Podcast 377: Does the Landlord Pay When Tenant Requests Repairs?

In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Andrew Schultz, chats about tenants that make a request for an unnecessary repair or upgrade.

When dealing with contractors for your rental, find out if it is the tenant or the landlord’s responsibility to let the workers in.

Last, but not least, find out what a landlord should do when a tenant is allowing their children to create unsafe conditions at a rental property.

Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. This is episode number 3 77, and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about who lets contractors into a property tenant versus landlord. What to do when tenants allow their children to create unsafe conditions at your rental property and making tenant requested improvements to a rental who pays the bill will get to all that right after this.

Voice Over: (00:30)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.

Andrew Schultz: (00:35)
Before we jump into today’s episode, don’t forget to check out the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. It’s a great free resource for you to not at work with housing providers from around the country. And if you have a question or a situation that you’ve never dealt with before with over 12,800 members, chances are someone in the group has been there before and can lend a helping hand we’re on the push for 13,000 members. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions. So we know how you found us

Voice Over: (01:05)
Water cooler wisdom, expert advice from real estate pros.

Andrew Schultz: (01:13)
Our water cooler wisdom. This week comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. This is a question all about doing maintenance on it, occupied unit. Let’s go ahead and jump right in. If a tenant will not be home to let a service person in, is it the landlord’s responsibility to stay there the entire time that they’re working on the unit? Or do I just have to let the service person in? I trust these guys, but I’m thinking I may need to stay the entire duration just so I can be sure that they don’t steal anything, but he was not even able to give me an estimate of how long he would be there to work. So could be sitting there all afternoon. What do you do in these cases? And again, this comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group.

Andrew Schultz: (01:50)
Um, I’m gonna ruffle some feathers on this one. I guarantee you that people will not necessarily like my response to this, but let’s go ahead and jump into it. The safest thing that you can do obviously, is to physically be there the entire time that a contractor is doing work on the property or ensure that the tenant is going to be home so that the contractors accompanied the entire time, chances are your tenant had to be there to meet the electric company, gas company, cable company, internet, whatever. When they moved into the unit, sometimes taking a day off to have something fixed in your house is just a fact of life. And it’s a of life for both landlords and for tenants as property owner, there are times where we have to be home to have something looked at our own house. Guess what?

Andrew Schultz: (02:32)
You stay home that day. And honestly, sometimes tenants are gonna have to do that too. If they don’t want someone in their home, when they’re not there, it’s not an undue burden on the tenant. It’s literally the exact same burden you would have if you own the, and something broke. Realistically speaking, if I had to sit at every single job that we have going on at every single property that we manage, no other work would ever get accomplished. I think of it from the perspective of an apartment complex that has in house maintenance. They’re not gonna send somebody from the office to watch the person with the hammers and wrenches do their job, that person’s an employee and they’re expected to do the job responsibly and respectfully in the presence of someone else’s home. And obviously just because the maintenance guy is wearing a shirt that says the name of the apartment complex on it doesn’t necessarily mean that that apartment complex is managed by the ownership.

Andrew Schultz: (03:21)
It’s more than likely a third-party property manager with a direct-hire maintenance employee. Guess what? That’s just a contractor with extra paperwork. We have contractors that we’ve worked with for years at this point, contractors that we know and trust guys that I know and trust to walk in and out of my own home when I’m not there and do work. Those are the type of contractors that I have no problem giving a key box code to and sending into an apartment where no one is home to do work. And if the tenant gives permission for someone to be in the property, when they’re not home, I don’t see an issue with it. Now, am I gonna do this with every single contractor that we work with? No, absolutely not. I’m never gonna give a utility worker unrest access to, uh, an occupied apartment that someone’s not home in.

