Author Topic: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?  (Read 748 times)

anni

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Virginia
Hello forums! I rent a house with roommates in a pretty HCOL area. I think we're getting a good deal on it, maybe about 15% below what we would pay for a slightly nicer place, and our landlord is pretty chill and hands-off, which is good most of the time.

Now, I've never owned a house, but I was reading through some home improvement threads on this board and realized there are a lot of basic maintenance things going neglected at this house that could turn into huge problems if someone doesn't take care of them. Tiles chipping into sharp edges and falling out in the bathroom, ivy growing up the walls, things like that. I saw a bird taking a bath in our gutter the other day - that can't be a good thing! LOL. Plus, we've had to call in expensive maintenance for broken hot water and A/C in just our first year here - problems that, according to the specialists, were caused by lack of maintenance.

Landlord was out of the country for many years (I'm not sure how he managed the property before) and he seemed really surprised when we first showed him all the issues we found. So he knows the house needs a lot of work, expensive work that I can understand wanting to put off as long as possible. We are getting a slight discount in exchange for our trouble, after all, and he's the one who will ultimately have to confront long-term issues (him or whoever is unlucky enough to be renting when stuff really hits the fan!).
 
LL always pays the repair bills but we've had to spend a lot of time this year coordinating with maintenance companies and dealing with not having hot water, A/C, and other smaller comforts for days or weeks at a time. And he sometimes complains to us about having to get so much expensive work done on the house at our urging. So, I feel kind of bad whenever I think about reaching out about new problems and have been avoiding it. Am I just being a complainy-pants? It seems to me like he just doesn't care for this house that much. There are things that I think I would feel compelled to research and keep up with if I was a homeowner, even as a landlord homeowner, but as a renter I guess I just feel like it shouldn't be my problem. Isn't that the whole point of renting? Do renters normally go out and buy stuff like ladders to clean the gutters, tree trimmers, and air conditioning filters?

I want to have a good relationship with my landlord and would actually really love to get some home maintenance reps in, so I am wondering if we decide to stay if I should offer to do some of this stuff "at cost" or at least cheaper than a pro would charge. I'm just worried he'll come back and say he doesn't care one way or the other if things get taken care of right now, or (reasonably) that he doesn't trust me to do the work well. Plus, this house is over a hundred years old and will probably need more than just a facelift soon enough. I've seen some people on the internet do amazing things in their rentals while getting their LLs to pay for supplies and materials. I'm just not sure how realistic it is and I guess I'm a little scared to try.

bacchi

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5003
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2020, 06:06:56 PM »
It sounds like the LL doesn't want any hassle with the property. The monthly checks are fine but he/she is done with managing it.

As a LL, I'd be concerned with the latter -- that the work wouldn't be done well. And also liability. Cleaning the gutters means you're on a ladder. Tree trimming is fine as long as they're not large limbs that can fall on someone.

Worth an ask, especially if they're smaller things that don't require expertise, unless you're a carpenter/plumber/etc. You can volunteer to send pics when you're finished. Change the filter, send a pic. Paint a wall, send a pic. Secure a loose railing, replace a faucet o-ring, etc.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1809
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2020, 08:03:08 PM »
Read your lease/rent agreement. It will usually outline who's responsible for what. You may be expected to keep on things like HVAC filters, light bulbs, and other minor things. Usually bigger stuff like gutter cleaning and tree trimming is the responsibility of the LL. But it depends on the contract.

However, you may want to take care of more stuff than you're technically responsible for *if* you're getting a good deal. Seems like your LL doesn't want to deal with being a LL, so they're not going to take the initiative to fix/repair anything.

My advice: fix minor things if you can do so safely, inform your LL of all issues (but don't expect a fix), and limit your battles to health and safety issues. Be prepared to move if/when the situation become untenable.

draco44

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 85
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2020, 10:15:04 PM »
As bacchi noted, it doesn't hurt to ask and it could be educational to have this property as a "test kitchen" for you to learn some new skills.

The repair of the basic utilities you mention, like A/C and hot water, is essential and clearly within the basic responsibilities of landlording. Never feel bad about reporting issues of that kind, and following up until they get fixed.  For issues that stray into more aesthetic territory, that's where you enter "maybe don't poke the bear" territory if you are getting a good deal on rent. It's good practice to note any issues of that kind via email (so you have a written record if things get worse and they blame you for the damage), but it's up to you if you want to push the point.

A word to the wise, however: it's quite possible that if your landlord is lax about maintenance, however nice they are, they may also be lax about legal requirements such as the required number of fire exits or routine county safety inspections on any accessory dwellings that may be on your rental property. Take a look at your local jurisdiction's building code. Cheap rent for quasi-legal housing is only a deal until something goes wrong. And things can go VERY wrong very fast. Tales of "the grouphouse that went bad" at some point are incredibly common. Did you find your rental on Craigslist? I often did, but if you're dealing with an independent LL like that, please look up your local code and tenants rights rules ASAP. Especially if your lease includes a joint and several liability clause which puts you on the hook for rent or damages from other roommates if they skip town. Hopefully you'll never need that information, but you want it on hand before something goes wrong.

