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Rental Property Charges
Old 08-23-2009, 07:29 AM   #1
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Rental Property Charges

Hey everyone - I have a question for those of you with rental properties - if you'll oblige.

I have a rental property - a condo- in Colorado Springs. It seems like every six months, I'm being charged to fix something. One time it was a refrigerator motor, one time a charge for gluing down tile. Two times, I've been charged for a plumber coming out to auger the toilet and to clear the garbage disposal because noodles had been put down the drain and the line backed up into the laundry room.

My question is - is it standard that the owner gets charged when the tenant is responsible for something, like the two plumbing incidents? I mean, heck - I rent a place, but I wouldn't plug up the toilet and expect someone else to pay $110 to come unstop it. I just want to be sure before I call the prop manager that I'm not being unreasonable. I broke a garbage disposal once in an apartment, and I paid for the plumber to come fix it.

The toilet thing just happened last month, and to top it off - the renters didn't pay in July and August - Can you believe that?
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:17 AM   #2
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I think that is why some of us would no sooner become landlords than fly. Yes, I think that you are responsible for keeping the apartment in livable condition.

The tenants are responsible for not damaging the apartment, and conceivably damages could come out of their damage deposit when they leave.

Maybe it is time to start thinking about eviction.
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:32 AM   #3
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I know what you are saying about the tenant being the cause of the problem but I never wanted to discourage them from calling to get a necessary repair completed.

The only thing worse than having to pay for the initial repair is paying for a much more expensive and complicated repair that results from not completing the first repair.

I hope your property manager has already issued the proper notices to start the eviction. There are waiting periods so the sooner you get started the better.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:11 AM   #4
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Yeah, I need to make some changes. I received a notice a couple of weeks ago that they were riding through the parking lot with their stereo loud, disrupting people and that I would get charged $50 by the HOA the next time they did it.
They're military too - I had hoped for better.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:22 AM   #5
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Virginia,

You may want to look at changing your lease. Tenant should not be able to call in repairs directly, except in cases of emergency. If your property manager is approving you need to find another manager.

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Old 08-23-2009, 12:42 PM   #6
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One time it was a refrigerator motor, one time a charge for gluing down tile.
If you rented the place with a working refrigerator, then fixing it is your responsibility. The loose tile is also yours if its not due to tenant abuse.

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Two times, I've been charged for a plumber coming out to auger the toilet and to clear the garbage disposal because noodles had been put down the drain and the line backed up into the laundry room.
If the tenant put something other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet, such as tampons, I would have paid the first bill and warned them. The second time I would have paid to fix it and billed them. Tenants pay for breakage due to tenant abuse (ie. beyond normal wear and tear). As for the garbage disposal, if they poured grease down it and the pipes, they pay. A garbage disposal is not a blender.

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My question is - is it standard that the owner gets charged when the tenant is responsible for something, like the two plumbing incidents?
No the tenant pays, just be sure it not normal wear and tear, but abuse or misuse.

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I just want to be sure before I call the prop manager that I'm not being unreasonable.
No, part of the property managers responsibility is to repair and appropriately bill the tenant.

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The toilet thing just happened last month, and to top it off - the renters didn't pay in July and August - Can you believe that?
If the tenants rent is one day late, its the property managers responsibility to start eviction proceedings, such as serving notice to pay or quit. It may be up to you to follow through and get an attorney to do the actual eviction. For sure the property manager should have notified you immediately if the rent is a month late. Their not doing so may breach their management contract with you. Read it and for sure call them and demand an accounting. Possibly they are just holding the rent payments. In CA. only a licensed RE broker can legally manage property. Suing him will jeopardize his license, so he has a substantial interest in quickly settling this.
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Old 08-23-2009, 01:41 PM   #7
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I have a rental property - a condo- in Colorado Springs.
Long-distance landlording. (*flinch* **cringe**) Oh joy.

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Originally Posted by virginia View Post
It seems like every six months, I'm being charged to fix something. One time it was a refrigerator motor, one time a charge for gluing down tile. Two times, I've been charged for a plumber coming out to auger the toilet and to clear the garbage disposal because noodles had been put down the drain and the line backed up into the laundry room.
My question is - is it standard that the owner gets charged when the tenant is responsible for something, like the two plumbing incidents? I mean, heck - I rent a place, but I wouldn't plug up the toilet and expect someone else to pay $110 to come unstop it. I just want to be sure before I call the prop manager that I'm not being unreasonable. I broke a garbage disposal once in an apartment, and I paid for the plumber to come fix it.
Not much that can be done about a fridge motor or loose tile, although each could be caused by tenant neglect or a lack of maintenance. (Cleaning & vacuuming fridge coils, walking through the place at least annually looking for problems before they turn into major problems.) Most landlords chalk this up to the cost of doing business.