Andrew Schultz: (04:04)
I’m not even gonna give one of my newer contractors unrestricted access to someone’s apartment. That’s one of those trust things that has to be earned over the course of time. And by the way, I will mention that, yes, we have had tr tenant’s tried to pull the, oh, they so stole stuff from eCard. Not once has anything ever come to fruition on any of those claims? It’s not like these claims are happening all the time. I’m talking about maybe once a year or every year and a half. We may have something that pops up like that, and it’s never gone anywhere. It’s never turned into an issue. We only work with insured contractors. We have a copy of their insurance on file in our office. And we have to be named as an additional insured before they’re allowed to work on our jobs if there was ever an issue.

Andrew Schultz: (04:46)
And it got to the point where we were unable to resolve it without becoming a court action, without it becoming a court action or something like that, obviously, we’re gonna be looking towards their insurance company at some point. My point here is that eventually, you reach a point where it no longer becomes practical to babysit every contractor that you hire to do every job. And by the way, the contractor doesn’t want you looking over their shoulder the entire time that they’re there working, they have a job to do as well. And they’re trying to do it to the best of their ability without somebody staring at them the entire time. So I guess like many other things in landlording, this one comes down to how much risk are you personally willing, tolerate. If you’re not willing to tolerate any risk, you get to stand around and watch contractors do work all day. If you have contractors that you know and trust, you shouldn’t have to stand there and babysit them.

Voice Over: (05:36)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.

Andrew Schultz: (05:45)
What do you do when you have a tenant that’s creating a hazardous condition on your property, especially when that hazardous condition is for their children. This forum quorum comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and jump right in here. I have tenants that recently moved into one of my two-story, single-family homes. They have young children residing in an upstairs bedroom that has several windows, which open out to a porch roof while doing a walkthrough. The tenant mentioned that the kids thought it was fun to climb out onto the porch roof. I’m con concerned with the liability here. Uh, if the children were to climb out there and fall, I would surely be sued. I also wouldn’t want to put a screw through the sash because God forbid there’s a fire. They may not be able to get out.

Andrew Schultz: (06:27)
It seems like a double edge sword to me. Does anyone have any tips on how to deal with this situation? And again, this one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. So I’m not gonna jump into a big discussion on liability here. I’m not an attorney, nor am I an insurance adjuster. So it’s just outside the scope of what I can comfortably speak to. One thing I will mention is that if the tenant tried to Sue you, which guess what they’re gonna Sue you, they have to show that your actions would’ve led to the injury. So your tenant is in possession of the rental currently. And if your tenant is allowing their children to climb in and out of the windows and onto a roof that has no railing and isn’t expected to be used as a balcony. I wouldn’t think that it would be your actions as a landlord that are causing the harm to these children.

Andrew Schultz: (07:15)
Uh, the tenants are using the space in a manner that other than how it’s designed to be used. And I think that that’s an important point there. The other thing is that a tenant could try to prove, uh, negligence on the part of the landlord. Here. There are a whole bunch of different things that are considered when a negligence suit is brought such as landlord’s knowledge of an unsafe condition, whether or not you have control over the unsafe condition, the likely hood that the unsafe condition would generate an accident costs and attempts to mitigate the unsafe condition, et cetera. It’s not just a cut-and-dry thing is basically what I’m saying here. And that’s, as far as we’re gonna go into the liability aspect of it, but I will mention that this is why we carry property insurance. If something like this were to happen, the first thing that you’re going is start panicking.

Andrew Schultz: (08:00)
The next thing you’re gonna do is call your insurance agent and start the claims process. That’s gonna help to take some of the stress off your plate immediately by letting the trained professionals get involved from the jump. Uh, but anyway, we’ve kind of strayed from the root question here a little bit. What do you do in this situation? Here’s how I would handle it in our property management office. So the, a first thing that we’re gonna do is talk to this tenant immediately and let them know that what they’re doing is a violation of their lease, that it’s unsafe, and that it’s putting their children in harm’s way. One would obviously hope that that’s enough to get them to stop going out on the roof. But obviously, we know that that’s not always going to be the case. The first thing you need to do though, is have the conversation with the tenant and let know what’s going on.

