Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Landlord Won’t Do Home Repairs

Dear Aunt Dara,

My husband and I are a newlywed couple having trouble with our landlord.  We go to the same church as the landlord and his family and he seemed like a friend to my husband because they used to work together.  We moved into his rental house in June right after our marriage.  When I moved in I completely understood that this house was a fixer-upper.  I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal because I was growing up my father would do the occasional fix-up on our house and it never interfered with our everyday lives.  In other words, we never had to move out in order for our house to be finished.  I have never seen anyone work on our house like our landlord does.  He takes way too much time to finish something that should only last a day, and then takes weeks or months before coming back and working on something else.  He's also always been trying to pick on my husband for certain things.  For instance, my husband mowed the lawn and it wasn’t to the liking of any of our neighbors or the landlord.  The landlord called my husband and chewed him out so loudly that it sounded to me like the landlord was in the room with us.  My husband confronted him because we thought he owed us an apology because there was no reason for him to come unglued like that.  The landlord yelled at him again saying, "IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR AN APOLOGY, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ONE!"  After insulting the way my husband does the lawn while he was mowing it, he went on to complain about his wife and daughter, calling them horrible names.  He only does this around my husband.  He acts like the perfect example of a Christian man around me.

I've wanted to confront him for months about his treatment of us because now he's resorted to lying to us about when he's going to work on the house.  They've had some medical problems come up with their daughter, and I fully accept that he won’t do anything to the house until after the new year (no matter how many times he lies and tells us that he will get to it soon).  However, I want a schedule and absolutely NO LYING about when he's coming over.  I have no idea how I'm going to do this, but something has to be done.  I'm better at writing things than I am about saying them, because when I try to say them, I get nervous and start crying and then you can’t understand what I'm saying.

This all seemed to start when my husband and I made enough money to get ahead on our rent (which I think is way too high considering the state he's left the house in) and my husband smiled and joked and said, "I don’t owe you for 9 weeks," which is a good thing, but our landlord seemed to take it as an insult.  Now my husband rarely goes and talks to him.  If he has to talk to our landlord about anything at all, I go with him since the landlord acts so nice and Christian around me.  I now realize that hindsight is 20/20 and I should never have moved into a house that still had work to be done on it.  My husband has asked the landlord if he can help him, but our landlord flat out says no.  He yells at his wife for doing everything wrong when she tries to help him with his work, so I assume that he doesn’t think my husband would do anything right either.  Right now, we cannot afford to move out because we have had some medical expenses come up, on top of an unexpected car repair recently.  I think my husband and I are between a rock and a hard place right now.  Should we just grin and bear it or is there anything we can do to make our relationship with our landlord more bearable?

Frustrated Renter 

Dear Frustrated Renter, 

I realize that this is a constant source of stress for you and your husband, and it's unfortunate that you are starting out your first year of marriage with this situation.  I am at a loss for explaining your landlord’s behavior toward your husband.  I realize that you are having difficulty living in a home that is in disrepair and you are not seeing things fixed in a timely manner.  However, I would not recommend that your husband do any of the work on the house because the landlord has specifically told him not to.  Also, you are unlikely to be given a schedule of when the landlord will do the work because you do not own the house.  The landlord does, and he doesn’t answer to you.  As the owner of the house, the landlord has full control over any repair or remodeling that needs to be done.  That includes making decisions about what work will be completed, when to do it, and how long to take doing it.  He could choose to do nothing!  If he feels that he is being pressured to complete the work, he might take even longer doing the work and not show up on the days he has promised to be there.  Therefore, I do not recommend any confrontations, written or otherwise, from you or your husband, but I do have three recommendations for you that should help to make the situation more bearable. 

My first recommendation is that you plan to move as soon as you can.  Did you and your husband sign a lease?  If so, you are obligated to remain in the house until the lease expires.  If not, you can move whenever you are able to afford it.  I don’t recommend making any more advance payments on your rent.  If you have extra money, set it aside in a bank account to use for your future moving expenses.   

Secondly, find a way to accept living in this house until you are able to move.  You have been living in it since June, so it must be in livable condition (to a degree).  How does the current condition of the house affect your everyday life?  How does living in the house affect your husband?  How does it affect your relationship with your husband?  What adjustments have you been making to be able to stay in the house for the past few months?  Then, keep telling yourself that you can tolerate anything as long as it’s temporary (II Corinthians 4:17-18).  However, anything that might be a safety risk, such as a missing stair banister, should be repaired as soon as possible.  So, ask the landlord (nicely) to fix that first whenever he has the time. 

Lastly, find a way to love and forgive your landlord.  If you don’t, your feelings toward your landlord will interfere with your ability to worship (Matthew 5:23-24) and will harm your relationship with God (I John 4:20-21).  Don’t focus on your landlord’s faults or be judgmental.  Instead, pray that God will bless your landlord and then find something good to do for his family.  When you speak to your landlord, avoid confrontations and don’t bring up the work that still needs to be done on the house (Ephesians 4:31-32, Proverbs 15:1, and Romans 12:18).  And when you pray, remember to thank God that you have a house to live in.  Many people in the world do not.

God bless,
Aunt Dara