How to solve issues with your landlord

Having issues with your accommodation and not sure how to proceed? Take a look at Elliot’s step-by-step guide to addressing problems with your landlord and ensuring your voice is heard.

I’ve got more than my share of stories dealing with housing issues as a student tenant. Today, I want to share the step-by-step process that I use to resolve issues with problematic management – particularly when they’re determined to ignore you.

Why does this happen?

Short answer – there isn’t really incentive for a lazy property manager to fix issues or upgrade a student home.

  • Undergrads are, on the whole, inexperienced with escalating an issue in an attention-grabbing way.
  • Student houses are generally filled every year (regardless of state of house)
  • Students can be too polite – simply carrying on if ignored.

So: this article aims to offer a solution to these issues by breaking down the process of escalating an issue with an absentee or difficult landlord (without resorting to shouting down a phone).

But first, there’s something that you MUST do:

Be a good tenant

Because it’s literally in your contract.

Ensure you can unequivocally check off every point under the ‘Tenant Obligations’ section. Generally, this includes paying rent on time (legally the most critical), avoiding noise complaints, and keeping the house in reasonable cleanliness and repair.

Fail to do this, and your case may not be considered favorably – or even backfire, endangering you legally.

If this warning doesn’t apply to you, without further ado, here’s how to escalate an issue with your landlord.

1.     Contact them

But: do it right. This is the most important step.

First: CALL whoever is responsible for maintenance – tell them:

  • Exactly what the issue is (e.g. top drawer of the small cabinet in the room at the back of the house on the 1st floor has a collapsed floor – as opposed to ‘my cabinet’s broken’).
  • Exactly what you want done (‘I’d like either the drawer replaced, or the cabinet replaced entirely’ instead of ‘I want it fixed’).
  • Why it’s an issue (‘I took the room understanding I would have 3 drawers worth of storage, and I currently only have 2’).

Don’t hang up until you’ve written down:

  • What they intend to do (e.g. either come and take a look, or pick up a replacement and install it).
  • When they intend to do it – this is CRITICAL, because it sets up a timeline after which you can start escalating. Note the date that you can expect to hear back from them, or expect to see them.
  • Or: if they’re unwilling – why.

If you can’t get in touch: leave a message asking them to call you back.

Second: follow up the call/message with an email. Repeat both your request, and what they said they’d do, including any dates and times mentioned. Include photos of the issue, since this signals that you have photo evidence.

You’re leaving a paper trail, and proof you attempted to have your issues resolved.

If you can’t contact them (or they ignore you)- send an email with the request anyway, make a note of the date you tried to call, and skip straight to step two now. Otherwise…

Third wait. And if they don’t get back to you by the date they set…

2.     Make an appointment with a Housing Advisor

Since the service is free: I recommend using RUSU Housing Advice –just make an appointment via phone or email, or do a drop-in session during Advice Hours.

To do this, you need a copy of your housing contract (you should have one from your estate agent or landlord. If you don’t, request it), a printout of the email you sent, and if they didn’t reply – the dates you tried to call.

The goal is to understand:

  • What part of the housing contract’s been breached
  • How serious it is
  • How to escalate

3.     Escalate

This part’s simple.

Most likely – you’re going to be advised speak to Reading Borough Council, (since they handle health and safety breaches).

As luck would have it – Technical Officers from the Civic Office sit in RUSU every other week, exactly for this purpose.

This is where the legal pressure starts to happen. Base your actions off your advisor’s recommendations.

4.     Keep records – and expect contact from management

You’re nearly done. A council officer will now contact house management, informing them of the upcoming visit.

It’s likely that management will, at the very last minute, be VERY willing to solve all issues; so have a complete list of desired outcomes ready before this point, so you can simply hand it over.

If management doesn’t resolve- then the council will instruct you on what escalation will follow.

Keep a record of what happens – and follow their instructions, keeping in constant contact and sticking to any and all deadlines.

Conclusion

Overall, escalating an issue with a difficult landlord is a pretty simple process:

  1. Contact them both by phone and in writing.
  2. If they don’t respond – go to a RUSU Housing Advisor with your contract.
  3. Based on their response, escalate the issue (most likely with Reading Borough Council).
  4. Keep your record handy– and wait for the inspection. If it isn’t resolved by this point, RBC will help you escalate this legally.

