watch out for.

Ignoring Tenant Concerns

Good landlords value their tenants’ satisfaction and address their concerns promptly. Conversely, bad landlords dismiss or ignore tenant complaints, allowing problems to persist without resolution. This lack of responsiveness can lead to prolonged dissatisfaction and deteriorating living conditions.

Breaching Privacy Rights

Respecting tenants’ privacy is a fundamental obligation for landlords. Unfortunately, some bad landlords disregard this right by entering the rental unit without proper notice or justification. Intrusive visits and unauthorized access to personal space can make tenants feel violated and uncomfortable in their own homes.

Violating Rental Agreements

A rental agreement serves as a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties involved. Bad landlords may violate these agreements by altering rental terms, increasing rent arbitrarily, or imposing unreasonable restrictions. Such actions can create an unfair and unstable living environment.

Dealing with Bad Landlords

When faced with a bad landlord, it’s crucial to take appropriate steps to protect yourself and resolve the situation. Here are some essential strategies to consider:

Document Everything

Maintain a detailed record of all interactions, including emails, letters, and conversations with your landlord. Documenting instances of neglect, unresolved issues, or breaches of agreement will provide valuable evidence if legal action becomes necessary.

Know Your Rights

Educate yourself about tenant rights and local landlord-tenant laws. Understanding your legal protections empowers you to assert your rights and seek appropriate remedies for any violations.

Communicate Effectively

When addressing concerns with your landlord, be clear, concise, and assertive. Put your concerns in writing and request written responses. Effective communication helps establish expectations and demonstrates your commitment to resolving issues amicably.

If your attempts to resolve conflicts with your landlord prove unsuccessful, consult with a lawyer specializing in landlord-tenant disputes. They can provide expert guidance, help you understand your options, and represent your interests if legal action is required.

Find out: Don’t Get Blindsided by These 11 First Apartment Expenses

Questions To Consider About A Landlord

When embarking on the journey of renting a property, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate the landlord before committing to a lease agreement. A responsible and trustworthy landlord can make a significant difference in your rental experience. To ensure you make an informed decision, here are some key questions to consider about a landlord:

Do they care about appearances?

You may be able to spot a bad landlord as soon as you pull up to the property.

“Inside and out, you can tell a lot just by seeing the property, especially if the general appearance isn’t kept up,” says Jeremy Schuster, a property manager with Metroplex Property Management in Fort Worth, Texas.

As soon as you pull up, Schuster says to ask yourself three questions, “Is the lawn cared for? Is the house cared for? Is stuff left undone?” If the landlord isn’t taking care of the property before you rent it, he probably won’t after you move in.

Do they leave the lights on?

On your walk-through, flip on the first light switch you see. If the lights are off, Schuster says, “It’s probably a good sign the landlord is trying to hide something about the property.” Generally, landlords have the option to have the power switched back into their name automatically when a tenant moves out, so they can make repairs, clean up, and show the property.

Without power, you can’t properly test light fixtures, fans, appliances, or spot problems in dark corners – and a shady landlord knows that.

Are you being rushed?

“The landlord should take at least an hour of his time to let you walk through the rental, ask questions, and test stuff out,” Schuster says. If the landlord is rushing you through the tour, acting impatient, or otherwise trying to get you out faster than you’d like, it might be a warning sign. Either the landlord doesn’t want you to see the place is a slum, or he doesn’t care who he rents to.

Find out: The Cities Where it’s Cheaper to Rent Than Own.

Are they acting like a pro?

Not long after moving from my old place, I found a rental on Craiglist that seemed perfect. When I pulled up, I was greeted by a man in baggy sweats, a stained tank top, and sandals. During the walkthrough, he bragged about evicting two tenants, complained about another one, and scratched himself in an inappropriate place before trying to shake my hand.

I went with my gut and rented from someone else down the block. After moving in, I learned my neighbors called him “Local Slummy.”

While not all landlords need to show up in a suit and tie, be wary of any unprofessional behavior. That’ll only escalate once you sign the lease.

