Tenant wants reimbursement for food...

23 Replies

Good afternoon,

I have a section 8 tenant, which had a damaged refrigerator. I purchased a used refrigerator on monday and thought everything was all set. Yesterday (Sunday), I received a call from my tenant stating that I need to give her grocery money.

I had someone go out and verify the freezer wasn't freezing, and ordered a brand new refrigerator from Lowes which was delivered today (Monday). 

She is demanding to be reimbursed for her groceries and such, but I feel everything was handled quickly. Apparently the refrigerator wasn't working properly since install, she didn't notify me until Sunday, almost a week later.

What should I do BP?

Thanks!

Depends.  What does your lease say?  What is permissible in your area?

I always include in my lease that landlord is not responsible for the loss of food due to failure of an appliance. 

She should have told you sooner.  But - how much money is she talking about?  If it wasn't much and otherwise things are good with her, I might pay it or split the difference with her if it wasn't in the lease, just to keep a decent tenant. 

@Junior Correa  

So you verified that the fridge you purchased did not have a working freezer, correct?

If so, I'd try and get my money back for that one.

As to your tenant, I would head down to the local super market and buy her a $50 gift card.  It really sucks that she lost her food and it really sucks that you had to buy 2 fridges.

Should she have told you the freezer wasn't working earlier?  Yes, but she didn't.

I vote that a working fridge and $50 gift card should settle everything without letting her dictate terms above and beyond the lease.

If your tenant has renter's insurance there might be coverage under that policy. Sounds like you bought a defective unit and didn't stick a thermometer in it (hint: a refrigerator thermometer is just a few dollars at the big box stores) to verify operation. Did you buy this refrigerator from a second hand shop or a private party?  If a store, ask if they will cover your losses. 

If she is a tenant that is constantly pushing and an overall nuisance  I would tell her no. If she is a great tenant and this is the first time she called I probably would give her a $50 food card with the provision that future calls need to be ASAP to mitigate damage.

I ditto that said by @Deborah Smith  @Aaron Montague  @Steve Babiak  @Elizabeth C. and might add to ask her what she thinks the value of the food that was lost in the freezer was worth.  Might be a lot less than $50.  Get her a grocery store gift card for that, but have a top dollar limit in your mind.  Everything's negotiable.

Originally posted by @Deborah Smith:

Depends.  What does your lease say?  What is permissible in your area?

I always include in my lease that landlord is not responsible for the loss of food due to failure of an appliance. 

She should have told you sooner.  But - how much money is she talking about?  If it wasn't much and otherwise things are good with her, I might pay it or split the difference with her if it wasn't in the lease, just to keep a decent tenant. 

 I don't have anything in my lease other than the tenant being responsible for immediately notifying the landlord of any defects about the premises.

I will definitely add this on any future leases. School of hard knocks for a first time landlord. :(

I'm not sure what got damaged, but I am trying to find out.

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak:

If your tenant has renter's insurance there might be coverage under that policy. Sounds like you bought a defective unit and didn't stick a thermometer in it (hint: a refrigerator thermometer is just a few dollars at the big box stores) to verify operation. Did you buy this refrigerator from a second hand shop or a private party?  If a store, ask if they will cover your losses. 

 She doesn't have renter's insurance. I am going to consider force placement of renter's insurance but haven't gotten around to it. 

The refrigerator was purchased from a private party and obviously a huge mistake.

Goodwill...provide gift card for replacement food.  Same scenario a few years back, so I no longer provide appliances in my affordable rentals..

Originally posted by @Rolanda Eldridge:

Goodwill...provide gift card for replacement food.  Same scenario a few years back, so I no longer provide appliances in my affordable rentals..

 Unfortunately, in my area it is standard for the landlord to provide refrigerator.

Your tenant notified you on Sunday the refrigerator wasn't working.  You got her a new on that was delivered on Monday.  You responded quickly.   Would your mortgage or insurance company reimburse you if you lost food because your freezer pooped out on you?

Might I point out this is a Section 8 tenant which raises the issue of an entitlement mentality here.  In my neck of the woods Section 8 housing does not even require that we offer refrigerators.  Please note we provide refrigerators to all our tenants.

Perhaps your tenant can provide you with the receipts for the amount of food that she lost during this event.  For a giggle, be prepared for a list of expensive steaks and lobster.


Gail

Make sure that you first find out how much she's looking for, before you commit yourself to something. 

