Author Topic: Tenant maintains fridge?  (Read 5293 times)

marktrumpet

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Tenant maintains fridge?
« on: December 13, 2014, 07:59:43 AM »
Anyone with landlord-tenant law knowledge in New Mexico?

In a couple days we are slated to sign a lease on a house here in Aluquerque, but it has one weird clause in it: that we (the tenant) would be responsible to maintain and repair the refrigerator. Here’s the language:

“If applicable, non built-in appliances (i.e. refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc) are left at the residence as a convenience for the resident. Repairs, if necessary, will not be the responsibility of the owner after 30 days has lapsed from the start of tenancy. Further the owner is not liable for replacement of food if the refrigerator fails. If these terms are not acceptable, the resident must furnish their own appliances.”

First, is this legal? Is this normal for Albuquerque?

NM state law from http://laws.uslandlord.com/laws/nmstatelaw.html

“The owner shall maintain in good and safe working order and condition electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, if any, supplied or required to be supplied by him.”

Of course we have requested to have this paragraph taken out of the lease before we sign it next week, but have not gotten a response yet.

Thoughts?

Thanks for your help!
Mark

Spork

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2014, 08:33:34 AM »
I have no opinion or knowledge on law... but seriously: how often have you had a refrigerator fail?

I'm 50.  I vaguely remember my Mom's fridge failing once.  And it was probably 20 years old and had been sort-of-working for a while.  It wasn't a surprise.

I read this as "don't ask me to buy you a new standing rib roast and $80 worth of condiments if that fridge fails".   ... but I could be misreading that.

Another Reader

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2014, 09:12:15 AM »
I see that clause in Phoenix leases.  It's to keep thoughtless tenants from destroying the owner's appliances and then demanding new ones.  Washers, dryers and refrigerators are considered personal property.  Slide-in ranges are usually considered personal property.  Dishwashers, built in ovens, hoods, microwave hoods and garbage disposals are considered fixtures, and are generally the landlord's responsibility. 

Often the owner inherited the appliances from the seller, but would not provide them if they were not there.  I have a number of laundry appliances like that.  Most landlords don't provide laundry appliances in the Phoenix area.  I do maintain refrigerators if I provide them, but am not responsible for loss of food.  The property manager reviews what's included and maintained and what is not at the time the lease is signed.  It's also in the listing.

You would be surprised at how often refrigerators fail.  Some of it is due to tenants, some is due to the poor manufacturing quality of appliances these days.

marktrumpet

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2014, 10:30:21 AM »
I got this reply from the rental management company:

"All of our leases have the “non-build in appliance” clause. On the home the only non-build in appliance is the refrigerator. This does not mean you have to repair the appliance if it breaks down, however it does mean the owner does not have to repair it, and you may be asked to supply your own. If the fridge where to have an issue, we would ask the owner to repair or replace it. But we can never promise with out a doubt that the owner would."

Doesn't the NM state law say that if a landlord provides an appliance they have to maintain it? I assume that this is why there is this exception clause. I don't see how it is more onerous to maintain fridge than a furnace.

iamlindoro

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2014, 10:36:06 AM »
Doesn't the NM state law say that if a landlord provides an appliance they have to maintain it? I assume that this is why there is this exception clause. I don't see how it is more onerous to maintain fridge than a furnace.

Even if that were so, if you dislike the clause, then you can provide your own, or risk the landlord simply removing the fridge and obliging you to do so.  This does not seem like a big deal to me.

Unless there's a law specifically requiring the landlord to provide you with a refrigerator, it seems they are being decent enough to provide you with one, and you can either accept it on their terms, or provide your own.

MrFrugalChicago

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2014, 11:17:20 AM »
No idea on law, would need to talk to a lawyer which would likely cost more than the fridge in question ;(  Maybe if you can find a free tenants rights place they would help for free?

Also realize rental contracts are up for negotiation. If everything else was good but that clause, I would (and have in the past) - cross out that line, initialed it, and fill out the rest of the app. When they saw me, a married guy with a good paying job and a perfect credit score - they were willing to settle on that minor issue.