Andrew Schultz: (08:41)
Let them know that they’re in violation of the lease and that this has to stop next, put it in writing whatever you’d said during that conversation needs to be reiterated in writing. I would treat this as a notice to cure, and I would highlight any relevant sections from the lease that they’re in violation of and serve the notice. However, it needs to be served in your state. Typically you’re gonna have to post it, send it first class, send it certified mail, something along those lines, whatever you have to do, check your state’s rules to find out how you need to proceed on something like that. Do not ignore this step. Do not ignore the step to put this in writing verbal is not enough. In fact, this is one of those steps that could really help you down the line. If this doesn’t improve by issuing out these violations, you now have in writing that you’ve notified the tenant, that their actions are unacceptable and that they need to correct their actions.

Andrew Schultz: (09:30)
Now, does this remove your liability in the event that an accident were to occur? No, absolutely not. But it does show that you are aware of the situation and that you are taking steps to prevent an accident from occurring. Your insurance is gonna wanna see that in the event that something were to go down. My next step would be if the tenant does not correct their actions, I’m gonna offer them an out. I’m gonna offer to terminate their lease and let them move. Because obviously, the situation’s not working for either a party. They’re looking for a jungle gym and you’re looking for a tenant. That’s gonna treat the property with respect. Some tenants may take you up on this and others may not. You could even move this into cash for keys type scenario to get control of the asset back. And really the only reason that I mention offering to terminate their lease or let them move out with the cash for keys option is because our last step is, is if they don’t move you move ’em yes, we’re talking about eviction.

Andrew Schultz: (10:20)
You cannot leave a tenant in one of your units that you know is creating a hazardous condition and outright ignoring your instructions to stop creating the hazardous condition. It’d be terribly stupid reason for someone to lose their housing. But if this tenant is unable to control their kids, then you may have to take that move. As a side note, if they’re letting their kids climb in and out of the windows and use the roof for whatever they’re creating additional damages inside and outside of this home, I was just on my garage roof last week. And I can tell you that it’s gonna be time for a new roof soon because the shingles are worn to the point where asphalt’s starting to come off. When you walk around on them, these tenants walking around on this roof is creating additional wear and tear on those shingles and on that roof that otherwise would not be taking place.

Andrew Schultz: (11:05)
And I’m pretty certain that once you get inside, you’re probably gonna find that there’s additional wear and tear inside the house beyond what we would consider normal. So my recommendation here is to get after this, as soon as you can, I don’t think that this is a situation that’s going to improve. Unless you step in and say something, you have to jump on this one and you have to be an active participant in this. Otherwise, the situation is not going to improve for our last forum quorum segment. We actually have an interesting question here on what to do when a tenant requests improvements and actually wants to pay for them. Let’s go ahead and jump right in here. This one comes to us via the landlord. Soreta our tenant has been renting our rent-controlled space for a few years now and is generally great.

Andrew Schultz: (11:46)
They recently approached me about wanting to make a few vanity slash luxury improvements and offered to pay to have them done would allowing them to do so constitute a rent increase. I know that prior to the moratorium, you could pass through a portion of improvement cost, but I’m just not sure how this would be viewed since it is at their request. As a note, I don’t mind paying for extras here and there to keep tenants happy. This however is a bit more money than I’d like to shell currently, especially on a below-market rental with no increase in insight, any advice on how to make this work, or is this just a bad idea, even if it is technically allowable. And again, this one comes to us via the landlord sub redhead. So this is originally a question out of California and I don’t know the rules on rent control out there, and I don’t a spout nonsense on it.

Andrew Schultz: (12:34)
So I’m going to focus more on the work itself versus the impact that it’s going to have on rent. So going back to the question here, the tenants have offered to pay, to have the improvements done. Uh, I think my first question here would be, are they offering to pay for just the materials or are they offering to pay for the labor and the materials, or are they offering to pay for materials? And they wanna do the install themself because those are all very different scenarios. I don’t like having tenants work on a property themselves. There’s a variety of reasons why, but the two main reasons for me are the fact that number one, most tenants, aren’t contractors, and don’t carry proper insurance to be doing home repairs for someone else. And number two, you know what the quality of someone else’s work is going to be so ultimately with any changes to made to the home, becoming the liability of the landlord, I would want to be in control of those repairs.

