Landlord Tenant Q&A with RICHARD VIERRA (B)

RICHARD VIERRA (B), RMP
Principal Broker & Director of Property Management
Hawaii Reserves, Inc.
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Regional Vice President / Past President, Oahu Chapter

Q. I have a small rental home in Laie and I live in the downtown area. My rental home had a leaking bathroom shower valve which my tenant recently reported so I called a plumber who said he travels the whole island at discounted rates. After talking to him, I set up the appointment with my tenant to meet the plumber. My tenant took off work to be there but the plumber never showed up or called! My tenant is now upset and says they are out money from being off work and they refuse to meet any plumber again, they want me to do it. It is so far and I will have to take off from work. What should I do?

A. The short answer, in this case, is that if you can’t find anyone else to meet the plumber, then you need to meet the plumber. Several things factor into this:

1. Professional property management. It appears that you may not have a licensed property manager managing your property. While you are not required to have one (Hawaii law allows property owners to manage their own rentals without a license), a property manager is helpful as they typically are familiar with legal issues and may have a larger pool of service providers from which to use.

Additionally, in a case like this, they would ensure that the appointment was kept and would be responsible to the tenant.

2. Always check references. In today’s social media-conscious world, there are a variety of websites (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) which post “reviews” written by consumers about service providers. A simple search for the plumber’s name or company will help you better know the plumber’s work history and specifically their clients’ opinion of them. In this case, it may have been discovered that this plumber merely saying he “travels the whole island” doesn’t ensure that he “travels when he is supposed to!” An additional check with the Hawaii Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org/hawaii) will allow you to review any formal consumer complaints filed against the business and, if so, how they were resolved.

3. Always check your service provider’s license. In this case, as an industry, plumbing is one of 50 professional trades regulated by the State of Hawaii and, as such, plumbers must qualify to retain and maintain their license. Any formal complaints filed with the Contractors’ Licensing Board (cca.hawaii.gov/pvl) of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs are easily accessible and reviewed, all of which will give you a sense of the work, ethics and standards of the plumber.

4. Get a referral. One of the best methods to ensure quality work is to talk to those who have used this plumber before. Word-of-mouth advertising is priceless, and especially so on a small island. Another option might be to use a plumber who has done work in your own home. A plumber who does a good job on a homeowner’s property will likely get a call-back to do more work in other homes/rentals owned by the individual, as well as be referred to the homeowner’s friends and neighbors.

5. Have a backup plan. Unforseen events such as traffic accidents, weather, personal emergencies, etc. can contribute to a workman not keeping an appointment. Of course, you would have hoped that your plumber would have called you or the tenant to advise that he’d be late or would have to reschedule the appointment. It’s always good to have a short list of service providers to refer to in case your goto plumber fails to show up.

6. Ensure that your service providers have insurance. Service providers should carry general liability, auto, and workers comp insurance and name the homeowner and property manager as Additional Insured. This protects all parties in the event there is an accident on the property while the service provider is working. Proof of this coverage is obtained by asking the service provider for a Certificate of Insurance prior to starting any work and making sure that you are listed as an Additional Insured on the Certificate.

But specific to this case, ultimately you as the landlord and homeowner are required to provide a safe and functional rental unit to your tenant. And, consequently, if you arrange for the plumber, you need to ensure that he is there. It makes sense, also, to arrange the appointment around the tenant’s schedule so they can point out the specific plumbing problem. However, when a plumber or any service provider simply does not show up, you need to address the situation by arranging the next appointment and making a point of personally being at the rental at the specified time.

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