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Dear Patty - Maintenance Costs

Wednesday, July 6, 2011  
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Dear Patty the Property Manager,

During a recent management presentation, the owners insisted on including a clause in the lease specifying that tenants are responsible for maintenance/repairs under a certain dollar amount "because other people are doing it.” The owners also mentioned they "do not want to be responsible for a tenant who could nickel and dime” them with maintenance costs. Is this an option I should be offering/allowing in lease contracts?

--Maintaining Tenants

Dear Maintenance,

While others may include this option, I don’t recommend allowing or requiring tenants to perform maintenance and repairs on a rental property for a few reasons:

  • The dollar value of a repair item is subjective and depends upon too many factors to be a viable way to conduct business. On certain repairs, I often request multiple quotes before I order service. Cheapest is not always best.
  • Despite their best effort to convince you, tenants’ capability to handle repairs and maintenance is not known. Sure, they may have done work on some part of a previous residence, but not all products/systems are made alike. Technology is always changing and requires education to remain up to date.
  • Tenants may not adequately perform service or hire qualified individuals to handle service, especially considering the property is not their own. What may begin as a reasonably inexpensive or easy repair, when neglected or done improperly may quickly become a large and costly fix. In this instance, what is to stop tenants from patching or just waiting for a repair to become "expensive enough” to be the landlord’s responsibility?
  • It’s likely the tenants are not certified, licensed, or insured to perform necessary tasks. The liability of having tenants work with some equipment is substantial. If they harm themselves or someone else, the landlord could face liability.
  • Most renters like the fact that they are not responsible for maintenance repairs. After all, that’s one common reason people rent instead of becoming homeowners.

Putting such an important aspect of property ownership under the control of one’s tenant is just too big of a risk to assume. To prevent unnecessary service calls, I always troubleshoot issues over the phone when possible. But if an issue needs attention and was not caused due to negligence of the tenant, then the landlord should address the issue. I tell my owners: If you provide it, be prepared to maintain it. The peace of mind is worth it!

Sincerely,

Patty

"Patty the Property Manager” appears courtesy of the ORRA Property Management Subcommittee. Readers are invited to submit property management related questions to Patty by sending an e-mail to education@orlrealtor.com.


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