While many landlords are honest and choose to do the right thing, as a whole, landlords do not have a good reputation.  You may have lucked out as a tenant and experience a professional and honest relationship with your landlord while living in your rental home, apartment, or condo. However, if your landlord has already started some shenanigans, the situation can become complicated quickly, and the ultimate outcome of your rental situation depends on a variety of factors.

If you suspect your landlord is trying to cheat you out of money, here are some steps you can take to prove your landlord is trying to swindle you:

Use your camera.  Ideally, you would have shot photos or videos of your rental unit when you first moved in.  This legally gives you great protection because you have proof of the state of your rental when you first moved in.  However, not everyone remembers to do this when they first move in.  If you didn’t take pictures, do so now.  In court, the more concrete and observable evidence you have on the state of your rental property, the better.

Do everything in writing.  If verbal requests to your landlord to make certain repairs have been ignored, make written requests.  But, also make sure to do them via certified mail so you have proof that you did send the letters and your landlord did receive them. This will help you prove that you did make requests for certain fixes, and then these fixes became your landlord’s responsibility to make.

Cite legal standards in your written communications.  Be direct and honest regarding your concerns, and cite the ordinances you believe the landlord is violating.  While standards will vary by state, search online for state specific information. Also, remember to keep your correspondence professional. Should you take your matter to court, you won’t be looked upon favorably if you are sending harassing messages to your landlord.

Work with an attorney.  Only work with an attorney if you have a very major situation on your hands.  Attorney’s fees can run up to a couple thousand dollars fairly quickly, and your fees owed to your landlord may only be a few hundred dollars.  That’s enough to annoy you, but not enough to make it worth you going to court.  In those cases, you can try and protest or be a thorn in the rental company’s side and hope for the best.

If you like to do things yourself, then it’s time to take your landlord to court.  Contact the county clerk to learn what the local procedures are for filing a suit.  In most cases, you’ll end up going to small claims court.  In some cases, if you can’t afford to pay the fees associated with filing a suit, there are organizations that can help you. To report a bad landlord in federal housing, you can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can also report your landlord to the Better Business Bureau.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to handle a landlord giving you a hard time. As much as you might try, the right thing doesn’t always happen. You learn from this experience and perform some due diligence before your next move. Before you sign another lease, ask your friends and family members if they have any recommendations for rental properties. You can also use an apartment search site like 407apartments.com to read reviews from other tenants who have lived at apartment communities.