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Landlord Tenant Q&A with CARL L. FRAZIER (R), PB

Owner, Principal Broker
Cornerstone Properties
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers and
National Conference Speaker

Q. I rent out my Auntie’s home for her. When the tenants moved in there was calcium build up and water stains on the tiles in the bathroom shower. I told the tenants to use a pumice stone to clean it off. When I went back they had used the pumice stone and it totally removed the shiny finish off about 10 tiles and it looks horrible now. I want to charge the tenants for this damage but they are saying they just followed my instructions so they are not responsible. Can I charge them?

A. This is a little tricky. If you had not said anything at all, and they tried to clean the surface and made it worse, then, yes, I believe you could charge them. However, after having told them to use a pumice stone, and they did….I think you are out of luck here. If you do charge them and they take you to court, more than likely you would lose.

It is very hard to charge someone for damage when what they did is follow your instructions. Besides, you should have had it done before they moved in! Always have the unit ready, in good repair and clean prior to occupancy.

A comprehensive addendum would help in situations like this as well; or a tenant handbook. There are certain cleaning and maintenance situations which come up where ordinary “common sense” does not apply. Let’s take for example, a re-glazed or refinished bathtub. If you do not tell a tenant how to take care of it, they won’t know to use non abrasive type cleaner, such as Soft Scrub and not harsh cleaners, such as Comet. You have to be very specific with tenants on how and what products to use when cleaning a refinished surface.

I have made up luggage tags with dos and don’ts on cleaning refinished tubs and I put them on the towel racks in the bathroom. Otherwise you may be stuck with another refinishing charge.

Glass-top stoves are another surface that takes a special kind of cleaner. In most cases, you have just got to let them know about it. The key is, of course, put it in writing!

Granite is another surface that takes special care. There are many resources on the internet about cleaning and maintaining granite and marble surfaces. Print them out and include them with your lease, house rules, or a tenant handbook.

Bottom line is this. Do not assume anything! Put everything in writing.

Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 237 registered members.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http:// dcca/areas /ocp/ land-lord_tenant or contact an attorney.

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