Don’t Let Renter Take Services Control

There are times in a rental period were a professional contractor will be needed to perform maintenance. Deciding if this service is necessary and out of your abilities to DYI should be your call, not the tenants. There are a few good reasons why this should be a standard policy. Only in extreme circumstances should the renter get involved in calling a contractor.

What constitutes an extreme case should be clearly defined, but typically involves:

  • Danger To Property— Sparks flying out of an outlet, a burst pipe with no shutoff flooding the bathroom and not being able to immediately contact  landlord are examples. The safety of the tenant and property should come first.
  • Danger To Tenant— An out of control fire, the presence of noxious fumes and again not being able to immediately contact landlord are examples.
  • Predefined conditions— Any service that you know will be needed and have provided contact information for that contractor might be OK, as long as you have been notified that this will occur and have approved the service.

I have run into a few situations where the tenant has been a bit to proactive about calling in the pros to fix a problem that is occurring. I am available and capable of  fixing 90% of these issues and prefer to use my own service contacts when there is an issue I can’t solve. Here are a few good reasons to leave the service call to the landlord:

  • Landlord Will Use Reliable Contractors— Instead of the renter fishing for  the first contractor that they find, a landlord is apt to have previously used a trusted contractor.
  • Inflated Service— The tenant is apt to not care about the particulars of a service call, just fix it is the typical mindset. I had a situation in which the tenant ran out of heating oil shortly after I had completely serviced the burner. After ordering fuel and discovering the burner was not firing, the tenant allowed the heating oil company to send a tech to solve the issue. I got a bill for a complete burner maintenance. I am not even sure if the tech bothered priming the line which is all that was needed in my opinion. Allowing me to service the burner (at least prime the line) would have saved a few hundred dollars. We ended up splitting the cost, but the tenant was not happy…
  • Service Not Required— There are times that a little investigation will show that there was no need to call a pro at all. I have a unit that has some odd electric wiring flow. When power goes out in part of the downstairs area it is a tripped GFCI in the upstairs bath. No need for service, I just remind the tenant to check the outlet…
  • The Money Trail— On occasion I have had a renter suggest that they will take care of the service situation and take the cost off of the rent. I don’t like this approach as the service bill has been paid for by the renter and not me. I want the deduction, but it may need to be proved that I ultimately paid for the service for tax considerations. In addition I may not get the best deal out of this arrangement. It typically costs more than I had anticipated, but there is nothing that I can really do about an inflated cost after the fact.

I have even had a few situations in which the renter has tried to discount the rental rate, by coming up with some type of deduction each month. I make it very clear that this is not part of the lease agreement and will not tolerate a shorted rental payment each month. There are plenty of other reasons that you want to keep a short leash on service calls. Another good example is my previous post entitled It Drove Me Nuts!

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