AC broken down on first day... is it always like this ?

38 Replies

My tenant is moving in today and I got an email from my PM that the AC is not working....

Is this my bad luck or is it always like this on a rental ?

The unit is about 5 years old and it was working great when I stay for a weekend few weeks back. I replace the filter before I left.

Does anybody else have unfortunate start like me ?

You know what they say, things always go wrong at the worst possible time and usually in multiples really stressing you out.

Do you have a long standing relationship with you PM?  I would just want to make sure the PM isnt trying to make a quick buck. 

Don't let it stress you. Things break and wear out, it's just part of the business. The water heater may go tomorrow or you may have a good run of 24 months. Unless you bought a lemon, problems even out over the long term.  Best, Terrell

No its not always like this , it usually happens on a holiday weekend when you are away on vacation in a thunderstorm or during a blizzard . You lucked out 

@David Niles

To be honest, I was thinking the same thing since this is my first investment I don’t have much history with the PM.

I did however ask them to have the HVAC vendor call me directly afterward so I can ask them myself what happened.

Still waiting, hope it is nothing major.

My guess is that this is an operator issue. ie, someone not understanding the thermostat or a switch being off that needs to be on. It wouldn't be common for a 5 year old system to fail.

The first rental I purchased had a flooded basement the day of closing (3 feet of water with both the hot water heater and HVAC in the basement).  There was torrential rain the days before and, I later learned that the contractor left the sump pump unplugged.  Agent paid for a home warranty...and I closed on the property and rented a pool pump the next day...two things I had never done before.

You're on the right path.

@John Teachout

I was just thinking about this too. When I purchase the house, the inspector told me the wiring for the thermostat is different from other. Something about the fan turn on both the fan and compressor. The seller had HVAC come out but they said it is not a defect because it was an installation option when seller installed the unit.

Originally posted by @Jun Wang :

@John Teachout

I was just thinking about this too. When I purchase the house, the inspector told me the wiring for the thermostat is different from other. Something about the fan turn on both the fan and compressor. The seller had HVAC come out but they said it is not a defect because it was an installation option when seller installed the unit.

 So was there anything wrong, or is the tenant just confused by this strange setup?  

@Jun Wang

You’ll be ok. I’ve had a few and it’s usually on the first tenant after a brrrr.

Had to do drain cleaning/routing within a month of move in once, had a furnace go down for good after another move-in, had pipes freeze due to the coldest February on record 2 days after I bought one-> was replacing an exterior door that weekend to keep it from happening again. Couple winters of furnaces blowing parts due to not getting a filter change.

More properties will lead to more stories, but none have ever been a big deal.

Hang in there! Day after closing I walked into my first duplex house hack unit to find the upstairs tenants washer overflowed and my dining room ceiling was now sitting on the floor. 

After a couple of sleepless nights and wondering what I got into the tenants actually offered to pay for the damage and have been terrific since. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

@Jun Wang , Hi I own 19 units and mange another 6 for my kids.  I do all the property management.  I usually totally replace 2-3 AC systems a year and have about 5 service calls a year.  Most common problem is a capacitor goes bad and that will cost you anywhere from $100 to $200.  

A more important assessment from you post is why are you not doing your own PM.  Is your property in your town?  If you do your own PM you will learn how a PM might take advantage of you later.  Also no one will do a better job PMing than you over the long haul.  Network with other investors and leverage their knowledge, experience, skill, repairman contacts and landlord issues.  You will save money and learn a lot.  Cheers.

@Jun Wang

HVACs do occasionally go out. Typically mine go out on 3 day weekends when I’m out of town or on Friday evenings along with water heaters, appliances, garage door issues, and occasional toilets and other minor plumbing issues. Hope it wasn’t anything too expensive. Things commonly break in rentals so be mentally and financially prepared and just simply have a plan for the inevitable issues . In regards to “luck”, I would say you lucked out nicely that it happened at the beginning of the work-week during business hours.

A nonfunctional HVAC unit is definitely better than what could have happened on Day 1. I'm sure with this being your first property, it may seem like a lot, but as others have suggested, it's not.  It is, however, a reminder that you now have a 24/7 responsibility and things will break and need to be repaired.  Get a home warranty so you have peace of mind and know what the financial responsibility is whenever things break.  Also, be sure you have a property repairs reserve to cover these costs.

That said, you hired a PM for a reason. I am hopeful that your PM was simply notifying you of the issue and not expecting you to resolve the problem yourself.  Although I partially understand the skepticism about your PM possibly trying to scam you, it seems a bit odd to go straight to distrust, if this is your first repair issue.  I think you should ask yourself why you asked the PM to have the HVAC company contact you directly.  You hired a PM for a reason and are paying them to handle these issues for you. The PM should be the one communicating with the contractor and should then be presenting the information to you and getting comparison pricing for the repairs, if the first repair quote is costly. 

If you feel you can't trust your PM, you should really self-manage.  As your first property, I would actually suggest that you do (if your schedule and lifestyle permits) because the experience you gain while doing so will help you tremendously moving forward in your investment career.  It will also give you more insight into why you pay a PM each month.

I hope your HVAC repairs are minimal and best of luck to you.

@Jun Wang I have AC problems every summer on multiple properties. I have also had a couple situations where the tenant reports a problem right after moving in. That can be the result of them leaving the door open for hours as they move in. It is hot outside and the air conditioner can't keep up. Tenants think you just turn the dial down and it is cool five minutes later. It can take hours for a system to catch up. If the AC is blowing cool air, tell them to shut the doors, shut the window blinds to keep the sun out, don't run the oven and give it a day to catch up.

It could also be that the AC is low on coolant and it froze up. It could be a bad battery in the thermostat. It could be a plugged drain line on the condenser. I had one in June that was a dirty furnace filter (tenant was supposed to change). My point is it can be many problems that are easy to fix, so it doesn't automatically mean costly repair.

"AC is not working..."

that's as vague of a description of a problem as it gets lol when you hear back from your pm/hvac guy, post the details here so we at least have something to go off of.

@Jun Wang I'm new to REI as well. I closed on two SFH in June. I found out 3 weeks ago that one of the tenants abandoned the house and left all their furniture and a bunch of trash. I also have a vacation home that I started renting as a STR. Within the first few stays: Cable TV didn't work, there was no water (pump switch was off), and one guest fell through the bed (antique bed with no slats).

So, things happen. This is the more important reason everyone tells you to have reserves. You never know when problems will strike, but hopefully, if they strike soon, it will be a while before you have issues again.

My HVAC guy says the more expensive filters can cause the AC to freeze up and recommends only using cheap paper filters during AC season. 

@Mindy Jensen

Sometimes the water heat stops working 1hour after closing. That is why you bring cash reserves into every project and allocate for both repairs and capital will even out over time feels awful at the beginning of ownership.