Tenant is wanting to replace things in the house.

38 Replies

I have a tenant who has just moved in. Her application was great, work history was great, and she is a single gal with no pets or kids. She is looking to stay somewhere for years as she is sick of moving... Awesome! However....

There is an old alarm system that she wants made functional. It is not powering on and looks to consist of 2 motion detectors only. What would you do here? Make her eat the bill if she wants it? 

The fridge isn't the prettiest of things but is definitely functional. She said it "has to go" and wants to buy a new fridge. She wants to know what I want to do with the old one. Put it in storage for when she moves out and takes her fridge with her, lower the rent to compensate her for the cost of the fridge if she leaves it, or buy a new one and pass the cost onto her in the form of a rent increase. 

She is recently divorced. I am just hoping once we get these few "issues" addressed she stays happily and quietly. While I think she is being a bit demanding I also don't think she is being ridiculous yet. I just want to make sure it doesn't get carried away. 

1. Remove existing security system. Tell her to get FrontPoint - it can be moved property to property. 

2. Buy the fridge, pass along a rent increase to her.  You're getting a new fridge that she's paying for! 

Sounds like she wants to make this place feel like "home" - for renters, that's a good thing!

@Zoran M.  thank you very much. All very good points/thoughts. 

Do you know how much frontpoint runs? 

I agree. She has asked to paint and some other things that imply she plans on hanging around. 

There are a few plans...check out their website.  It's like $35-45/mo. 

I would be cautious of setting a precedence with her....if you give a tenant an inch, they will take two miles! If those things weren't stated in the lease prior to her leasing it, or discussed, then she leased the property as is. For the alarm system if she wants to install a brand new one (or you want to install one) you can usually find companies that will do an installation for free with a new 2 or 3 year monitoring contract. As for the fridge, if it is functional you can let her know she is free to buy a new one and replace the old one, she can just store the old one in the garage if you don't already have a storage unit. You don't want to add any unnecessary expenses just because a tenant is asking for them. 

Do you have another unit you can use a fridge in? If you don't have a storage unit and she pushes back about storing in the garage you could always sell to a used appliance dealer or on Craigslist and then buy one the same way when she moves out if she decides to take hers with her. 

I would definitely not cave to her requests, next month there will be another request. 

@Ryan Dossey  Let her replace the alarm and fridge if it is operating.  Sounds like you have a angler, fishing and testing you out.  Don't let your guard down.  Next thing you know she was lower rent.  

Frnk

Do the alarm and the fridge.  This is a no brainer considering the tenant you have.  In my experience she is indicating to you that she wants to make the dwelling into her "home" and that is never bad for you.

I agree with @Frank R. . We had a tenant sign a lease for a condo, then before moving in, she said the fridge wasn't large enough for her and her family, as they shop for all their food and don't eat out. I told her the fridge was full size and wasn't being replaced (there was no room for a larger one anyway), and she might want to consider another property. She then agreed it was good enough, but she was almost evicted twice and was a pain in the neck throughout the tenancy.

I would either let her purchase a new fridge on her own now, or tell her you'll buy a new one when she signs next year's lease....if she's still there. You can do improvements at the next lease signing if she's been a tenant you want to keep. For new tenants, we repair, we don't renovate after they move in. 

Did you do a walkthrough prior to move-in and document any issues she had at the time? That's when these things can come up. Paint, alarm system, appliances....these requests/demands seem to be escalating and you'll end up renovating the entire property by the time she makes it feel like "home". As @Brandon M. said, she leased the property as-is. She may want it to feel like home, which is great for her when it's at your expense. Learn to say no - it will make your landlording life easier.

We had 2 properties that had existing alarms when we bought them. We removed them before even showing the properties. One tenant did request an alarm at her own expense, which we allowed, but told her we needed the have the code and any damage from removing the alarm panel when she moved out was her responsibility. Make sure you get the code and write an addendum to the lease stating that.

Alarms are things a tenant has to set. I have a tenant that doesn't even lock doors ...

I completely agree with @Brandon M.  and @Frank Romine  . That is exactly how I would handle it. 

As far as painting, I might allow it if a licensed painter did it and I approved the colors. I would not let her do it. It could end up being done very poorly, with paint spills on the carpet. You would probably have to redo it when she left.

We want long term good tenants. Long term good tenants save us money. Some people are natural "nesters".... they want their home to be comfortable and to meet their needs. Nesters tend to stay a long time. These are not unreasonable requests. Look at this as an opportunity to build a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Be flexible and reasonable.