A normal rental quality freezer on top fridge can be had for about $250 new or $50-$100 used and last 10-20 years. I would be personally willing to take the $250 gamble on a fridge for an otherwise good apartment. let's say there is a 5% chance per year of a $250 fridge needing replaced. That is raising your rent by $12.50 per year, or just over $1 per month. And that is if you replace it with new, if you replace it with used you are even cheaper. heck if they won't change the contract, ask for a $13 per year cheaper rent and come out a wash.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2014, 11:20:03 AM by MrFrugalChicago »

marktrumpet

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2014, 12:27:02 PM »

A normal rental quality freezer on top fridge can be had for about $250 new or $50-$100 used and last 10-20 years. I would be personally willing to take the $250 gamble on a fridge for an otherwise good apartment. let's say there is a 5% chance per year of a $250 fridge needing replaced. That is raising your rent by $12.50 per year, or just over $1 per month. And that is if you replace it with new, if you replace it with used you are even cheaper. heck if they won't change the contract, ask for a $13 per year cheaper rent and come out a wash.

Really good math, MrFrugalChicago. Like it.

On the other side of the coin, if they refuse to change the clause (it seems like they are refusing, but I haven't gotten a hard "no" yet), and we walk away (which we are in a position to do) they would lose $500 and change in rent that we are paying for the second half of this month. Which would most likely cover the cost of any refrigerator repairs, if they were to happen.  I very much doubt they could get it rented before January 1, hence the lost December rent. I hesitate to point this out to the management company, because they actually have been quite nice, and I don't want to sour our relationship with them before it has even started.

Thoughts?

MrFrugalChicago

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2014, 12:34:45 PM »
Unless you are a giant jerk, i.e.

"FIX FRIDGE OR I WILL TEABAG YOU"

It is unlikely asking will have a negative outcome. They will say NO, or they may give you something. Seems fairly failsafe to try...

waltworks

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2014, 04:44:25 PM »
If you want to live at this place, then don't let the fridge stop you. If you don't really want to live there, look elsewhere. As others have said, this isn't a big enough deal that you should worry about it.

-W

MrFrugalChicago

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2014, 07:04:45 PM »
Generally, you don't want to complain about an unenforceable term. You just want to go ahead and sign it. Then later, if they try to enforce it, you can explain that it's unenforceable. This gets you the best of all worlds -- the deal goes ahead, and they don't try to substitute something else in place of the unenforceable clause.

Note, I do not know whether this clause is enforceable. But generally, if you believe a clause is unenforceable, it doesn't help you to draw your counterpart's attention to that.

As a renter, my current lease contains clauses that I know are invalid. I did not bring it up while closing the deal, and nor do I plan to ever bring it up, unless they try to enforce the clauses.

9/10 times that works out fine. But if they are a jerk about it, it could take a lot of money to get out of the invalid clause (i.e. first court you goes to sees you signed X, says that is it. You get to spend thousands to appeal to a higher court to get out of it).

On the other hand, I have done the same thing with employment agreements, I signed a job agreeing not to work at a competitor for 2 years after quitting a job... totally not enforceable in Illinois, so I went ahead and signed it. Nothing turned up from it, luckily.

D.williams

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2014, 12:21:42 PM »
I have no opinion or knowledge on law... but seriously: how often have you had a refrigerator fail?

I'm 50.  I vaguely remember my Mom's fridge failing once.  And it was probably 20 years old and had been sort-of-working for a while.  It wasn't a surprise.

I read this as "don't ask me to buy you a new standing rib roast and $80 worth of condiments if that fridge fails".   ... but I could be misreading that.

This is how I took it too. They do say if you take issue with it you're welcome to supply your own fridge which you would still be responsible for if it had any issues so I don't see a difference.

marktrumpet

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Epilogue
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2014, 01:02:03 PM »
So here's what ended up happening. We reiterated our case to the management company that we are not interested in repairing an appliance that doesn't belong to us, and would like the clause taken out. We received another response of "no, this is how all our leases are." We were getting cold feet (the lease had another weird clause about putting nails in the walls, and in general was kind of insulting with its selective use of all caps, bold and underlining) so we started looking around again and found a better house for the same price and decided to move on from the "fridge" house. After we told the management company that we no longer wanted the place, they came back couple hours later saying that they had spoken with the owners and that they agreed to be responsible for the fridge.

