Drywall after leak - remove or just let dry?

11 Replies

I'm a pretty new landlord here, and I recently had a leak in my rental property from the upstairs bathroom going to the downstairs living room ceiling. Nothing major. I had a plumber come out today (about 72 hours after my tenant noticed the leak) and he concluded it to be the fault of the shower valve, which he repaired rather easily. He cut out about a square foot of drywall on the ceiling to diagnose the problem. The water stain though actually extends quite a bit beyond the hole he cut out in the ceiling. Despite the stain, the drywall is stiff and dry to the touch. I wanted to get the opinions of all the smart people on this forum on whether the rest of the stained drywall really ought to be removed (to prevent further problems, e.g. mold), or if it would suffice to just to let it sit for a little bit longer (i.e. to make sure any possible moisture is dried out)  before applying kilz and painting over it. Thanks in advance for any shared opinions, Rob

If it dried without deforming, it will be fine.

HOWEVER...

If you have to patch anyway, and especially if you are paying someone to patch anyway, it will cost essentially nothing to remove and replace it.  Which is what I would do.

@Rob Condy

Yes, I agree with @Richard C. , ensure the original problem is fixed for good.  Then if it looks like $%it replace it, otherwise if it's a minor blemish it should dry with no problems.  If you make sure that all moisture is removed and it won't continue to be a problem, you'll be fine. 

If it's a new tenant, you want them thinking you're on top of things and take care of business, so I would replace it.  

Try to be considerate while minimizing expenses.  It is were your home, what would you want done?

Thanks for your input @Richard C.   and @Account Closed  . Much appreciated. Jon, funny you mention replacing it for the sake of the tenant. My tenant has actually offered to do the drywall patching himself. He used to be in construction and has experience patching drywall so he's fully competent. I thought that was nice of him to offer, and so I asked him what kind of reimbursement he thought was fair. He said not to worry about it; that he'd take care of it free of charge. Obviously a really nice gesture. And I don't really feel it's appropriate therefore to ask him to go above and beyond what he's already volunteered for; although, I would personally be more comfortable with replacing the stained drywall. I don't really like the idea of taking shortcuts on my properties (regardless of whether I personally live in it or someone else does). But I'm kind of getting the sense that it's not all that necessary in this case; it's not a minor blemish but it's not like it's soft and wet. For what it's worth a couple pictures of the stain are linked below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5PU7wS5Q5CIelBuM...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5PU7wS5Q5CIZGlUa...

Removing and patching the rest isn't that much more work. I'd do the whole stain. Plus, he'll probably want to cut it open to the next joist anyway to have a place to screw the other end of the drywall to. At that point, just go ahead and cut the whole stain out.

I was going to say what Raven said above...  To patch the sheetrock, you'll likely cut more out so that you expose another joist to attach the new piece to.  So, it's pretty much the same amount of work/cost to replace that whole section as just the missing piece.

Now, that said, I want to touch on another issue...

You said you were going to let the tenant do the repair.  Keep in mind that if he gets insured, you'll likely be on the hook both from a liability and from a workers comp standpoint.  Additionally, you will have set the precedent that you're allowing your tenant to perform repairs on the property, potentially opening up legal issues later if the tenant does further repairs without your permission and causes a problem (or gets injured).

I'm not an attorney, but I've had an attorney recommend NEVER to allow tenants to do repairs, and to even put in the lease that they aren't allowed to perform any maintenance.

Updated almost 4 years ago

"if he gets insured" = "if he gets injured"

I would make sure you do it right, no matter who's doing the fixing. I am sure he won't mind, if he does than hire it out.

Thanks @Raven Parmer  , @Elizabeth C. and @J Scott for your thoughts. Looks like there's more for me to think through after all. J, great point about the liability. I didn't even stop to think about that. 

@Rob Condy  

Good deal Rob. Take the offer, but hopefully he won't expect a favor in return (lower rent).

He likely will, and he'll likely be vacating once you raise rents.  Make sure your vacancy loss is worth the rent increase. Many times doesn't, so review the numbers.

@Account Closed  , thanks again for pitching in. I suspect his volunteering is partially motivated because I told him when he moved in at the beginning of this year that I'm inclined to reward excellent tenants with a rent rebate around the holidays (e.g. half off december's rent). He and his wife have been outstanding tenants all year, and I definitely intend to make good on that rebate. 

As for whether to raise the rent, I've actually been wondering lately what to do about that. Market rents appear to have gone up a bit where my property is located, so a rent raise does seem justifiable. At the same time though, I don't want to sour the holiday rebate by introducing a rent increase right around the same time. And I agree with you that it's worth having a long-term tenant (especially a great one) in place at below-market rent, rather than frequent turnover to sustain market rents

@Rob Condy

Yes.  I think lots of investors assume that regularly increasing rental rates are best, but I don't believe that's always the case. It depends.  If you're losing $2K+ in each turnover and have the opportunity to raise rents by $20, that doesn't make much sense.  $20 x 12 = $240 a year.  I'd rather not have the turnover.

For this reason, once I get a good tenant I tend to never let them go, extending leases to 2 or 3 year terms and minimizing turnover as apposed to raising rents by $40-50.  This decision should be based purely on the numbers, but don't assume that just because you can get more in rents that you should.

@Rob Condy

Often your losing more than $2k for each turnover, because you're having to pay for carpet, paint, once month leasing fee and the properties vacant for 1-3 months while you locate another tenant

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