Plugged toilets, though, should be a pure tenant problem/responsibility. 99.99% of all plugged toilets are "operator error"-- either too much toilet paper or else objects that shouldn't be there in the first place like toys, tampons, & cell phones. (For those of you wondering "But what if the tenant was suffering from really bad constipation and then...?" I have a number of gross stories from the submarine force's toilet systems that really aren't appropriate for a moderated discussion board. Heck, I still have nightmares.) 99% of all toilet plugs improve with age-- waiting for an hour or two, perhaps overnight, before plunging vigorously. You could even put that clause in the lease: "Plugged toilets are a tenant responsibility, including additional damage from overflow".

Auguring a toilet. I think plumbers choose that option because they can charge more suspect possessions rather than human waste/toilet paper. I've never needed an auger to clear a toilet.

Disposals are a gray area (plumber humor). Again it's 99.99% operator error but tenants have a wider array of choices (so to speak) of inappropriate objects to insert into a disposal than into a toilet. I'd still hold the tenant responsible. Care & repair are ridiculously easy and training takes about 10 minutes.

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The toilet thing just happened last month, and to top it off - the renters didn't pay in July and August - Can you believe that?
... and theeeeeeey're outta here!

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Yeah, I need to make some changes. I received a notice a couple of weeks ago that they were riding through the parking lot with their stereo loud, disrupting people and that I would get charged $50 by the HOA the next time they did it.
They're military too - I had hoped for better.
You already know this, but for the benefit of those who aren't part of the military-- this is totally unacceptable military & tenant behavior. Even if you weren't already evicting them then you'd want them to vacate at the end of their lease. Too many good military tenants (especially with an ad at the local base housing office or through AHRN.com, if it's available in your area) to put up with people like these.

Since you're evicting them anyway, you have nothing to lose by writing a letter to their command. You'd dispassionately list their quantitative behavioral issues (not paying rent, HOA warning) and notify the command "just for their info" that you're initiating eviction proceedings. Copy to the base's legal office.

Any department head or XO worth their commission would invite the miscreants accused to stop by for a friendly discussion of their financial and community-relations responsibilities. (They'd much rather hear from a landlord directly than to read about it on the front page of the local newspaper.) They'd also remind them that the command would not look kindly on hearing from the landlord that the property had been trashed during eviction, and that such behavior might even invite UCMJ proceedings.

Again I'm preaching to the choir, but the reason the command cares in the first place is that there's evidence of financial distress. This vulnerability to bribery, blackmail, & espionage can directly impact their suitability for continued access to classified material and even their security clearance. It certainly affects their readiness & performance. A command wants to find out about financial symptoms like these before they attempt to deploy people or before it turns into a crisis. And in the worst case, your tenants might already be widely recognized as dirtbags who desperately need to leave the service. Your timely and informative letter might give the command all the ammunition they need to expedite their departure.

Who knows, an outstanding XO might even require them to take a few months' advance pay to get caught up on the delinquent rent.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:36 PM   #8
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When I was a long distance landlord, I found out that not only will tenants be more aggressive about reporting problems and wanting you to pay to repair them, but property managers sometimes do so as well. It's easier for them to pass the responsibility to a subcontractor and send you the bill, but it's lazy and failing to provide the service you wanted from them as a long distance landlord. They know you cannot just drop in and see what's really wrong or push back because it's much harder for you to know for sure if there's a less costly way to fix, or if it's really a case of tenants abused the property. Property managers are supposed to do this for you -- you are paying them an awful lot of money for this service.

Tenants who fail to pay rent are another problem and your property manager is really failing you if they cannot stay on top of that.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:21 PM   #9
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Thanks for your responses. Quietman, I think you are right, and I've been feeling that the property management company has been taking advantage of the situation as well- especially when they charged me for the trowel to glue the tile down - (like are you telling me that a handyman would not have that tool, they have to buy it?).
The final straw was today when I realized a plumber had been called in June AND July to fix the toilet, and that the second time a 3 inch cap (like maybe from a laundry detergent bottle?) had been taken out of the toilet. I bought that place in immaculate condition, I can't imagine what it probably looks like now. Oh well, lesson's learned, and I will fix it.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:48 PM   #10
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Call the property manager and tell them you want to be notified before a bill is incurred. This will allow youto screen the small stuff. A loose floor tile is not an "emergency". Once had a tenant insist on having someone come to change the light bulbs ... could I make this stuff up!