A couple of lessons here. Never underestimate the power of walking away from a deal. And while not totally analogous, having f-you money, as jlcollinsnh says, gives you so much leverage when negotiating. And for you landlords out there, good tenant-landlord relationships are built on trust and communication, not on "fancy" leases with clauses to nickel-and-dime tenants.  We are happy that we found landlords who are humans and not a management company. I know that not all management companies are bad, and that there are bad human landlords, but Albuquerque is notorious for its terrible management companies that prey on lower income folks.

Angie55

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2014, 01:20:43 PM »
As a long time renter, I personally find this insane. I would guarantee you if the fridge failed, you bought a replacement one, and took it upon moveout they would charge you for the missing fridge. Why should you be on the hook for repairs of something you don't own?!

My last landlord kept my entire deposit and when I requested an itemized list of costs she put down every single repair that occured in the year we lived there. She tried to play the "it broke on your watch so you're on the hook." Ummmmmm your appliances are 15 years old maintenance or repairs should be expected and are definitely not my problem. I rent so I don't have to repair anything! That's one of the major perks. So because I effectively paid for a new garbage disposal can I unplug it and take it with me when I move out? Needless to say the dumb broad stole my money in the end because I couldn't deal with fighting with an idiot over $500 (that she had likely spent the before we even moved in!).

In my current place we had our washer replaced TWICE in 2 years. Our dishwasher repaired 3x. Garbage disposal repaired. As a renter, you have little to no control over the state of appliances when you move in. Unless everything was brand new when I moved in or the rent was heavily discounted, I would never ever accept those terms in the lease. I've never been successful negotiating a lease ever so I would definitely walk away. I believe most states have a clause in the tenant laws that say something along the lines of if an item or appliance is shown during the showing they are required to keep it in working order unless you sign for an exclusion.

And for those who say cost of moving and/or replacing the fridge may not be a big deal. But the actual hassle of moving it? No thanks.

MrFrugalChicago

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2014, 02:11:06 PM »
As a long time renter, I personally find this insane. I would guarantee you if the fridge failed, you bought a replacement one, and took it upon moveout they would charge you for the missing fridge. Why should you be on the hook for repairs of something you don't own?!

My last landlord kept my entire deposit and when I requested an itemized list of costs she put down every single repair that occured in the year we lived there. She tried to play the "it broke on your watch so you're on the hook." Ummmmmm your appliances are 15 years old maintenance or repairs should be expected and are definitely not my problem. I rent so I don't have to repair anything! That's one of the major perks. So because I effectively paid for a new garbage disposal can I unplug it and take it with me when I move out? Needless to say the dumb broad stole my money in the end because I couldn't deal with fighting with an idiot over $500 (that she had likely spent the before we even moved in!).

Should have gone to small claims court. You are entitled to triple damages, or in your case $1500. Would take about 2 hours of your time start to finish. My time is worth $750 an hour!!

Spork

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2014, 02:43:32 PM »
As a long time renter, I personally find this insane. I would guarantee you if the fridge failed, you bought a replacement one, and took it upon moveout they would charge you for the missing fridge. Why should you be on the hook for repairs of something you don't own?!


Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the language in question actually protects you from that.  You might have to do something like call the landlord and say "Hey, the supplied refrigerator broke, so I bought a new one."

Goldielocks

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2014, 03:34:28 PM »
Some regions, renting a place without appliances is standard, the tennant provides appliances or has clauses like yours. 

I have put in a rental contract that as the in-sink disposal unit was over 5 years old, the rent does not include one, and repairs were tennant's responsibility, or we would remove it at our (landlords) expense when it failed.


clarkfan1979

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2014, 03:11:21 PM »
It doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The landlord probably got hosed in the past on a tenant making him pay for lost food in the fridge. I was surprised that one of my friends rented a single family home without a washer and dryer. They had to buy their own.

Spork

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Re: Tenant maintains fridge?
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2014, 03:17:47 PM »
It doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The landlord probably got hosed in the past on a tenant making him pay for lost food in the fridge. I was surprised that one of my friends rented a single family home without a washer and dryer. They had to buy their own.

I would roughly say I've rented 10 places before I started buying. 

I have had exactly one of those provide a washer/dryer.