Good Evening BP!
I wanted to get some other folks' opinions on handling an issue I had this week with a tenant clogging their air handler with debris and the associated repair expenses.
This was a new tenant in September. When she moved in I had installed a new 4-inch thick filter in the air handler. This filter is designed to last for 6 months - but after she moved in I got a call that the filter was dirty and would need to be replaced. I figured there was extra debris from the move. No problem: I came and replaced it with another 6 month filter.
This week I got a call that the air conditioner had ceased functioning. I came and inspected the air conditioner and noted that my filter had been replaced at some point with a trim to fit piece of foam. I also noted that the air handler was completely covered in ice. Having had rentals for a while now I had seen this condition before and knew that the likely culprit was a clogged air handler. I contacted my very reliable and honest ac repair company (Big time recommendation to Chase Air in Jacksonville, FL btw if you are in the area). They came out and confirmed that the coil needed to be pulled and cleaned, an approx $480 bill.
I was mistakenly under the impression that this tenants lease agreement addressed the replacement of the air conditioner filters and stated that it was to be done by the owner at set intervals. That is my normal arrangement, but somehow that clause was left off of this tenants lease. Prior to realizing that I delivered a 7 day notice to cure and explained that I'd be billing the tenant for the cleaning on their air condition. Of course she wasn't happy, said that wasn't right, etc. and when I got home I started reconsidering so I wanted to see what everyone's thoughts are. Now that I'm noticing that the issue of filter changes isn't addressed in the contract I'm feeling less certain that her use of an alternate, albeit inadequate, filter would be sufficient to charge her for the bill... but I also don't like setting a precedent that she doesn't have to handle the house responsibly...
So all that to say I'm curious how fellow BPers would handle this?
The tenant replaced the filter with a homemade foam one .... i would bill the tenant even if you were responsible for the filter . They didnt replace it with the correct filter
Charge the tenant! Don't reconsider or even think about it.
You established a practice of changing the filter when she called and said there was a problem. The issue didn't occur because you were 3 months behind on chaing the filter. the issue happened because she removed the filter before it was needed and put in a crappy substitute ! This is now damage, it is her responsibility.
I personally would send a letter, outlining the fact that the filter was changed before needed. That due to the wrong filter being used she would charged. That the repair would come out first than the rent.
Agree with @Elizabeth Colegrove and @Matthew Paul
Just because the filter is not specifically addressed in the contract does not relieve the tenant from damages directly resulting from their actions. The lease you have likely contains many provisions, and you must interpret it's overall intent based on the "four corners" of contract law. Taken in it's entirety (four corners), does the tenant have the right to 'fix' something without your permission, or does it cover damage related to their responsibility beyond normal wear and tear.
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