LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Q. My tenant keeps calling me for minor repairs. Do I have to fix everything they want me to? They said the shower door is hard to move, but isn’t that their responsibility? I also left a microwave oven from a previous tenant there. Do I have to fix that if it breaks? It isn’t even my microwave.
A. I know it can be annoying when a tenant keeps calling, but that could be a good thing. Sometimes tenants just need assurance that you won’t charge them for the wobbly door on the cabinet they’ll never use. Other tenants won’t call until that little drip turns into a burst pipe, and you don’t want that either. The Landlord-Tenant Code states that it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the premises to keep it in a habitable condition. So, anything that affects the health and safety of the tenant should be your responsibility. However, I understand your position that many items may not rise to that level of responsibility.
Landlords have 12 business days to start non-emergency repairs, or let the tenant know why they cannot get the repair completed at that time. If you hire an outside person to do the repairs, let the tenant know who will be contacting them, and ask them to let you know if they do not hear from that person within a reasonable period of time. Many times the repair people cannot contact the tenant or are so busy that they cannot get to that repair within the 12 business days.
Tenants should send the landlord a written list of all the things that need repair. If the landlord fails to do the repairs, the tenant can have the work done and deduct from the next month’s rent not more than $500 for their actual expenses to complete the repair (they should send the landlord the receipts too). The amount charged to the landlord cannot exceed an amount equal to three month’s rent during each six month period and can only include those things that are on the written list. So, the tenant cannot repair something that was not on their list and charge that repair to the landlord within that six month period.
There are items that you are responsible for as a landlord. If the shower door no longer rolls smoothly, you should fix that. If it breaks or falls off the track, it may crack into pieces, damage the bathroom or hurt the tenant. The tenant probably did nothing to cause the problem and this is a normal wear and tear situation. Of course, if your tenant or their guest is the cause of something breaking, they are responsible to fix that. It’s up to you if you want them to call a repair person or if you want to use your own vendor and charge your tenant for the repair.
Some landlords may require the tenant do minor repairs under a specified dollar amount in exchange for a lower rent. There are some tenants that are very “handy” and can handle minor things, like changing a screen or caulking. However, you may find that at the end of the lease, these items were not repaired. If you do this, make sure that you do a walk-through of your unit at least once a year to ensure that the tenant is maintaining your unit. But don’t allow your tenant to do electrical or plumbing repairs, unless they are licensed in those areas.
Sometimes tenants leave behind cleaning supplies or small appliances (like a toaster oven or microwave) instead of throwing them away. We usually ask the new tenants if they want the items. If they do not, we remove them. We let the new tenants know that they can use the small appliances or throw/give them away if they do not want them or if they break. You can write into your lease that, should the microwave break, you will not repair it.