I had a tenant who claimed that she had bought $ 300 worth of groceries on Friday and then went out of town for the weekend and came back Sunday evening and everything had turned back because the fridge wasn't working correctly. 

Of course, when I asked her where the food was, she told me that she had already thrown everything away and brought it somewhere else, due to the smell. 

She was a bad tenant and the rent was overdue - luckily my lease stated that I don't warrant the appliances.

It's very easy to walk around the parking lot of a grocery store and pick up $ 300 worth of receipts.

Be careful on forcing someone under section 8 to get renter's insurance because section 8 might just move the tenant and cut ties with you. Buy the tenant a few dollars in food and move on.


Joe Gore

@Junior Correa   Just curious, are you aware that a freezer transported any way but upright needs to sit a minimum of 24 hrs before being plugged in? Not saying it is, but it is possible you bear some blame here, unwittingly.

Originally posted by @Junior Correa:

 She doesn't have renter's insurance. I am going to consider force placement of renter's insurance but haven't gotten around to it. 

Check your laws here on that, too.  I discussed this with my insurance guy (I didn't research further, as I figured his interest was to sell more policies, and it wasn't a huge deal to me) a while back and at least here in AZ I was not able to require renters insurance, only strongly suggest it. 

However, I COULD make it a stipulation of something else.  For example, if you would like to house a dog on the property, you must have renters insurance.  I could do that because that was optional - the option was to not have a dog.  I didn't go that route, just stating for illustration purposes.

Anyway - just check on that before you push it just in case. :)

I had a similar issue a few years back.  Tenant was not a section 8 tenant.  At approx 6 months after they moved in the fridge died.  The husband was very supportive in providing the support and codes for the fridge (I had purchased a used stainless steel GE fridge).  I was able to order the circuit board from ebay and have it dropped shipped to the house for under $100 within 2 days.  The tenant (who was a tradesman) agreed to install the board.

The spouse complained about the lost food.  I ended up reducing the following month's rent by $200 for the cost and inconvenience.  Also used this as a teaching moment, reminding the tenant of my responsibilities and their responsibilities, recommending they get renter's insurance as I would not be responsible for their liabilities going forward.

Turned out to be good move, the tenants stayed a total of 3 years with the husband doing same maintenance repairs for the cost of the materials.

Overall it boils down to be fair and responsive.  I manage three of my rental properties which are within 60 miles to my home.  Overall, I strive to be responsive to tenant inquiries/complaints, treat my tenants fairly and with respect and so far (touch wood), I have not had problems with rent payments or property damage and all have extended their leases.

My fridge died this year and my tenant lost some groceries. I replaced the fridge and advised him to shave $50.00 off the rent. He was pleasantly surprised. My tenant never gave me any problems and kept the place clean. I agree that this is a case by case basis, but paying for the groceries may save some headaches down the road and prevent other things from "magically" becoming defective. 

Originally posted by @Junior Correa:
...
The refrigerator was purchased from a private party and obviously a huge mistake.

Next time have one of these handy when you buy a used refrigerator to test that both the fridge and freezer are working:

http://reviews.lowes.com/0534/1004991/reviews.htm

If this person is in section 8 housing, do they also get food stamps, and assistance from WIC? If so, I would recommend that your tenant contact them for replacement food stamps.

For all the comments regarding thermometers and testing the fridge - depending on how good this tenant is, for all you know, they may have accidentally broken the 1st fridge. That would explain the time between it breaking and them informing you.

Why would the tenant go to section 8 for replacement food stamps that sound like a cheap way out for the landlord?


Joe Gore

Buy the food and move on less headaches for you in the long run trust me!!

Your renter did not have a working refrigerator for well over a week. The original one wasn't  working so you bought a used one on Monday. Then that one wasn't working so you bought a new one. Do the right thing and give your renter $50 for food. 

There have been times in my life that I've needed help and I've tried to pay it forward whenever I can.  Gail, would you be making your comments about people on Section 8 having steak and lobster in their freezer if it happened to be a disabled war veteran? How about an elderly widow raising her grandchildren.  Life often throws us surprises but it's not how often we are knocked down, but how often we stand up after we've been knocked down. 

Sorry for the late response (it has been a busy week at work). 

I made contact with my tenant and she is still upset. I am going to give here a few more days to cool off and drop off a gift card for the expense.

Thank you everyone for your responses and assistance with this problem.

If they are only looking for a small amount like $50 it would be worth it not to have the headache, if they claim they had $300 worth that went bad I would say they are trying to scam you.

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