tenant broke 2 door handles in 2 days? what would you do?

13 Replies

Just bought a new house from a guy i met. Deal was too good to pass up (maybe this is why). Already had a tenant that was living there. I assumed their lease, 11 months left. It was all legally assumed by me with an attorney present.


First day I own it I call her to introduce myself and explain how I want the rent paid. She goes thru a list of things the previous owner promised her the new owner (me) would do. I was like "no...i did not assume anything but the lease. sorry. let me know if something needs fixed that is not working"

I had to go and fix a bunch of little crap. Small holes in wall etc. I did it as a courtesy and to get in the property and meet her. The lease states that the first $50 of any repair tenant pays. I fixed everything for free to be nice and try and get off on a good foot.

2 days later she calls me and says the door handle fell off. I go over. Door had obviously been broken into, more then likely by her...prolly locked her self out. I replaced it ($25 lock set...took 5 min....whatever)

calls me next day and says the lock broke again just like last time. "i say you broke it again" she responds "i had to break it my son was inside alone and i had to break it...i forgot my key and it was a safety issue for my son..blah blah blah"

I tell her to refer to lease and pay me $50 toward fixing it. 

I would bill her for the repair. I would move for eviction if she didn't pay. 

OK OK I wouldn't actually do that because I am a lousy landlord. But that is what a good landlord would do. Either you train your tenants or they train you.

Originally posted by @Ned Carey :

I would bill her for the repair. I would move for eviction if she didn't pay. 

OK OK I wouldn't actually do that because I am a lousy landlord. But that is what a good landlord would do. Either you train your tenants or they train you.

 Give the "Tenant From Hell" an inch...they will take a foot...then your other foot..LOL

i would charge her one time OK I can deal with that but twice she would pay or get evicted.

As above, AND change the lock so that it can't be locked before the door is closed, needing the key to lock it. If it has a deadbolt replace the bottom knob with a non-locking one.

I would actually charge her for both times she broke the lock. It is forced entry. Any reason why she didn't call you when she locked herself out? How old is her son? I know cats that can open doors. Just guessing, but I bet she is not telling the truth.  Kids of a certain age are natural informants... just get them talking. :-) Or play Columbo...

Do as @Scott Weaner  says and change the mechanism so she needs to use a key to lock the door.

Watch the property and do your periodic inspections. Charge for damages as they occur or as you discover them. There may be a move-in inspection checklist that was completed at the beginning of her tenancy. If not, do one now. Even if there is one, update it now, with photos. You need a baseline. Also, it will give you an idea if there are other needs or deferred maintenance that would be good to address. Be aware, when a lease states the tenant has to pay for the first $50 of repairs, it is an incentive for a tenant not to tell you when something breaks or malfunctions. That is a set up for worse damage occurring. That's why you need to check on things from time to time. You may have already thought of this and may have a plan in place to protect your interests.

The tenant will learn your property management style soon enough. Be polite, firm and fair in your interactions. 

The advice to remove the locking knob is good advice. Whenever I buy a new unit one of the first things I do is change the locks and as I do so I replace the locking knob with a non-locking hallway/closet knob. That way the tenant must have a key on them in order to lock the deadbolt from the outside. It avoids predictable problems.

Seems like you have assumed a problem tenant, document everything (all the minor repairs you have done thus far with the cost & everything moving forward) & charge her moving forward.

Stay on top of your paperwork

@Mike Wallace  It sounds like it's going to be a long 11 months...   :)

Hey Mike,
I am not sure about your market how easy it is to get tenants there, but have you considered offering her a couple hundred dollars to rewrite her lease and make it month-to-month and change the repair policy in there if you can do it by law.?

I agree with Ned and Chas, the tenant's have to be trained on what is appropriate behavior. Charge her for the services.

The $ 50.00 charge is reasonable , and cheap .  I treat repairs to my rentals ( caused by tenants) the same as any repair that I do for a customer .  I am a contractor  and have a 1 hour minimum charge plus the parts .  And it is clearly spelled out in my lease .  I did have one tenant complain about this ,  I said , its simple you broke it , you pay  for it , read the lease its in bold print .

Originally posted by @Mike Wallace :

The lease states that the first $50 of any repair tenant pays.
 

Personally I think that's a terrible policy.  It's used by a lot of cheap *** landlords that are trying to save a buck only to cost themselves much bigger down the road.  Imagine the tenant has a simple issue like a leaking p-trap under the kitchen sink.  The tenant decides they don't want to pay $50 so they just let it go rather than reporting it.  The leak then ends up ruining your lower cabinets and rotting out the subfloor.  Was that worth it to save $50 on your end?  Don't give the tenants any reason to not report maintenance issues.  I'd rather they report everything and then I can decide what needs to be fixed and what's a non issue. 

As for the door handle it's easy, the tenant admitted breaking it so it's on the tenant.  Send her a bill.  I will repair a damaged entry door/hardware at my expense with a police report, otherwise I will repair and bill the tenant.  I will not let the tenants arrange any repairs themselves.  

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