Buy the tenant a tiolet auger.

Evict if they're more than 30 days late. Waiting is a fools game.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:57 PM   #11
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When I was a long distance landlord, I found out that not only will tenants be more aggressive about reporting problems and wanting you to pay to repair them, but property managers sometimes do so as well.

Tenants who fail to pay rent are another problem and your property manager is really failing you if they cannot stay on top of that.
Both true. Property managers make their dough by collecting leasing fees and monthly management fees. They can't collect fees when no rent is coming in. Tenants who don't pay rent must be evicted, plain and simple. Most leases I've seen have a small (3-5 day) grace period; beyond that the tenant pays a late fee; beyond 15 days late it is time to start eviction proceedings. Tenants who abuse the grace period (i.e. think the landlord should be grateful that "after all, we pay the rent, so what if it's not exactly on the first") should get a negative reference.

Based on many years of experience (both managing directly and via property manager) even a well-cared-for property can have a lot of things go wrong with it in less time than you'd expect. Your use of appliances, for example, may be lots lower than the typical renter family's. Washers, dryers, dishwashers, and fridges - all seem to get sick and die faster in a rental home.

Leases I've seen, typically charge the tenant anywhere from $35 to $75 of the repair costs for any repair except an emergency. This is specifically to cut down on nuisance costs. You do not want to charge so much, that money-conscious tenants fail to report real problems. We didn't charge our last tenant anything toward replacing the water heater, because we were grateful that he pointed it out to us before the leak got bad, and also stayed home from work to let in the plumber who installed the new water heater.

It has been our observation that property management co's focus mostly on "getting someone in the place," so they can collect a leasing fee. That leaves them little time to manage the places, and they are usually overloaded with places to manage as it is. So yes, they take a call from panicked tenant who doesn't know how to stop an overflowing toilet, and turn it over to their favorite plumber and deduct his bill from your rent check. Whereas an on-site landlord would need to tell the tenant how to turn off the water at the base of the toilet, then drive over to the property to show them how to use a plunger Consider what that would cost you in terms of your own time and effort. Maybe Mr. Plumber really is the best option, in the end.

If the real estate market ever recovers, we will sell our rental property, but for now...let's just say we feel your pain

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Old 08-24-2009, 07:41 AM   #12
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charge the tenant anywhere from $35 to $75 of the repair costs
Illegal in MA ... so check your state laws. Heck, we can't even charge a LATE fee.

One of the problems I had with my property manager was the incentive for high turnover (they took 1 month rent to place/find a new tenant). So the compromise was that they would replace any tenant "free" - no fee - who did not fulfill thier lease. Nothing worse in this business than a vacancy twice in a year.
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Old 08-24-2009, 09:13 AM   #13
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Leases I've seen, typically charge the tenant anywhere from $35 to $75 of the repair costs for any repair except an emergency. This is specifically to cut down on nuisance costs. You do not want to charge so much, that money-conscious tenants fail to report real problems. We didn't charge our last tenant anything toward replacing the water heater, because we were grateful that he pointed it out to us before the leak got bad, and also stayed home from work to let in the plumber who installed the new water heater.
I have never seen or heard of these repair costs to be paid by tenant in leases. Residential at least. It is usually worded something like LL will repair anything that is damaged or fails through no fault of the tenant. Damages to the property caused by tenant are to be paid for by tenant, except that damage caused by ordinary wear and tear.

Appliance failures, clogged drains, etc would seem to be ordinary wear and tear unless you have evidence to the contrary. Maybe a tenant moved in to your unit and the drains were already 90% clogged with grease, and then ordinary wear and tear led to 100% blockage. Now if this happens a second or third time in a year, then you have identified the tenant as the cause.

Threads like these remind me why I'm no longer a landlord!

Oh the stories... "Can you replace the oven because every time I bake a cake it doesn't turn out quite right, so I think your oven is broken". Subsequent oven thermometer tests revealed I needed to calibrate the temperature dial on the temperature knob by a couple dozen degrees, but otherwise the internal temperatures were fairly even and consistent. Grrr...

