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How to Write Appropriate Letters to Your Landlord
by Kari Lamanuzzi

When you need to communicate with your landlord, it's almost always best to do so via email or snail mail letter. Why? Because when you call your landlord and talk to somebody at the office (and even if you get your landlord himself on the line), there is no documented evidence that a conversation occurred.

For instance, imagine that your water heater broke and you need your landlord to come and fix the problem right away. It's wintertime, and cold showers are definitely out of the question for you. Well, what happens if your landlord doesn't respond in a day? Worse yet, what if a week has gone by and still no maintenance person has come to your rescue?

It's probably time to write a letter. As you write the letter, no matter how frustrated you may be with the situation that you're in (even if it's the landlord's fault!), it's important to maintain a cordial and respectful tone. After all, when you signed the lease, you entered into a legal relationship with the person. The last thing you want is for a nasty email, voicemail or letter to come back and haunt you in court.

In many circumstances, email may be the preferred method of communication for your landlord. Still, sometimes emails can get lost in an inbox, overlooked, sent to the spam folder or accidentally deleted. As a result, if you've tried email and haven't heard anything back, it's probably time to send an actual U.S. Postal Service letter.

To give you an idea, it's in good taste to start your letter "Dear Mr./Ms. Insert Name Here," as is the case with any polite letter. No matter how much you might want to give your landlord a piece of your mind, do yourself a favor and refrain from calling him a slumlord.

Once the letter has been started, make sure that you clearly state your name and address, as well as the problem that you'd like to have addressed. Just providing your first name is almost never enough, especially for landlords who manage many properties. After all, if you're confused with some other tenant, it's not likely your water heater will be repaired.

If you've tried to get in contact with your landlord several times in the past without success, tell him. Give the dates, times and names of the people you spoke to on the phone, as well as any emails that you have sent regarding the issue. Again, remember to be polite. Usually, this will kick the landlord into action. If still nothing has been done, it might be a good idea to seek legal counsel about the next step.

Besides notes about repairs or complaints, another instance where you would need to send a letter to your landlord is in the case of a sublease. If you plan on subletting your apartment out for a few months, you need to notify your landlord (even if it says that you're allowed to under your lease. If your lease doesn't address the matter or specifically prohibits it, you should be sending a letter to ask permission).

In the letter, address whether the subleasee will be paying rent to the landlord directly, or to you. Also make sure that the landlord knows the person's name, and ask if a credit check or anything else is needed before proceeding.

As is the case with just about anything, make sure that you make copies of all documents and save them until you're sure there isn't going to be a problem. Keep all communication with your landlord for at least the life of the lease.

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