Do they call you back?

I keep a mental stopwatch running from the moment I call about a rental, and for good reason.

“If you don’t hear back from a landlord within a few business hours, it’s a big sign that once you are in there it will be even harder,” Schuster says. When you need maintenance or have a problem, you’ll end up having to hunt your landlord down just to get a response – and that will make living there miserable.

If you really like a rental, it may be worth giving the landlord a second chance. But Schuster says you should test their communication skills: “After looking at a property, call the landlord with a few simple questions. If they get right back to you, the first time was probably a fluke.” But if they still don’t respond, walk away.

The lease is a big deal, and it’s your last chance to spot a terrible landlord before they’re your terrible landlord for the next 12 months. First, make sure the lease is “from your state office or state apartment association,” Schuster says.

Generally, these leases have the state seal or wording identifying them as an approved rental lease. If the lease looks heavily altered, or like something the landlord typed up himself, proceed with caution. Schuster adds, “More than likely, there is strange and contradictory wording in there that’s likely to screw you over.”

If the lease looks legit, comb over it carefully. If you find anything written heavily in the landlord’s favor, ask him to change it. The landlord won’t consider adjusting unfair terms? Walk away. If he will make adjustments, or the lease looks fine as is, and he’s passed the other tests, go ahead and sign. You’ve probably found a good landlord.

Additional questions

  1. How responsive is the landlord to communication?
  2. Does the landlord address maintenance issues promptly?
  3. What is the landlord’s track record in resolving tenant concerns?
  4. Does the landlord respect tenant privacy rights?
  5. Has the landlord been involved in any legal disputes with previous tenants?
  6. How long has the landlord been in the rental business?
  7. Are there any complaints or negative reviews about the landlord?
  8. Does the landlord provide clear and transparent rental agreements?
  9. How does the landlord handle rent increases and lease renewals?
  10. What is the landlord’s policy on security deposits and refunding them?
  11. Does the landlord conduct regular property inspections?
  12. Are there any restrictions or limitations imposed by the landlord?
  13. Is the landlord willing to provide references from current or past tenants?
  14. How does the landlord handle emergencies or after-hours issues?
  15. What is the landlord’s preferred method of communication?

Asking these questions and obtaining satisfactory answers will help you gauge the landlord’s reliability, professionalism, and commitment to tenant satisfaction. Remember, a thorough understanding of the landlord’s behavior and practices is crucial to ensure a positive and harmonious rental experience.

Find out: 8 Strategies to Get Approved for an Apartment When You Have Poor Credit



Can I break my lease if I have a bad landlord?


While the laws vary depending on your jurisdiction, in certain circumstances, you may be able to break your lease if you have a bad landlord. Consult local laws and consider seeking legal advice to understand your options.


What should I do if my landlord refuses to make repairs?


If your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs, document the issues, and communicate your concerns in writing. Check your local laws regarding repair obligations and consider involving relevant authorities or seeking legal advice.


How can I protect my privacy from an intrusive landlord?


If you have an intrusive landlord, familiarize yourself with local laws regarding landlord access and privacy rights. Keep a record of any unauthorized visits or breaches of privacy and communicate your concerns to the landlord in writing.


What legal recourse do I have against a harassing landlord?


If you have a harassing landlord, consult with a lawyer experienced in landlord-tenant disputes. They can advise you on the appropriate legal actions to take, such as filing a complaint with local authorities or pursuing a lawsuit.


How can I find a reliable and responsible landlord?


To find a reliable and responsible landlord, thoroughly research potential landlords by checking references, reading reviews, and asking current or previous tenants about their experiences. Additionally, carefully review the rental agreement before signing to ensure fair terms and conditions.

Renting a property should be a positive and hassle-free experience, but unfortunately, bad landlords can turn it into a nightmare. By recognizing the signs and types of bad landlords, you can protect yourself and take appropriate steps to resolve any issues that arise. Remember, knowing your rights and documenting everything are crucial when dealing with challenging landlord situations.

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