Finally, in my experience, no, it is not normal for renters to buy stuff like ladders and tree trimmers. Lightbulbs, sure, but not that other stuff. Maybe you could pick up a purchased item as a courtesy, but the LL should pay. Don't spend more money than required by your lease to maintain a building you don't own.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2020, 10:19:42 PM by draco44 »

Fishindude

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2558
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2020, 07:23:34 AM »
Years ago when I rented, I worked out a deal with my landlord to do misc. maintenance on the place at a really fair rate.   He reimbursed me $XX per hour for my labor, plus the cost of any materials and deducted it from the rent.   Worked out good for both of us.      Note - I've always been in construction, so I'm sure he had a certain amount of confidence in my ability to do things correctly, that he may not have had in someone else.

Also - When you're renting a place cheap, expect it to have a few issues.   As long as the basics work; heat, AC, water, leak free, etc. I could live with some cosmetic problems.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 07:25:21 AM by Fishindude »

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6822
  • Location: BC
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2020, 02:17:37 PM »
A lot of land lords want to keep to the base minimum.

Report plumbing, water entry, roofing leaks, animal entry, structural, heating, broken window, broken railing, broken appliance type issues, and expect the landlord to repair those.

Give an annual list of maintenance items that can lead to the above issues if deferred.

Personally, I would do other things myself if I cared about it, and leave it be if not.

anni

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Virginia
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2020, 10:21:40 AM »
@Fishindude  Very cool! I would definitely be a novice at repairs... watching loads of This Old House should count for something though, right? (just joking...) I can't tell if his hands-off "management" style gives me more or less free reign.

Thanks everyone for the tips - two things and a timely update... First, the lease is kind of vague. We are responsible for "premises," he is responsible for "appliances." (the lease was also generated online and includes stipulations irrelevant to our home). Tenant rights are generous in terms of wrongful evictions, I'll have to look into building code. If things aren't up to code, though, I'm worried it would bite us in the butt to report it since we could end up out of a home or paying a lot of extra $$ on a last-minute relocation.

Second - I don't really care about the cosmetic side of things, I am happy to live in an ugly house. The issues really do seem like safety ones - two very fresh examples:

1. I was taking my lunch break to do the dishes just today. Built-in shelving with all our pots and pans next to the sink just collapsed on my legs, apparently because the supports were no longer actually attached to anything, just wedged in to fit the shelves. Ouch!

2. As of last night we've got mice.... again! We had a "sealing" service + poison laid out just two months ago. Hopefully LL got a warranty.

And once again I'm feeling guilty about wanting to ask for repairs and service. So many things go wrong here that I can understand LL being annoyed, but from my perspective: I know the sale price he paid and the annual tax bill (public, online). I don't know the insurance cost... but I can do the math well enough to know we are probably covering all of his base expenses and then some, unless there are really high other expenses I'm not thinking of. The maintenance we've cost him so far should not be painful for him unless he's struggling elsewhere (like maybe relies on $0 maintenance to fund the nice apartment he rents). Not my business! Just venting! Upside of renting is I can just leave, right?

Lease goes on for many more months but I'm already Zillow window-shopping... I think LL's attitude and the gravity of the help this place needs kind of outweigh the deal for me. Not sure if this will be true for my roommates though!

anni

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Virginia
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2020, 12:30:54 PM »
I've just found basic building code guidelines for tenants and was honestly surprised to find that we/our LL are actually breaking a lot of rules. Including:

- the mice
- splintered flooring
- broken windows
- windows that don't have screens

All stuff we just figured was part of the deal. Apparently illegal... Again, I don't want to trash my relationship with my landlord over this stuff but wow

PoutineLover

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1340
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2020, 01:40:29 PM »
I used to have a landlord like this. My rent was fairly cheap for the size and location, but the place was in bad condition. Problems ranged from unsafe to annoying to long-term liabilities. Just to list a few, there was no smoke detector, no window screens, my fridge and stove didn't work properly, bathroom tiles falling off, the ceiling vent in my bathroom randomly leaked, the buzzer didn't work well, the walls were full of holes and needed to be painted.. the list goes on.
I tried to contact my landlord about every single one of these things, and I mostly got the runaround. In the end, they replaced my fridge and stove, after I sent a registered letter and threatened to withhold rent. I ended up painting myself, and installed a smoke detector. My landlord didn't stop me, but they didn't help pay for it either, and if I hadn't done it myself, it never would have been done. I could have pursued it with the rental board, but hearings take ages and there are so many more dire cases.
Sharing my experience to say that you shouldn't expect too much from landlords who don't give a shit about their properties. You can probably make them fix real safety issues, but if it's not urgent they probably won't bother and they probably won't pay you to do it. It'll bite them in the ass eventually, when the fixes get more expensive, but these aren't long term thinkers and they probably think they can get away with it by offering below-market rental rates.

draco44

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 85
Re: Should I try to make a deal with my landlord to fix up his house?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2020, 02:24:39 PM »
I've just found basic building code guidelines for tenants and was honestly surprised to find that we/our LL are actually breaking a lot of rules. Including:

- the mice
- splintered flooring
- broken windows
- windows that don't have screens

All stuff we just figured was part of the deal. Apparently illegal... Again, I don't want to trash my relationship with my landlord over this stuff but wow

Good for you for taking a look! It's ultimately up to you what is and isn't a deal-breaker, but I strongly feel that when you are a tenant, knowledge about this sort of thing is power.

Signed, someone who once lived in a rental without switchplate covers, among other things, because I didn't know any better.