Tenant demands that she is present during all repairs

26 Replies

Hi Everyone,

I have a tenant who is becoming a royal pain in my neck. She does not allow anyone to enter the premises for purposes of making repairs or inspections (required city inspections that is) unless she or her husband are home. Our lease explicitly states that we have the right to enter with notice. I am based in Michigan where there is no specific requirement for how long in advance you need to provide notice. We have tried so hard to accommodate her and often reschedule visits numerous times.

We have had it. We gave them written notice that effective immediately we can no longer accommodate rescheduling requests. We will be providing 24 hours notice and will enter the property after that during regular business hours regardless of who is home. No minor children at the house. If they want to be present, we don't care. Take the day off and stay home.

There are other issues with this tenant as well. For example, she is mandating that we provide brand new AC and furnace units because the current ones are "on their last leg" and all we do is put band aids. In a written letter I also explained that as long as we restore them to operational condition, whether we repaired them or replaced them should be irrelevant to her. I do understand my obligation to repair any issues, but she shouldn't be the one to tell me what upgrades I need to make to the house. If the unit dies and I cannot repair it, I will replace it. Until then, band aids or not - not her problem as long as it works.

She doesn't agree with my letter and wants to talk (argue) about it. Can she legally tell me that I can't go in after I give her notice? If she continues to argue about this, can I tell her that I can evict her based on breach of contract? This is after all a clause in my lease which she signed.

Sounds like tenant mismanagement. She is clearly in control of the situation and has you on your heels. I've been in your shoes in the past and what seems like the best approach is to accommodate the tenant and keep that rent coming in. In hindsight, if I were in that situation again today I would simply tell the tenant that I have XYZ scheduled for whatever time and that I will be present to let the contractor in or inspect or whatever it is. If there is pushback I would immediately turn towards terminating the lease and moving the tenant along in whatever manner causes you the least pain (cash for keys might be best).

In landlording, headaches today almost always equal much bigger headaches tomorrow.

@Vicki K.

Welcome to BP. I hope we can find some helpful advice for you.

Check with all statues about the tenant notice time period. Ones that I have run into (not all pertain to everyone):

Neighborhood Association
Town
District (means different things in different states)
County
State

One of those entities may have a specific time period that is relevant to your property.

In general 48 hours of notice is good enough for everything I have ever seen. I second the opinion above, just schedule and let the tenant decide if they want to be home.

The tenant has no standing on the repairs. You have a contract to provide certain things (heat, shelter, etc) and so long as you are doing so without causing undo harm to the tenant, you are doing your job.

I also echo the "get rid of this tenant" advice. I hope the lease term is up shortly.

Let's say you enter when no one is home and something come up missing your insurance will be on the hook. Be a good landlord and work with the tenant.


Joe Gore

If your lease states that you can enter the unit after reasonable notice has been given then you can legally enter. I think the minimum time for "reasonable" is 24 hours. Your tenant cannot deny you entry just because they are not present. Regarding the AC unit, unless it is poses a danger to use then they cannot require you to replace it. Remind them that they leased the property with the old AC unit, not contingent on an new one.

Take a look at these websites for clarification on "reasonable"...good luck.

http://www.landlord.com/landlord_right_of_entry_by_state.htm#MICHIGAN:_

http://www.michiganlegalaid.org/library_client/resource.2005-05-30.1117489737513/html_view

Jon, thanks for the links. I read what is on there and now I am more confused.

"What is "reasonable notice" before entering?

You should set standards for your landlord to follow. Write your landlord a letter making clear your expectations. You might demand one to three days written or verbal advance notice for permission to enter. The landlord's request should state who is entering, at what time, and for what reason. You have the right to be present whenever someone enters and the right to refuse entry. If it is not an emergency, and your landlord enters without permission or notice, she or he is trespassing.
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The last two sentences is what I don't understand. Michigan law simply states "reasonable notice" and I always provide notice and acknowledge requests same day (often times fixing things same day if they are home). Why does the link you sent me say that they have the right to be present of refuse entry? I thought they cannot refuse entry and that's the issue I am having.

As long as you give them the proper notice by law they have no right to deny that access and its in your lease. They also do not have the right to tell you when/if you should replace your HVAC unit(s) as long as they operate properly. Be nice but stern and try to work with her but in the end you need to do what you need to do to gain proper access. And yes at the first opportunity look for another tenant per your lease. Hopefully it doesn't come to evicting her out as you may have new problems/headache's with that especially if they are good about paying her rent full on time.

@Vicki K. I read that as a request the tenant can make if there is not a clause in the lease specifically addressing access by the landlord. If the lease does not state anything regarding access to the property, then the tenant can write a letter with expected access terms.

Bottom line, make sure it is in the lease. Hopefully, 99% of the time you will not have a tenant with this issue anyway.

I feel your pain @Vicki K. , as we had a tenant like that too. Our very first one, and she taught us many lessons throughout her tenancy.

Our lease has always stated what is legal for proper notice of entry. I go over the lease with the tenants before they sign it, at least one or two days before, so they have time to read it through and bring up any concerns.

