The balancing act around making and charging for repairs...

8 Replies

Hi all,

Dug around trying to find something specific to my topic without much success...

While at one of my properties today for an unrelated issue, I happened to notice a hole in the drywall in the hallway.   Not big, but noticeable.  The tenant has not mentioned it to me at all.  I do have a clause in my lease that damage should be reported and that I will inspect units every six months.

When you notice something like this how many of you feel like you want to take care of it right away?   What's your threshold for letting something wait?   And if it's clearly negligent, how do you handle charging the tenant for something that might normally come out of the security deposit at move out?

I've been being the "good landlord" who just fixes wear and tear unless it was obviously intentional.  However, I don't want to end up in a situation where I'm repairing everything for free.   And fixing three holes at once is cheaper than fixing one hole on three separate visits, but I feel like if a place starts to look beat up the tenant and/or guests aren't going to treat things with as much respect.  (Not that I am getting a lot of holes, just illustrating a concept!)

How did you folks learned to strike the right balance? 

It's sounds like you're a really good landlord. If they are putting holes in the drywall, isn't that something they should pay for? It all depends what's in your lease but I think you should be charging them upfront for repairs that are obviously the tenants direct doing.

@Jeremy Rusnak

Did you address the drywall with the tenant at the scene?  If the tenants pays on time and seems to have good character I wouldn't rock the boat.  Once you accumulate a few dozen rentals you will be running around like a chicken missing its head....


If it's from a missing doorstop or something similar, I'd take care of it without charging them.  If it's totally their fault, I'd find out what happened before deciding to fix it now or wait as if it's likely to happen again in the same place, like their kid leans back in kitchen chairs and falls into the wall right there, no sense in fixing it now just to have him damage it again next week.     

If it's on the inside, I would probably let it slide. There's just an endless number of such tasks to be done that will end up eating all of your time if you do them. I get the idea that a worse looking property will be treated worse. It's basically the "broken window" police theory applied to landlords. But if it looks good for the most part, one hole in the drywall here or one small blemish over there shouldn't cause too much trouble.

Originally posted by @Matthew Cole :
I wouldn't make a big deal of it. Address the hole when they leave. If they can live with it, it must be fine.

 Probably this. You'll have to spend some time and money at the end of the lease to get it back up to spec. A hole in the drywall isn't a big deal. No need for you to spend your time hassling around their schedule to fix something THEY did. They can live with it a bit. 

Hi Jeremy.  You're right to think about repairing it right away.  

I would repair it and charge him a reasonable amount.  It doesn't matter how much as much as it does that you do charge them right away.  If they don't pay you at the time of repair add it to their next rent bill. 

They'll see that you are serious about the condition of your property.  Even more importantly they will make a direct connection that any damages they cause will come out of their pockets immediately, not when they move.  These type of tenants need to be trained to take care of your investment. 

If you decide to deduct it from the security deposit instead of having them paying immediately, do this instead...

  • Make the repair
  • Take before and after pictures for your records
  • Have them sign a work order acknowledging that a repair was made with details of repair
  • Deduct it from the security deposit when the damage occurs not when they move out.  (You don't have to actually remove the money from the bank account)
  • Send them a notice itemizing the amount deducted
  • In the notice state the remaining balance of their security deposit
  • State that they have 30-60 days to replenish the required security deposit balance or they will be in violation of their lease.  (optional)

Going to throw in behind @Tony Christian here, but slightly different. I agree that you need to establish what the relationship is between the tenant, the property and you as a landlord. Letting that sort of thing slip could lead to more disregard and everyone who goes to the property is a potential renter, so you want to keep the presentation of the property up. If you're doing your part to upkeep the property then it's fair to expect the same from the tenant, which is basically what my advice follows.

Just ask the tenant what happened so you know the root of the problem. I'd then inform them that they need to fix it within 30 days, and that if they don't fix it then you'll fix it and charge them for the repair. That way they have the option of avoiding the charge and fixing the problem for you, and if they did a bad job then it wasn't really fixed and you can explain that they'll be charged for the repair to their repair then. I wouldn't touch the security deposit because in my mind that's for the move out solely, even if you're going to replenish it to full.