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5.3 Effective Communication

Dispute resolution can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. Before submitting an application for a hearing, you should consider trying to resolve your problem through effective communication.  An effective communicator is respectful of the other person’s perspective, while also clearly and calmly stating their own position.  It is in your best interest to be professional when dealing with your landlord, regardless of how they have treated you in the past.  Stay focused on getting the best possible outcome rather than engaging in personal character attacks and aggressive comments.

Ideally, you should be communicating with your landlord in writing during your tenancy. If you discussed an issue verbally, follow up by summarizing the conversation in writing. It is also important to have proof of how you communicated with your landlord. Bring someone with you if you’re delivering a letter in person, take a picture if you’re posting a notice on their door, use registered mail to get confirmation of delivery, or request a “read receipt” when emailing. Putting all communication in writing, and having proof of how that communication was delivered, creates evidence that can be valuable if you ever need to go to dispute resolution.

 

It’s not always easy talking to your landlord, especially when you’re in conflict. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare ahead of time. It can be helpful to write down your main points in advance, or have a practice conversation with a friend or family member.
  2. Consider your timing. Try to have the conversation when you are feeling calm and can think clearly, rather than when you are upset and emotional.
  3. Stay on topic. Bringing up irrelevant issues from the past can derail the conversation and make it harder to address your main concern. If your landlord is getting off course, acknowledge that you have heard what they are saying, and then try to refocus them on the original conversation.
  4. Consider the other person’s perspective.  An effective communicator is respectful of the other person’s perspective, while also clearly and calmly stating their own. Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements can help. For example, instead of saying “You have to fix that leak”, try saying “I would really appreciate that leak being fixed.”
  5. Be professional.  It is in your best interest to be professional when dealing with your landlord, regardless of how they have treated you in the past. Stay focused on getting the best possible outcome rather than engaging in personal character attacks and aggressive comments.

Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Use the TRAC Template Letters to help you get started on writing a good letter.
  2. Keep your letter short and sweet. Stick to your main points and avoid overwhelming your landlord with irrelevant details.
  3. Organize your letter in a way that makes it easy to read.  If you are dealing with multiple issues, you may want to number them so you can address them one by one.
  4. Before sending your letter, review it, or have someone else review it. You may even want to take a night to “sleep on it” and see if you would change anything the next day.
  5. Think about the tone you are conveying.  Don’t simply send a letter to complain to your landlord.  You want your letter to be respectful and professional so that it helps you achieve a successful outcome. For example, do not write in CAPITAL LETTERS. This means that you are SHOUTING!
  6. Remember that your landlord may keep a copy of your written communication for their record. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want a third party to read.

You may struggle trying to find the right words when communicating with your landlord.  To help with this TRAC has developed a long list of template letters on bed bugs, deposits, illegal rent increases, and many more topics. Visit TRAC's website and use our letters as a starting point. From there you can add the details about your situation, the date, and your signature before sending them off to your landlord.