Tenant question

11 Replies

Hello, I have an issue with a tenant, and I am new to managing properties, so I could use a little advice.  I recently rented a newly rehabbed home in a nice area here in Iowa for $1400/mo.  The house is in nice shape, all the bells and whistles, new floors, ect.  Two days after moving in, a new shower we had installed started to leak into the basement.  I apologized and promptly called the contractor who came and fixed the problem within 3 days.  Next, the brand new fridge began to malfunction, the service tech appointed by the company (Frigidaire) said it could be up to a month before the part came in, so I bought a new fridge and had it installed immediately.  The tenant then began to complain about the amount of dust in the air, and said his daughter was having issues with the sawdust in the air (we refinished the hardwoods).  I had a company come out and professionally clean the duct work ($340, and the company told me that the ducts were clean).  Five days later he told me that he could smell Co2 (although its odorless) in the house, and that the dryer exhaust was improperly installed (it wasn't).  Now, I am going on call number two for an older AC unit that has already been inspected.  He is claiming that the AC will not cool the house lower than 77 degrees.  My HVAC guy is going over there again tomorrow, and will most likely find no issue with the unit.  I have had about a dozen complaints from this tenant in the first three months of his tenancy.  How would you address this with him? 

Most of the fixes you have done are in warranty.  I would fix all warranty problems fixed promptly.  I would have told him that the refrigerator is being fixed and the part if on order.  I would not have gotten a new one unless the store traded me a new one.  The issues like Co2 and dust I would talk to him about with him,  Talk doesn't cost anything.  I would educate him on the things that he doesn't understand, talk to him about the benefits of cleaning his house (dust) and encourage him to enjoy the house.

Cliff has great points.  One thing we have started to require tenants to sign is our Maintenance Policy Agreement.  This spells out, among other things, what is an emergency and what is not.  This agreement can also address what is a tenant responsibility and what is not.  When a tenant starts talking about air quality and the amount of complaints you have had I'm thinking you might offer this tenant an opportunity to terminate the lease.  You must set expectations early or they may take advantage of you.

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Originally posted by @Derek DeGuire :

Cliff has great points.  One thing we have started to require tenants to sign is our Maintenance Policy Agreement.  This spells out, among other things, what is an emergency and what is not.  This agreement can also address what is a tenant responsibility and what is not.  When a tenant starts talking about air quality and the amount of complaints you have had I'm thinking you might offer this tenant an opportunity to terminate the lease.  You must set expectations early or they may take advantage of you.

 Derek,

I like the idea of a Maintenance Policy Agreement. Do you have some examples of things listed in each category (or even better, a rough draft)?

I realize the first couple complaints were mandatory fixes, and I bought the new fridge because I had another property about to be finished to put the other one in once it was finished.  I am asking more along the lines of ettiquite regarding higher dollar rentals.  Is it common for people to be really picky at this price point?  Should I have the A/C unit looked at each time he makes a claim?

sounds like you have done everything you can within reason.  An A\C can only cool 20 degrees below the outside ambient temperature.

The tenant has made unreasonable complaints about dust, carbon dioxide and dryer exhaust. I agree with @Derek DeGuire that it would be good to get rid of this tenant. Short of that, you should not feel obligated to respond promptly to every minor issue. Maybe not for my tenants, but for this tenant I like the idea mentioned in another discussion here of making maintenance $100 deductible. If the tenant had to incur a cost, a lot of this would go away. I don't think your rent, even if considered high end for your area, gives the tenant permission to be unreasonable.

Is the rent month to month or annual?  If month to month I would write the following letter.  

Dear......

Please accept this letter as my apology for our home not meeting your rental needs.  Even though I have taken care of every issue you called about immediately, there are still more issues about the home that doesn't make you happy.  And when I can't make a tenant happy, then it leaves me with no choice but to not renew their lease.  Therefore, please be advised that I will not be renewing your lease, making your last day with us ____________.  Thank you for choosing us.    (signed your name)

If they are on a years lease I would write the same letter but use their expiration lease date as their last day date.

9 times out of 10, the tenant will find all these little nit pickin things, okay after all.

Nancy Neville

Wait- is he claiming that he can smell Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which is a harmless gas that we all breathe out, or Carbon Monoxide (CO- also odorless) which is dangerous?  If it is the first, I don't know what to tell you.  If it is the second, there are detectors for that for around $50 that plug into the wall or are part of a smoke detector.  I would offer to invest in one for his piece of mind, but also outline your policy on early termination.  Maybe just mentioning to him that he sounds unhappy with the place might make him stop complaining, or it might make him leave.

If you don't have an early termination policy in your lease, make sure it is in the next one.  I make sure they know they are responsible for payment of rent up until a new tenant is occupying the unit, and there is a fee (half month's rent) for finding a new  tenant.  You could charge more, maybe a full month's rent, but in my market a half month seems to work fine as I have no trouble filling a vacancy.

I have Carbon Monoxide detectors in the house.  For a general repair (leaky pipe trap), what is an acceptable waiting period?  I ask because he had to wait 4 days and was upset, mind you it was not a large leak.  I am trying to address each issue as if I were living in my own house.

Most of my rentals are heated with natural gas, so I am required to have carbon monoxide detectors installed on each floor.   Could he mean he smells gas in the house, or is it not serviced by gas?  

Tenants can be extremely picky during the first month, then settle in nicely and become good, long-term tenants.  It's my experience that they complain about everything the first month or so, then another smaller list at lease renewal, especially if you raise the rent.  We just count on it happening.  And I can understand if there were initial problems with the renovation (leaky shower), so now he is concerned and being picky about everything.  

However, if you've already paid licensed contractors to come out and they've said the a/c & dryer are functioning properly, then I would let him know that if you send another contractor out for the same complaint and they have the same response, he will be responsible for reimbursement for the service call.   I'd install a carbon monoxide detector even if it's not required and then see if it all calms down. 

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