Then there was the time that the tenants complained because the water was blowing into their room and causing mold to grow. This was right after a heavy rainstorm when the window was left open because they wanted to avoid paying for air conditioning. The tenants were PhD candidates at a fairly prestigious university. Go figure, water is wet. One of them was studying chemistry too, so you think she would be cognizant of the physical properties of water.
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Old 09-03-2009, 08:06 PM   #14
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Well, I got another complaint from the HOA last week that there were "Mechanical and Machine noises" coming from the apartment. Property manager was irritated that the complaint didn't go straight to her. I figure that she didn't want me to know because if I don't know, I don't have anything to complain about. So I ask her to go and inspect the place and talk to the tenants and find out what the noises are. She calls, and doesn't get an answer, goes over, no one's home. Goes over the next day and goes inside, and everything is gone. They skipped out. How about that. I'm glad they're gone. Now I just have to extricate myself from the property management relationship while ensuring that they fulfill their end of the deal.
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:33 PM   #15
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So Virginia, they skipped owing 2 months, now 3 months rent, and have damaged the place. You started eviction didn't you? If you didn't, now's the time to post a notice of belief of abandonment so you can proceed legally against them and get the money they stole from you. You know they are military and you know their base. Hire a flat fee local attorney specializing in evictions and get your rent money and damage money. Contacting the base commander in parallel will improve your collection chances. Then you can move against the PM.
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:58 PM   #16
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Thanks HPRyder. I didn't know about the belief of abandonment.
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Old 09-04-2009, 11:37 AM   #17
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Thanks HPRyder. I didn't know about the belief of abandonment.
Have you changed the locks yet?

If the neighbors are hearing mechanical & machine noises, I doubt the tenants were running the vacuum cleaner. I wonder what they cut out of the walls or otherwise damaged...

I'm pretty sure their actions over the last few months violated at least one UCMJ article. Your letter to their CO may be just the sort of straw their camel's back is looking for.
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Old 09-04-2009, 12:51 PM   #18
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I didn't know about the belief of abandonment.
I could not easily tell from your profile which state your in, but you should use the correct state forms. Since your rental is out of state and you seem uneducated in this business, get the flat fee eviction attorney of the state & county your rental is located in to take the eviction case.

Here in CA, it would cost about 500-600 for an uncontested full eviction and could take 3-4 weeks. You can stop the process at varying points at varying costs. You should file for possession, money damages and full legal costs. Be sure and use the correct forms, filled in properly and served correctly. The attorney can do it all, he does it full time and has all the contacts. If your unsure if they vacated, post a 24 hour notice of entrance, to say check that the smoke detectors are working, take a witness with you, a digital camera and the days newspaper. Take lots and lots and lots of pictures of each room, wall, floor, door, door hardware, window, window shades, closet, .... Everything you can see. Include the newspaper front page in many of the pictures. You get the picture, I hope. Then check to see if the utilities have been canceled. Do not restart the utilities in your name until you get possession or the attorney advises you to.

You can locate such a specialist attorney by contacting a local apartment association or real estate investor club for the area the rental is in. Eviction lawyers alway advertise with these groups.

The one thing I would not do is use the PM, they have already demonstrated their incompetence and their inaction has substantially caused you money damages.

Again I stress, call up the base commanding officer, while you are filing the eviction papers and file a complaint with his office. You never know how he will help you.

You will probably have to make a special trip to the rental to take care of these things, as well as get handy man / contractor references for repair estimates. While such a trip is a hassle anywhere, whats the rental worth.
Here in So. Ca. its worth 300-400K. For that kind of money, I sure would make a special trip.
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Old 09-04-2009, 07:33 PM   #19
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The locks have not been changed yet. The property manager sent them a letter and told them that if they intended to break their lease that they still owed monthly rent until the expiration of the lease or until the place is rented again. Since everything was gone, she also wrote in the letter that they would be charged for cleaning the house and shampooing the carpets unless they did it by next Tuesday. The property management company said that they will call post, to include the reference that came from post and let them know the situation. I wish I could go to the rental, but am deploying very soon. I will send a friend over there to look. I already told the PM Company that I wanted pictures of all areas of the house to see the condition. I'm in a bad position, because I have little time and am won't be in a position to do much after I leave. The property manager was responsive today. I talked to her about the credit check and references, asking what went wrong. I think that she's as glad as I am that they're gone.
Thanks for your comments. This is just a learning lesson for me. There's no use to get emotional or mad about it, but it's an investment that I need to protect, and I didn't realize that it was so hard to protect. I had a tenant in Hawaii that lived in my place for two years, and I never had a peep out of her. I went to sell the place, and it was in perfect condition too. I just had to learn the hard way, that not everyone is that way.
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:15 PM   #20
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Virginia, best wishes on your deployment.

Rake the ^%$#s over the coals with their commanding officer.

I'm sure there will be someone who can 'counsel' and 'motivate' the slime.

ta,
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