How to Handle Worst-Case-Scenario Repairs: Part 1


Unapproved Repairs. It happens. A tenant, for whatever reason, gives you no notice that the air conditioning unit (or other large, expensive appliance) isn’t working properly. They take it upon themselves to place a service call to the repairman of their choice and wind up having the unit serviced or… even worse… replaced. Then they hand you a $2,000+ repair bill and expect for you to fork over the cash.

Your initial reaction may be You did WHAT?!? But how should you legally react? Granted, your responsibility as a landlord is to handle repairs in a timely fashion. But, the renter failed to notify you and just chose any-old contractor. Plus, most likely, you have a list of established contractors who provide you with quality work at a reasonable rate. So you may be wondering just how much additional money this repair will cost you… as well as the best way to handle the situation.

If you believe the tenant acted unreasonably or in opposition of your contract terms, you need to investigate whether the repairs were valid and how much the service would’ve cost had you used your preferred contractor. You also should factor in the possibility the renter hired a friend or family member at higher-than-market rates. There are lots of different factors to consider before you reach an acceptable remedy for the situation.

If the renter paid for the repair out of their own pocket, and you refuse to pay them back since they acted out-of-accordance with their lease, you probably can count on them deducting the amount from of their rent. If this isn’t an acceptable option, you might need to serve them with a legal notice.

However, if you believe that, even though the tenant didn’t follow protocol, the repairs were reasonable and necessary, then it will be in your best interest to offer to reimburse the tenant, or to write out a short agreement allowing them to take it as a credit on their upcoming rent. Summarize the terms for the repayment, while also reiterating the proper chain of command when dealing with a service request, and have them sign the letter.

If not handled correctly, this type of situation could permanently damage or sever your relationship with a tenant. There’s a lot to consider and you should weigh all elements thoroughly before making a decision.

Photo credit: jackiebese / Foter / CC BY-SA
Photo credit:
marsmet548 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA