Updated May 2013 by Heidi Burgess
These are disputes between landlords and tenants over rent payment, property damage, return of security deposits, repair and maintenance of facilities, etc.
Landlords and tenants.
Landlord-tenant disputes are an example of common complaints that can become intractable and flood court rooms. These disputes often become nasty because the tenant depends on a place to live and the landlord depends on their rental income. However, their mutual interest in the tenant staying in the house can also be a platform for the two parties to reach agreement.
How to Handle Landlord-Tenant Disputes
Practitioners argue that many landlord-tenant disputes can be avoided by open communication and both landlords and tenants knowing their rights and responsibilities. They suggest that the parties try not to assign blame and instead focus on negotiating a solution. They also recommend putting all complaints and agreements in writing. Document phone conversations about the problem as well.
If the dispute continues, parties can go to the local housing agency, the local district attorney's office or the local tenant association or rental housing association. Parties also may want to look into mediation. There are community dispute resolution centers all over the country that will help to mediate landlord-tenant conflicts, often for free. In some places, mediation is required before going to court. This saves expense for all parties: the landlord, the tenant, and the state, which has to pay extra money if welfare tenants are evicted and have to be moved to expensive motels. However, others argue that tenants are at a disadvantage both in court and in mediation because some landlords are more experienced and can afford better representation than most tenants. Some also worry that mediation is hard to evaluate because it is confidential. As a last resort, parties should take their dispute to small-claims court.