Landlord Tenant Q&A with LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R)

LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Manager
Property Profiles, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. Recently we had a tenant who moved out with three weeks left on his lease. Because the unit was vacant, he let his friend stay there. While the friend was there a fire broke out in the kitchen completely destroying the new stove and range hood that I installed three years ago. I will be filing an insurance claim but I will be out my deductible of $1,000. Do I have any recourse from the tenant? He never informed me that he was letting this friend stay at the unit.

A. This was a very unfortunate situation and there are a number of areas we need to address. First of all, I am going to assume that you used a standard Hawaii Association of Realtors Rental Agreement which specifically does not allow for subletting.

The contract states: 14. B. 11. No sub-letting or Additional Tenants. No additional tenants, subletting, or assignment of this Rental Agreement will be allowed without the prior written consent of landlord. Guests may not stay longer than fourteen (14) days without written approval of landlord.

So based on this paragraph in the contract your former tenant not only sublet the property but has an unapproved guest for more than fourteen days and these are both violations of the lease agreement.

Secondly, the tenant is responsible for damage caused by himself or his guest(s). Landlord’s Remedies for Improper Use -Section 72(a) & (b). If the tenant does not comply with the rules regarding use of the dwelling, the landlord may notify the tenant in writing of the breach. The notice shall specify the time (not less than 10 days) within which the tenant must remedy the breach.

If the tenant continues to breach the rule after the date specified in the notice and the landlord wants to evict the tenant, the landlord must sue within 30 days of the continued breach. The landlord may sue immediately to evict the tenant and need not give the tenant time to correct a rule violation when:

* A tenant violates state or county laws relating to health and safety;

* A tenant or the tenant’s friend or family member purposely destroys or extensively damages the rental unit or any part of the premises;

* The breaking of a house rule causes or threatens to cause injury to a person.

Hopefully the “guest” has already left the property and you don’t have to take steps to evict. The responsibility does remain with your former tenant to be sure his guest vacates the property at the end of his lease term.

So now we address the damages. If you weren’t aware that a guest had moved into the unit, then you weren’t aware that your tenant moved out so you should still have the security deposit – which we all know needs to be returned within 14 days of the end of the lease. Since the stove and hood fan were destroyed, you will need to determine the remaining value of the appliances. You can find life expectancy tables for appliances on the internet. When I checked the tables I found that stoves have a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years and hood fans have a life expectancy of 14 years. So with this in mind, you will need to calculate the remaining value of each appliance.

For example, if the stove has a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years then you would be safe to take the middle ground and assume it will last for 14 years. You now take the age of the stove 3 years – and the value of the stove let’s say $500. You would calculate the value ($500) divided by the life expectancy (14 years) multiplied by the number of years of use remaining. So in this example: $500 divided by 14 years X 11 years of remaining use = $392.85 (remaining value of stove). You would then do the same calculation for the hood fan.

If there was any special type of cleaning that needed to be done to the unit to bring it back to rentable condition that also could be charged to the security deposit of the former tenant. You may not be made whole, but at least you would recoup some of the deductible expense for your insurance policy.

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