This particular tenant would throw screaming and cursing fits over the phone and by text if she wanted a repair that we would not or could not accommodate to her schedule for being home. If you have to enter, give proper written notice if possible (have someone local put a notice on her door and take a photo) and have whoever goes in there bring someone else. This is what I would recommend for critical repairs. You have a right to protect and preserve your property.

If it's something that can wait, try to work with the tenant, consider it temporary, and plan for their lease termination.

How you repair your mechanical systems is your business, not the tenant's. In Florida, if an A/C breaks, the landlord must respond within 24 hours. The law doesn't say a new unit must be installed in 24 hours, or how quickly the existing one has to be repaired - since that's out of the landlord's control. Probably the same thing in colder states in regards to the furnace. I've heard of tenants deliberately breaking appliances in order to get new ones. Hopefully your tenant hasn't heard of sabotage ;)

@Aly L, we do have our suspicion that something shady may be going on with the AC. Our licensed HVAC contractor said that when he went to respond to the latest call about the AC not working, the unit was completely out of freon which he said could happen if there was a large hole. There wasn't, so he already is suspecting something is happening. He actually tightened a part on there so hard that a significant effort will be required to unscrew it to release the freon and he also marked it with a special market that can detect tampering. When the HVAC guy left, she was yelling at him "Oh, you will be back, because the AC will get replaced." Gotta wonder what makes her so sure!

I take it, if we can confirm that, I should have no problem evicting her, right?

Tenants should not be causing intentional damage to the property. That should be a sound ground for lease termination and eviction.

@Vicki K. , your tenant is sounding worse than ours! Our lease states that any damages/repairs to appliances or our property resulting from negligence or improper use will be billed to the tenant. Our lease also states that anything the tenant owes is considered "additional rent", and that not paying it is like not paying rent; i.e., cause for a 3 Day Pay or Quit notice, then eviction.

I would seriously consider a consultation with an attorney that specializes in landlord/tenant law, and just continue to document everything that you, the tenant, and any outside vendors do and say.

When does the tenant's lease expire?

vicki,

I attempt to be accomodating as possible. If they call or text with an issue I will state when I can get there, either today or tomorrow according to my schedule. I have always had good cooperation and most of my guests have no issue with me coming over while there gone to work on this or that, with their knowledge that is. If I cannot get a time convenient for both of us in what I determine to be a timely manner, then I will provide notice and enter. So if I want to do a general inspection, and we can't agree on something a week or two out I will say ok I will swing by tonight with written notice that I will be entering at such and such a time on this date (a couple days or week out).

If the central air is tapered with or you believe it is I would explain that their are issue with the unit that cannot be explained by the mechanics of the model. There appears to be vandalism of some sort going on. So to ensure you comfort and safety you have decommissioned the central air unit and have provided 2 window air conditioners for their use but still your property. I live in Wisconsin and we have a similiar climate, window air conditioners are definately not as nice but that is what most of my units have.

Originally posted by Aly NA:
In Florida, if an A/C breaks, the landlord must respond within 24 hours.

Who told you that, your tenant? Lack of air conditioning is not classified as a habitability issue and is not considered an emergency repair that must be made in FL.

Hey Vicki,

I feel your pain too:( My partner and I are right next store to you- we own and manage a bunch of rentals in South Redford. Although very few and far between I've had experiences like what you're describing.

I would sit down with the Tenants and go over the lease, specifically the areas that are problematic with this tenant, and try to come to some kind of understanding. Be firm, but friendly and fair. In a nice way I would say that noncompliance is grounds for eviction. I've had to do this a few times. Half the time this solves the problem because it lets the tenant know that they don't call the shots- there are policies and procedures in place that they have to follow. I've had problematic tenants turn into decent (although never great) long term tenants through this process. I'll echo what Michael said above- if you don't nip this problem in the bud now it will only get much worse. Ask me how I know that:)

However, if they persist in being aggressive and uncooperative I'd then offer to let them out of there lease without penalty. And give them their security deposit back minus any damages, outstanding water bills, etc.

If they don't go for that I'd offer them cash for keys.

If all else fails I'd hire a good attorney and have them evicted. We have some very good Attorneys that I can recommend to you.

Good Luck!

Mike Dundon

Not the tenant. And not that it must be repaired in 24 hours, just that we need to respond and set up the repair call. We always have, and it might have been our original attorney from several years ago who said it. I'm actually going to check with our current attorney, but since our units all have central A/C, we are responsible for getting it fixed. Even if our attorney says we have 7 or more days to respond, I would hardly make a tenant sweat it out in 90something heat just because I could.

Unless it was @Vicki K. 's tenant :)

@Aly L The law doesn't provide a specific time frame for you to respond the tenant's repair request for the AC. In Florida if you don't make the repairs the tenant can issue a 7 day notice (example notice) for you to make the repairs and if the landlord doesn't make an attempt to repair during that period then the tenant may withhold rent.

That being said I always make an effort to have all of my A/C service calls completed within 24 hours and system replacements completed within 2-3 days.

