Renter never changed out furnace filter and froze up A/C, should they pay?

19 Replies

I have some very good, professional renters in my place. Have never paid late or had any issues. They have been there for 2 years. The wife called me yesterday and told me the a/c was not working. Company comes out to take a look and calls me and tells me the furnace filter hasn't been changed out in a long time, like years, and it froze up the whole unit. The lease specifically addresses maintenance like this. The bill was $180. Should I just suck it up, since they never give me any issues, ask them to pay the entire bill, or ignore the issue until they move out and address it with their deposit?

Thanks!

while the bill should be theirs I would let them know of this and then let them know that since they have been great tenants we will cover it this time but that if it happens again in the future we will pass the bill on to them.  

Last month they asked me to get a company to come out and take care of weeds in the yard, since they were very bad. I don't think this is something a landlord should normally do, but I refunded $200 of their rent so they could hire somebody to do it. These guys are great but I don't want to be too nice either.

Why don't you provide filters to the tenants? Now let's say you charge them the $180, and they give you a 30-day notice they are moving then do you have another renter. At $180 did he overhaul the unit?


Joe Gore

yes $180 is a bit high for this type of call I generally pay from $60 to $80 for a licenced ac tech on that type of thing.  I do kind of wonder how great or clean a tenant they are though, if you are having yard care and ac filter issues it is often an indicator of other things being neglected in the home.  Have you done an inspection recently?

I live in Texas and they live in Rapid City, SD. The filter is washable, not disposable. In the lease, I specifically address taking care of minor maintenance issues like light bulbs and cleaning out the filter. 

I'm not really sure what he did for $180. That is the problem when you don't live there and the a/c guy knows that. He could have said $500 and I would have had to pay it. 

Rapid City is a ridiculously good market for landlords. I could rent that house in literally 1 day if they said they wanted to leave. When I put it on the market last year for rent, I had over 20 calls the first week. There is nothing nice to rent up there. I am also charging them less than market rate. I'm in the military and the guy is my friend and a military officer, so I know he won't mess it up, that is why I charge them a little less.

Sorry forgot to add, the husband is deployed for 6 months and will be home soon. That is why I am trying to be lenient on some of the issues that have happened. 

We used to give our tenants the A/C filters, but they would usually forget to change them. Now we have them on a quarterly maintenance plan where my contractor changes them and also checks the drainage. This gives us the chance to inspect every 3 months. Win win.

If it's not in the lease that it's their responsibility, you should change them yourself every few months and make sure to put it in the lease when they renew. Or let them know you'll be by every 3 months to change it. Then you'll know it's done, and done right :)

For our SFRs, the tenants are responsible for the yard.

If you are going to charge the tenants for it you need to do so immediately. It would definitely seem shady to wait till them move out to address something you knew was going to be an issue, best for everyone to settle up asap. If it's in the lease that the tenants must change the filter then they're responsible for any damage caused due to them not doing so.

This is definitely something that you should have been on top of also even if you're not local. You could call/text and make sure they've done it.

@Steven Fowler, I bet your evaporator coil was clog with dust and if they have any pets with pet hair. The evaporator coil must be clean of any obstacle, this way the air will flow. If there is no air flow, you have a frozen evaporator coil. Your a/c will not work properly and the temperature in the home will raise. This type of job is costly. Must keep your filter clean at all times. Maintenance, maintenance,maintenance, is the key.

We are currently renting and one thing that our landlord has done, is provide us with things like filters. What I really like though is rather than just expecting us to remember and being upset if we don't, they send us a text every 4-6 months to remind us to do x,y, or z.

Thanks guys for the insight. I am definitely going to be more proactive in the future with reminders.

They wanted you to do their yard maintenance? Unless you agreed to pay to get the yard work done that is part of renting a house. With the husband deployed I understand your desire to be lenient but doesn't he earn extra pay while deployed? That extra pay could be used for things he would do while home.

Personally, I would pay for the repair myself.  $180 is not bad for A/C service.  I agree with the others that you should make sure they're keeping the filters clean on some type of regular basis.

I've had that happen with my own A/C and found out that you can buy a can of coil cleaner for about $15 that will do about the same thing the A/C guy did. Even keeping my filters clean, the coil tends to get dirty from time to time.

I had this same issue a few months ago. I paid for it, but told the tenants they'd have to pay for it next time. It happened again, and they paid. Since then, I've been getting more calls from them regarding the AC and it's been acting faulty. Looking back, I should have had them pay the first time because it seems the AC has been acting up since this issue. If it goes completely, it's a huge system to repair (big $$) and I'll be annoyed at not having charged them the initial $ (almost $200, in Austin, TX).  If it's in the lease, follow it. Good tenant or not (and mine are excellent), it's human nature to see how far you can go... So set the precedent right up front. My humble opinion only. ;)

If a landlord services their AC like they supposed to you will have fewer problems.


Joe Gore

One thing to do, when your change filters between tenants, put a date on it and your initials,,,that way when they say "I changed that last month", you can show them it was the one being used when they moved in.  I had someone insist they were changing the filter monthly, I ask them to go show me how to change it,,they had no idea where the filter was located.

Someone I know has switched over to the 3" filters and has his AC guy change them on all of his houses every 4 months,,,I use the same AC guy and he said he was amazed at how few problems they did since he was looking at the system every 4 months (and the guy has about 25 units so the AC guys gives him a decent price since he does all of his AC and electrical work, and can schedule it around his other appointments.

My biggest problem here is that I live in Texas and the house is in South Dakota, and I don't have a property manager. I may have to bite the bullet and get one. I am in the military and always find somebody from the military to rent it. It is very easy to find someone. Then in the lease I state that they must contact me if there are any maintenance issues. I have a contractor and preferred A/C company that I can call when anything comes up. 

Everything has gone pretty smooth for the past 4 years doing it this way except for this. I'm just not sure if I want to give up $1800/year to a property manager rather than deal with stuff like this. 

I'd eat it and order a set of filters of Amazon to be sent to the house.  Kindly re-instruct the tenant that changing the filter is their responsibility and that next time the repair will be theirs to deal with.  

Reminds me I need to service all my HVAC systems...  It's kinda like having 15 ticking time bombs waiting to kick the bucket at any moment lol..

Originally posted by @Steven Fowler:

My biggest problem here is that I live in Texas and the house is in South Dakota, and I don't have a property manager. I may have to bite the bullet and get one. I am in the military and always find somebody from the military to rent it. It is very easy to find someone. Then in the lease I state that they must contact me if there are any maintenance issues. I have a contractor and preferred A/C company that I can call when anything comes up. 

Everything has gone pretty smooth for the past 4 years doing it this way except for this. I'm just not sure if I want to give up $1800/year to a property manager rather than deal with stuff like this. 

 I'm sure you can work something out where you just pay someone a fee to do yearly inspections for you.

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.