1. Disfunctional Alarm System - remove the old one and grant her permission in writing to allow a new one to be installed at her expense, but with your oversight. Be there when the installation occurs so you have control over how it is installed, as there may or may not be a need for drilling. Be sure to get an access code that you can use to enter your property for necessary and legitimate reasons. She is a single gal and it is understandable she would want more protection. 

Just yesterday I was talking to a sales representative for Nest and he shared with me he installs his own thermostats, smoke/co detectors, and drop cams in places that he rents. They are unobtrusive and easy to install and uninstall without causing damage to the property. We are likely to see more of this technology and others that tenants want, so we must be prepared for this.

2. Ugly Ducking Refrigerator - remove it (store or sell it) and grant her permission in writing to allow a new one to be installed at her expense, but with your oversight. Be there when the installation occurs to make sure door frames and floors are not damaged in the process of moving appliances in and out. If her new refrigerator has an water dispenser/ice maker, make sure the water line hookup is secure to prevent water damage. If the house is not plumbed for a waterline to the fridge, you can let the tenant know that feature will not be available to her (for low end homes), or you could get it plumbed (for high end homes). The added benefit for you, you have one less appliance to maintain.

A refrigerator can be somewhat of a personal thing for a tenant or anyone. For myself, I am tired of stooping over to get milk out of the fridge and for my back's sake will be replacing my freezer-on-top fridge with a side-by-side or french-door style. I personally would not want to put my food in someone else's old fridge.

3. Painting - consider her request to paint. Is it necessary? Will it improve the property and future rentabiity? If so, I might do it and foot the bill. If not, I might grant the request but require the tenant to pay for it and to restore it back.

We have a policy called "Make It Your Own Home"... where by we grant some requests from tenants that are cosmetic in nature. We grant the request in writing and have some stipulations. For painting.... First, the tenant assumes the cost upfront to paint and return the wall back to the original color. Second, the tenant must select a color from a color palette that we present (wide variety but only light or medium tones - not dark, as dark is harder to paint over). Third, painting will be done by our painting crew, so it is done right. Obviously with these stipulations, tenants will limit themselves to a few wall color changes, not the whole house.

With regard to the alarm, that is easy to push to her.  In many places, including where I live, the alarm requires a permit.  Additionally, the city requires $50 +/- per year to offset false alarms (False Alarm Program - Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, everywhere??).  More importantly, the permit holder pays $125 +/- for false alarms.  You cannot subject yourself to that risk, and that's easy to communicate to the Tennant.  This would be like you providing cable TV and allowing them to get PPV movies whenever they wanted - only worse.  Even if you chose to install the alarm yourself, make sure that she procures monitoring.  Again, just like cable.  They can utilize your wiring, but they need to contact ATT/Verizon whatever themselves for cable.

FWIW - I wouldn't replace a working refrigerator.

Be very cautious of letting her paint. you will end up with paint on the trim, carpet, cabinets and else ware.  She might also decided to clean the brushes and tray in the kitchen sink and caused a mess.  I have had all of these things happen in the past.

As for the alarm system cable TV companies now provide alarm services so she could contact them for more info.

I completely agree with @Marcia Maynard  . You want you tenant to feel at home. I would get everything in writing and oversee everything to maintain control. 

Are you able to collect a higher security deposit?  I would want that if she is going to paint - assume it will need to be re-painted when she moves out.  If you don't have room to increase the deposit, maybe offer it as a renewal incentive.

How is her income vs. rent?  Is there a risk of this unit getting over-improved?  Even if improvements are on her dime, make sure all of them have advanced approval.

@Marcia maynard,

looks like I can't get the @ function to work, but regarding paing I just want to let people know that dark colors are actually much EASIER to cover than a light one. If you don't believe me, test it out yourself!

@Marcia Maynard is correct. If you are going to allow the tenant to make any of these changes, it would be best to oversee all activity. You should always get everything in writing without exception. You want to keep your tenants happy, but you want to keep them honest as well. Often, when damage occurs to a property ( and proper documentation was not made prior to move-in), a tenant will claim that it was done before they moved-in. Even the most seemingly harmless tenants will make such claims. Having oversight on projects is the best way to protect yourself and your property. In regards to painting, one option would be that you need to approve the colors. However, sometimes people want to be able to personalize the house more than a color pallet you might choose. It may be beneficial to explore if having the painting done by you or someone you trust, would improve the unit and be a feature that you can keep. If not, then you can make the deal that she would need to have everything restored back to the original paint at her expense upon move-out. With apartment complexes, we had too many units to allow everyone to go crazy with their painting and personalizing. But, if is a small amount of units or a single dwelling, you may have an easier time allowing minimal personalizing. 

