Tenants have many options, such as rent withholding, when it comes to getting their landlord to make repairs and improvements. (See the Nolo article Tenant Rights to a Livable Place for details.)
When it comes to dealing with a difficult landlord, one strategy is potentially more productive than others: Working together with other tenants. Your landlord will be much more willing to compromise when a number of tenants write a group letter complaining about repair or other problems.
Whether you pull together an informal group of tenants to sign a repair complaint letter, or you have a formally organized tenants’ group, you’ll be most effective if you write a letter with one clear, consistent voice.
Your group letter or petition should be worded politely but firmly, clearly set out your requests, and ask for the landlord’s response within a specific amount of time (such as five business days). Your letter does not necessarily need to threaten repercussions if your landlord is not cooperative. Better to have the letter carry the clear implication that your group takes its request seriously and that it will act in some as-yet-unspecified way if the landlord’s favorable response is not forthcoming. To reinforce this point, all tenants in the group should sign the petition or letter.
Use the Sample Group Petition to Landlord for Repairs and Property Improvements shown below as a model in preparing your own letter. Keep a copy of your letter and have a plan for following up if the landlord has not responded in a timely manner.
For advice on working with other tenants, including organizing a tenants’ group, see the Nolo books Every Tenant’s Legal Guide (or California Tenants’ Rights, if you’re in California). Also, contact a local tenant rights group for advice on the subject. To find a local group, check out the Tenant Rights section of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website which includes links to tenant unions.