Allowing Tenants to do Repairs: Good Idea?

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on December 19, 2012 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs, Landlord Tips | icon: commentRead the First Comment

tenant screening, tenant credit checkIn most states, it is the landlord’s responsibility to see that repairs are made within a reasonable time. But have you had tenants offer to make their own repairs? At first, it might seem like a reasonable idea. Your handy tenant offers to paint, repair the dishwasher or replace broken glass in your rental unit. In exchange, you offer a rent reduction. You experience fewer repair hassles and out-of-pocket expenses, and he or she saves some money. Everyone’s happy and nothing could go wrong, right?

As with most all-or-nothing statements, this one is definitely wrong. There are so many possible problems posed by allowing well-meaning tenants to perform repairs.

First of all, unless they do it for a living, even the handiest people don’t come close to the quality offered by a professional. And in many cases, they can cause more damage than they fix. One landlord reported that a simple dishwasher repair was performed incorrectly, resulting in a leak that went undetected for weeks, causing extensive damage to beams and subflooring.

Then, there is the issue of who pays for what. Does the tenant cover parts and labor, or will the landlord be expected to pick up the supplies and parts? If the tenant buys the paintbrushes, and gets a rent reduction, does the landlord then own the paintbrushes? Getting everything in writing might seem like a hassle for such a small job, but you can probably imagine how not doing so could make it much messier.

Finally, landlords must consider the potential for tenant injuries. Few tenants are licensed and insured on their own, so who is responsible for any injuries that occur? One landlord we know faced the potential for thousands of dollars in damages when her tenant replaced broken glass and was seriously injured in the process. The landlord’s liability policy did not cover the losses, since the tenant was not an employee. Eventually, the case was settled, but not without a great deal of time, worry and expense on the landlord’s part.

When you’re running a business, allowing non-professionals to perform work on your building is not the best approach. The potential for problems exists throughout the process, and the end result is rarely what you expected. The same applies to the business of landlording. Think twice before you allow a tenant to make repairs!

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