Author Topic: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?  (Read 3533 times)

ENL

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How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« on: December 04, 2014, 12:16:52 PM »
I'm a first time landlord and just had a new tenant move in.  Today she sent me a list of things she would like fixed.  They seem pretty reasonable and I'm wondering how one normally responds to these types of requests. 

Like, in general, how do you respond professionally to these types of requests?  I would imagine that the tenant would like me to assure them that I will repair the things listed right away, but is that a bad idea for some reason (Like if I end up not being able to do something because it ends up costing more than I thought?)

If something cosmetic is being replaced (such as carpeting) how much should I attempt to involve the tenant in picking out the replacement?

If the fix being requested is vague (like "the garage smells") how should I respond since I don't know what exactly is causing the issue and if my efforts will fix it?

zoltani

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2014, 12:32:56 PM »
I don't know about others, but I would not change the flooring. They saw the condition of the flooring when they moved in and accepted it. 

Garbage smells in their unit or outside?

Did these things she is asking for come up in the walk through?


ENL

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2014, 12:56:15 PM »
She is finding these issues after a few days in the home, while filling out her move in checklist.  The carpeting in the room in question is admittedly worn and not replacing it sooner was an oversight.

Not garbage smells, the *garage* smells bad.  Maybe of garbage.  :-)  I'm hoping that is just a case of needing to clean out the city-provides garbage carts a little better.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2014, 12:58:42 PM by Evil Number Lady »

James

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2014, 12:59:11 PM »
I would definitely agree with not agreeing to do anything without finding out all the implications first. For example, you promise to change the flooring, and then they insist on hardwood, and then you find out costs are higher than expected because of some unknown, etc ... best to know all the specifics and costs before even hinting at your decision.


My suggestion would be to make an appointment to sit down and talk about their concerns. Let them fully expand on the issues, and take notes. Don't promise anything, just be very open to their input and professional.


Then take some time to think about the issues and find out costs. Get estimates and investigate. Get specific advice here with pictures if you wish.


Then make a decision that reflects the big picture including costs of repairs, cost of rental, condition of items they want fixed, what they knew when they decided to rent, personal plans for the property long term, cash flow, legal issues, etc. And then let them know your decision.


None of this needs to take a long time or be a drawn out process. But don't give a quick answer, spend a bunch of money, and set yourself up for future demands. This is a business and should work like one.

zoltani

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2014, 01:05:31 PM »
Not to mention if you go from carpet to hardwood then you likely could have gotten a higher rent.

Next time do the walk through with the tenant, not give them a check list to fill out on their own.

Are any of the concerns actually serious maintenance issues, or are we talking about mainly cosmetic things? 

ENL

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2014, 01:20:46 PM »
There is one serious maintenance concern.  A closet light has apparently decided to dislodge itself from the ceiling when the pull cord was pulled by the tenant. 

The rest are cosmetic concerns that I likely should have addressed before having a tenant move in.  issues with odor in the carpeting mainly that were mostly likely masked by recent cleaning when she came in.  I lived in the house previously with pets and am so used to them I do not even notice the smell anymore.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2014, 01:30:17 PM by Evil Number Lady »

arebelspy

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2014, 01:29:56 PM »
The move in checklist is to document the condition so you don't charge them for preexisting things when they move out.

It's not necessarily to have every little thing fixed - they presumably saw what it was like before it was rented.

Also I get very clear with my tenants when going over the lease about repairs - stuff under 100 is their responsibility, so they aren't bugging me over minor things like "change a light bulb".  Let me know about things that may turn major, like any leaks, but I expect tenants to take care of minor things, and the lease reflects that.  Setting expectations up front is important.

If you don't fix every little thing, and they mention it in a bit, you can say "yes, that was documented on your move in sheet, I'll make sure not to deduct that from your security deposit when you move out."

It's a fine line - you don't want to start with a contentious relationship, but nor do you want to start with a pushover one.
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ENL

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2014, 01:38:53 PM »

Next time do the walk through with the tenant, not give them a check list to fill out on their own.


Is this standard?  It seems like it would be very easy to overlook something during a walkthrough.  I certain;y wouldn't feel comfortable doing just a quick walkthrough when looking for damage when she moves out.

zoltani

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2014, 02:08:20 PM »
I guess it depends on the state for the walk through. Where I have rentals the law is clear on how these should be handled. You must give tenant the opportunity to be present for the walk through, if they decline then they waive their right to contest anything. As I read it there is no law requiring a move in inspection which seems odd (how do you know what to compare the condition at vacancy to). I typically like to have my representative there for the move in walk through. They maintain the property and know the issues.

MrMoneyPinch

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2014, 02:46:49 PM »
I usually divide requests in two categories:  "broken", and "I don't like it".

My responsibility as a landlord is keeping all systems functional:  the pulled light socket I would let slide, but if that type of damage happens again I would charge it to the tenant.

"I don't like the carpet" is something else:  I usually negotiate a raise effective when the upgrade is done.  I don't care if it is worn, stained or the wrong color: you have chosen to rent the place with that in place. This applies as well to all semi-cosmetic demands like faucets, cabinetry and appliances.  Of course, if they are broken or failing, see last paragraph.


Cpa Cat

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Re: How should I respond to a tenant's list of maintenance requests?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2014, 03:04:06 PM »
If these are items that you think are reasonable, then fix them.

You don't need to feel compelled to rush to fix anything that isn't dangerous or unliveable. But for the sake of good relations with your tenant, there's no real reason to leave things in poor condition for an extended period of time.

If the garage smells, you should investigate it. Ultimately, the smell could be the sign of a problem that you, as the property owner, would want to fix ASAP (mold, animals, something rotting).

Ethically speaking, I would change the carpet. You know why it smells and you know that your tenant couldn't smell it when she agreed to take the apartment because of the cleaner that was used.

Do not involve the tenant in the choice, though - you and your tenant won't have the same motivations when choosing flooring. Make the best choice for you as a landlord. Remember to save all of your receipts (and take photos) so that if there's damage when she moves out, you can charge her for it.