Andrew Schultz: (13:24)
Personally, I would not let the tenant do work on the property themselves. For those reasons. At that point, you’re gonna be left with either doing the work yourself. If it’s something are capable of doing, uh, or you need to hire someone in to do the work with the proper skillset, licenses, insurances, et cetera. So if the tenants are willing to pick up the cost of the materials and you have to pick up the cost of the labor or do the install yourself, maybe it makes sense from a financial standpoint, that’s math that you have to do basically only you’re gonna be able to make that determination a way for you to get improvements done on your property without having to front the full cost of the repairs. And if the tenants are willing to pay for that, that’s all the much better for you. If it’s a situation where they’re gonna pick up the cost of the, you know, labor and the materials, then honestly, I think it’s almost a no-brainer at that point.

Andrew Schultz: (14:11)
As long as the contractor that’s being used is licensed and insured because you’re literally getting something for nothing at that point. Uh, something that does need to be addressed before any work is done is the fact that anything that is permanently installed on the property does become a fixture. And the tenant will not be able to remove that when they move out of the unit, something like a ring doorbell or a wifi camera is one thing. But, uh, at least in my opinion, but something like installing a new vanity in the bathroom would be a very, very different set of circumstances. That’s obviously a fixture and technically the doorbells and the cameras would be considered fixtures, I believe as well, but I don’t know of anybody. Who’s made a big deal out of it yet. Basically once an object is physically and permanently attached to the property, it’s considered a fixture.

Andrew Schultz: (14:56)
So the argument could be made for things like ring doorbells and cameras that they should be left in place when a tenant moves or even when a property owner sells a house and moves onto a new home. Typically that stuff just gets, you know, settled out as part of the contr process on a sale or whatever. And it can be settled out as part of a lease. If you have a situation where a tenant wants to put in their own doorbell or a camera or something like that, the way to address this would be to draft that lease addendum indicating all of the changes that are being made as a request of the tenant who is paying for what portion of these changes such as who’s buying the materials and who’s paying or labor, or maybe there’s an agreed-upon some that the tenant or the landlord is chipping in with the other party to cover the balance, whatever the case may be.

Andrew Schultz: (15:38)
It just needs to be spelled out in the addendum. The addendum also needs to specifically note that the changes will remain on the property at the time of move out. And then that makes it very, very clear as to who is responsible for what, again, I’m not jumping into all the potential implications on a rent control perspective here. So you’re gonna wanna speak to someone who understands the rent control law in California on that, but this at least gives you a good idea as to how to proceed forward. If you do wanna move forward and have some sort of improvement done where a tenant is covering some portion of the cost. Do you know how to tell a fake pay stub from a legitimate pay stub? Do you think, you know, all of the things to look for just this past week at Own Buffalo, while doing our tenant screening, we found two fake pay stubs that we may not have found if we didn’t know what we were looking for.

Andrew Schultz: (16:25)
Check out the latest guide over at rentprep.com slash blog today. Find out what you’re looking for when it comes to fake pay stubs and protect yourself before it’s too late. That pretty much wraps up this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. Our goal with the podcast is to help as many people as possible make educated decisions when it comes to real estate, and you can help us to reach our goal. If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any of our other episodes, though, we’ll someone, you know, please do us a favor and share it with them. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com from there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me at Own Buffalo, as well as other projects that we’re working on.

Andrew Schultz: (17:06)
Grab a copy of our free deal analysis tool today over at whatsdrewupto.com. There’s no obligation and it comes with a companion video to show you how to use it. If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, head on over to rentprep.com, there are multiple products to choose from including a tenant-paid option. If you’re over 50 doors, ask about enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user at Rent Prep for years now, and it’s definitely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check that out today, over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you all so much for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with an all-new episode you won’t wanna miss until then. I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com and we’ll talk to you soon.

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