When to get a tenant

5 Replies

Good morning everyone.  I have a landlord question I was hoping to get some input on.  I closed on a condo in a Chicago suburb to rehab and then rent out.  I did all the inside work myself and that work is pretty much done.  So the unit is ready to be rented.  However, the balcony (3rd floor) is probably not completely structurally sound.  The support joists are rotted and need to be replaced.  The condo association is going to have all the balconies at the building repaired at once by their contractor so they all look the same.  Mine is in the worst shape, but chances are there are others that are on their way to having similar structural issues.  How my balcony is repaired is going to depend on the condition of the others.  If most of the others only need a minor facelift, then the contractor will take up my floor and sister new joists running out to support the balcony.  If several others also need structural repair, then the contractor will erect 2x6's to support all the balconies for a uniform look.

Here's my issue - I have no idea how long that will take, since it is dependent on the cooperation of 23 other condo owners, inspections, decisions being made, permits, and then work being done. I don't want to incur further holding costs while I am waiting.  Not to mention if it takes until November it will be really difficult finding a tenant during the holidays and early winter months.  But if I put a tenant in there now, I am subjecting myself to possible liability.  I would of course make the tenant agree not to go on the balcony until it was repaired (and probably lower the rent a bit until it is done to make up for the time without a balcony - possibly even give free rent during the actual construction to make up for any inconvenience).  But what if they have some stupid guests that go out there jumping up and down and the whole thing comes down?

Would you other landlords recommend getting a tenant in there or just continuing to eat taxes, association fees, etc. until the balcony is fully repaired? 

You could actually screen the balcony off, with a wrought-iron screen or something.

I would be less worried about that than about the fact that you would be moving people in knowing that a very disruptive construction project is on their horizon.  Never mind "maybe even" free rent during the construction process.  Think more in terms of providing a hotel while their floors are torn up.  And make sure you tell them in advance about what might be happening.

Thanks for the advice Richard.  The hotel idea is a good one.  The significant disruption should only be a couple days.  But yes, of course, it would all be discussed before any lease is signed.

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I would talk to the HOA, having un unsafe balcony opens them up to liabilty if someone was to go out there and get hurt. what if one of your contractors goes out there and falls to his death? i would insist that they fix it now or show evidence from a professional that it is structurally sound. you may need to prove that it is structurally unsound. you may need to contact a HOA atty.

Agree with both @Richard and @Kimberly H.  

I would be totally upfront with any tenant, and provide accommodations while the unit is being worked on.

But more importantly, Kimberly's point - if it's really unsafe, why are they delaying fixing it?  That sounds like something that at a minimum, needs to be temporarily secured to make it safe, and they can worry about making it "pretty" later.  Last thing anyone needs is someone to be hurt.

Thanks @Kimberly H.   and @Deborah Smith I am an attorney and I agree the HOA may have some liability exposure. At the very least, it would be named in an injury lawsuit, along withe property manager. But really it is only a limited common element and primarily the unit owner's responsibility. So most of the exposure is on me. That's why I have to make sure nobody goes out there.

I may be able to use the threat of possible liability vs. the HOA to get things moving though. There's an HOA meeting tonight and I will bring it up.

I'm pretty sure I am decided that I will not get a tenant until the work is done.  If that is during the tougher holiday/winter months, so be it.  It's not worth the hassle at this point.