An installed and functioning alarm should lower the amount of insurance you have to pay.   At least it did in my personal house.   The alarm is on her, most alarm installers aren't going to tear up the walls by installing, they do it all the time.    If she wants to move your fridge out of the way to install one, that is also on her.    Its not permanent.  Go and pick it up and save it for another rental or put it in your garage for a beer fridge.   It's really not a big deal. 

@Ryan Dossey  makes strong points if the tenant is going to shape us as a long term tenant.  But based on her history, it doesn't sound like she ever has been one.  As in all cases, 'it depends' is the most reasonable answer. 

It is never too late to pull up that application and call previous landlords and ask questions about her tenancy. 

@Ryan Dossey  Looking at it from a different perspective, if a landlord does not consent to repairs or improvements a tenant makes, the landlord has no obligation to compensate the tenant for the repair or improvement. 

Further, there is a fun property law called "The Law of Fixtures" which states whatever a tenant attaches to a landlord's property, as an alteration or an improvement, becomes the landlord's property unless there is an agreement between the landlord and tenant stating otherwise. So, if she decides to replace the fridge without your consent, you don't have to reimburse her for the fridge and when she leaves she legally cannot take it with her. This means you get a free and new fridge. 

Landlords have an obligation to make their properties habitable. An alarm system is a luxury, not a necessity. A working fridge is a fridge that doesn't need to be replaced, at least out of your pocket. 

You should look at this as a business decision while keeping your emotions at bay. While you should keep your tenant happy to a certain degree, you also should not allow it to adversely affect your business. To me, these items are not imperative to the habitability of the property or the safety of the tenant. It just seems like you have a needy, type-A tenant and I would likely not give her the consent to perform these repairs/improvements. 

Dont let her paint , you hire a contractor , she pays.  

I have 2 different 2 bedroom houses , each has small refrigerators , the layouts of the house and the modifications I made only the small one will fit .  Why ?  When I show the house and a family with 5 people want to rent , they always ask if they can get a bigger refrigerator . I tell them yes , but mention to them that there is no other place one will fit .  

Run!!!!  You will never make her happy!  This sounds so much like one of our tenants, she ran us ragged from move in to move out.  We justified putting up with her and giving in to her by thinking we had a longer term more stable tenant, but she ended up moving out in less than a year, and it was the first time we celebrated a tenant leaving.

Several of our tradesmen refused to go to her unit, she was so demanding.  I thought she had provided a lot of blog fodder, but here are two posts I could quickly find:

http://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/4445/blog_posts...

http://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/4445/blog_posts...

I would come and get and store the fridge, not adjust rent, not let her paint, and let her do the security system on her own dime as long as she agrees to leave it when she moves and to give you a security pin.  Buckle up for a wild ride, and don't let her get away with murder; there are better tenants out there!

What this boils down to is that you won't really know what kind of tenant she is until you give her an answer. She may be like @Marcia Maynard  said, and want to nest. She may also turn into @Michele Fischer  's awful tenant and you celebrate her leaving. Maybe she is the worst combination of both, a pain in the backside PLUS a long-term tenant.

My first thought was that she will never be happy with anything. I live in a house I bought out of foreclosure, and there is ultra-dark purple paint all over the trim. You could tell the people painted it themselves, and did a very poor job of it. 

My advice would be to say no. The house was rented as-is. Good luck!

Originally posted by @Brandon Hall :

@Ryan Dossey  Looking at it from a different perspective, if a landlord does not consent to repairs or improvements a tenant makes, the landlord has no obligation to compensate the tenant for the repair or improvement. 

Further, there is a fun property law called "The Law of Fixtures" which states whatever a tenant attaches to a landlord's property, as an alteration or an improvement, becomes the landlord's property unless there is an agreement between the landlord and tenant stating otherwise. So, if she decides to replace the fridge without your consent, you don't have to reimburse her for the fridge and when she leaves she legally cannot take it with her. This means you get a free and new fridge. 

Landlords have an obligation to make their properties habitable. An alarm system is a luxury, not a necessity. A working fridge is a fridge that doesn't need to be replaced, at least out of your pocket. 

You should look at this as a business decision while keeping your emotions at bay. While you should keep your tenant happy to a certain degree, you also should not allow it to adversely affect your business. To me, these items are not imperative to the habitability of the property or the safety of the tenant. It just seems like you have a needy, type-A tenant and I would likely not give her the consent to perform these repairs/improvements. 

 That is absolutely TERRIBLE advice on the law of fixtures.  A refrigerator is personal property.

@Richard C.  Not all the time. The key word in my post was "attaches." If the tenant attaches the refrigerator to the property, it becomes a fixture of the property and she is not allowed to take it when she leaves.

On the other hand, if it is a freestanding fridge, then it remains personal property.

So since I explicitly stated "attached," I fail to see how this is bad advice.

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