Remember to be polite and professional throughout (being firm or annoyed is fine – just keep it civil and don’t take things personally). For the most part, people are just trying to maintain things as best they can.

But –others very definitely see vulnerable students as an opportunity to get lazy.

If this is the case, you now know how to escalate. Don’t let yourself be ignored.

You – and your house – will be better for it.

How to Relax When You’re Stressed

Between studies, work, and socialising, university can be a stressful time. Lucy has some great advice to help you relax when stress levels start to rise!

Without a doubt, university can be incredibly stressful.  You’re at university to study, but your social life is just as important and so finding the perfect balance between the two can be pretty hard! Stress is all consuming and will have both a physical and mental effect, but it is easily avoidable. Here are my tips on how to relax:

  1. See your friends and family. Finding the right balance between work and play is crucial. Cutting out too much work will make you stressed, and cutting out too much play will do the same. Seeing friends is a good way to relax and have fun.
  2. Yoga and meditation. I cannot stress enough how amazing yoga is for stress relief. It is one of my favourite ways to chill when everything is getting a bit much. It encourages you to focus on what is happening right in that moment, to focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body. You may feel silly the first time you try yoga, but anyone can do it and it’s free. I would recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She makes it accessible and fun. Check out her yoga for stress video here.
  3. If yoga isn’t for you, plain old exercise is good for stress relief as it releases endorphins and makes you feel happy.
  4. It’s pretty hard to feel stressed when you’re laughing, so watch a funny movie or see a friend who makes you laugh.
  5. Don’t procrastinate. I know this is easier said than done, we’ve all been there at 2am desperately trying to finish that assignment that’s due the next day. Once you get an assignment, or even just a small piece of work, go and do it almost straight away, that way you have time to do it bit by bit, and there’s none of that stress when all of a sudden the deadline is closing in and you’ve not done anything.
  6. Make a schedule and carve out time for uni work. I like to set out an hour or two each day for any work I need to do, because then I’m not spending the entirety of a day studying. When I have multiple deadlines all at once, I set a week for each one. Focusing on one thing at a time really helps.
  7. Never work later than 7pm (8pm at the very latest). The later you work the more you damage your sleep. The quality of your sleep is so important to stress relief and therefore try to relax in the evenings. Take some time for yourself by watching some TV or eating your favourite food.

Remember that stress can always be easily relieved, not just through these tips but also through many more. The main thing is that you don’t let the stress build up inside you until it all becomes too much. Notice the symptoms early and focus on yourself and how you feel.

Happy Holidays and Happier Studying!

Christmas is coming! Liam shares his tips on staying productive during the holidays.

Hey guys, as the festive season (and a well-deserved break) is approaching, I thought I would share 4 quick tips on how I improved the quality of my studying during the holidays.

My hometown, Milton Keynes, during the festive season is amazing.

  1. Balance

The term ‘holidays’ can certainly be a deceiving one. While it is perfectly reasonable to have as much fun as you can during this time, it is also perfectly reasonable to make sure you get some studying done. In other words, it is about learning to create a harmony between work and play. Personally, I found that if I spent my mornings studying, I could spend the rest of my day binging Queer Eye on Netflix. (It really is such a wonderful, wholesome TV show.)

  1. Planning ahead

I know, I know, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the next term when you have finally entered the holidays. However, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to check how your modules are structured for the next term. Typically, I look at my reading lists to see what books I have to study for each week. In fact, during the holidays I tend to read the first halves of my reading lists, which significantly reduces my workload for the following term.

  1. Schedules

Looking at a schedule during the holidays is akin to having to sit through Antiques Roadshow—it is not the most exhilarating thing. Despite all that, a schedule is a way of providing your day with some structure, and it makes you aware of the fact that you need to reserve some time for yourself to study. Having a schedule does not have to be an overcomplicated, month-long Excel spreadsheet. In actuality, I spare 5 minutes every morning to write a Word document with a few tasks and some accompanying time slots. For example, “Read 70 pages of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest from 10:00am to 11:00am’.

  1. Study Space

I will keep this one short and snappy as my word count is running out (I am sure you are all relieved by that). When I am at home during the holidays it can be a bit on the noisy side, so I found some local study spaces—such as my library and Starbucks—to keep myself focused on my work.

In my hometown, Campbell Park is such a relaxing place to study.

Well, I hope those tips helped out! Have a great holiday, guys!