@Mike Dundon,

I'd love to get your referrals for good lawyers in our area. I really hope it doesn't come to that, but good to have the contacts for the future.

I am meeting with the tenants today at 6:00 pm. I really don't know what to expect. The guy is a pushover - his wife is the mean one, and she is the one who seems to be calling the shots in the house. On Saturday, I had my HVAC contractor at her house to look at the AC (same day she sent me a notice that it wasn't working) - she was home and not opening the door. I called her and asked her to open the door as he needs to look at the unit and repair it for her. She insisted that someone has told her the repairs are to be made outside and no one had to go in. Lies!!! I'd like to see her HVAC license - sounds like she thinks she is expert. She texted me later to tell me she felt I was being very rude to her when she was the one yelling at me on the phone.

Wonder how she will be tonight when I show up for our discussion.

Ah... the fun of tenant management!

Thankfully I haven't had many bad apples so far. Our tenants love us. We offer high-quality properties and are extremely responsive to all requests. Indeed they liked the house so much, wanted a 2-year lease right from the start.

Their term ends in February 2015.

Aly, A/C in Michigan is considered a luxury item, not a necessity so I am not obligated to have one. The house did however come with an A/C at the time they signed a lease so I have to maintain it or reduce her rent.

Hey this may be a good strategy for getting her out. A/C broke? Oh, really? Sorry, not obligated to buy a new one. Here is $20 off your monthly rent. If you can't stand the heat, you may want to move.

No problem Vicki- just let me know

The fact that she was already attempting to turn on the AC is so ridiculous. But totally typical. God forbid it get above 74 degrees in the house:) Open a damn window!

In all seriousness though I'd be suspicious of what she's trying to hide and why she's so paranoid about letting people in. In my experience there are only a couple reasons for this and none of them are valid or good. Either they have an unauthorized Pet living at the house- or family/friends, etc. have moved in. They're smoking in the house or they're running a grow room in the basement. I've experienced all of them.

Good Luck and be Strong!

Originally posted by @Vicki K. :
Aly, A/C in Michigan is considered a luxury item, not a necessity so I am not obligated to have one. The house did however come with an A/C at the time they signed a lease so I have to maintain it or reduce her rent.

Hey this may be a good strategy for getting her out. A/C broke? Oh, really? Sorry, not obligated to buy a new one. Here is $20 off your monthly rent. If you can't stand the heat, you may want to move.

That's a great strategy! If $20 works, she won't last the summer ;)

@Michael Dundon , I hear you on that one. Our first tenant had moved her mother and brother in there at various times, seemed to be running a laundry service out of the basement, and eventually got a pit bull. The neighbor also said she was selling drugs. I had another tenant that also didn't want anyone in the unit when she wasn't home, so I asked her flat out if she had something to hide. She said no...and then made arrangements to be home after all. No grow room ;)

update, please!

Wow, well let me just say... I did not expect things to turn out the way they did. As I said previously, the tenants asked to meet with me as they didn't agree with many points of my letter. I spent 1.5 hours with them and I there was nothing that they disagreed about. After I explained everything, they were even apologetic and told me how much they like the house and how appreciative they are of everything we do. I was ready for a "fight" - instead everyone was pleasant and relaxed. I was friendly and stern as all of you suggested and I think that most importantly I made them feel heard. Meeting in person and talking things through was definitely the right thing to ease the tension that was building between us and these otherwise perfect tenants - house is immaculate, rent is always on time, they don't cause trouble for neighbors and report issues timely.

They agreed that nothing will be replaced on demand. We will decide the course of action based on professional judgement. If it works, they should not have any objections. I think they realized they crossed the line on that one and simply backed off saying to me " we just want it to work; you do what is best".

They still would like to be present during repairs and inspections, and we agreed that if it is not an emergency we will work out a mutually convenient time. If there is an emergency or urgent repairs - they will be done. I also told them that I cannot keep sending contractors on weekends because that's the only day that works for them, because it costs me extra. They apologized profusely about that saying that they did not even think about those implications and said that going forward they will do what is necessary to be home during normal hours when things are scheduled for repair. Good compromise. I think the most important thing was for them to hear that they are not in charge. There are legal rights I have as landlord and that they have to cooperate. They took full responsibility for that.

I did give myself a pat on the shoulder for sticking to my agenda and my key messages. I was very nice but firm. I couldn't have dreamed of a better outcome.

Thank you all for your support in getting me prepared for a bad situation. Glad it never got to that and instead, I get to keep a good tenant for another year and hopefully have a lot less hassle going forward. Phew!

You guys /gals rock! Thank you!

Great outcome @Vicki K. ! I will caution that I had a similar experience with a previous tenant and face-to-face interactions always went better than expected, but things slowly went downhill afterwards until another altercation was on the horizon and another face-to-face was needed.

I hope that isn't the case for you, but if it is make sure to keep a level head and focus on the big picture. My rule of thumb is to not let other people's problem's become mine (excluding friends/family to some extent).

That's great @Vicki K. , you're sleeping much better now I'm sure!

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