Non-essential Request by Tenant

64 Replies

Good evening BP community,

I have a tenant who has requested a full power washing of the house. My wife and I like her quite a bit, she is a sweet and very polite older lady who keeps the house in immaculate shape. She signed a 3 year lease, which is great as well. One of the reasons we got into real estate was to be the kind of landlords who are not just concerned with collecting rent, but providing people a decent place to live that they also enjoy. My only concern is that if we agree to the power washing (which my PM says will cost $150) this will open a floodgate (sick pun) of other non-essential requests. The wife and I are very new real estate investors and have zero experience with this sort of thing, so I humbly ask BP: what would you do?

For a good tenant and such a small price, I would do it. I always appreciate it when tenants do/request things that show they care about the house and its appearance. 

I assume the house is dirty if they want a washing. I would do it, but I would make it appear to be my idea, i.e. it was already on the list as part of routine maintenance and cleaning of the house. Which of course it should be if the house is dirty.

I got the email from the property management company while at work, so I'm not sure of exactly why she wants it done, I highly doubt that its mold Paul. Great point Kyle J; quality tenants are obviously great, just a bit concerned that more requests might come down the pipe and start eating into our baby cash flow. 

JD,

I like your idea of making it seem like my idea! I already implement this with great jokes I hear. So I let her know it's part of the routine maintenance / cleaning schedule, would you do it annually thereafter?

@Kai Hicks  

When my husband and I purchased a home it was a soft market, so I rented out my Northern California condo to a really nice elderly lady.  Her son, a corporate lawyer paid the rent.  I thought it was sweet he would do that for his mom.  After a short while we realized he was paying just to get her out of his house and I started to consider it a rent/babysittng fee.

She called constantly: There was water in the carport (it had rained), light switch stopped working (it was on a dimmer), ants in the kitchen (don't leave food out). She would call me, she would call my husband and she would call the PM company for the HOA (who ended up really hating me during her tenancy). She wasn't senile, she was just lonely because her family was ignoring her. That 2 yr lease that looked great at the beginning felt like it would never end.

When her lease ended, she went month to month (refusing to pay the full rent increase and only paying what she felt I should get).  I got a note in the mail from a realtor with buyers wanting to purchase my unit.  When I told the tenant she said "No, I won't let you sell."  Thus began an extremely stressful 10 weeks (occurring simultaneously with losing my dad).  She was having the time of her life because her family was finally paying attention to her - they were all afraid she was going to end up at their house.  

Thanks to patient buyers, a hard working realtor, a wonderfully smart husband and me getting more hard nose with an elderly person than I would ever want to get, she got out in time for the sale to close.

My advise is to be aware that nice can turn ugly very quickly and to let all the little requests add up, taking care of 2-3 at once when it works for you.  

What type of siding material is on the house?

Have you advised the tenant that the dirty water resulting from the powerwash would dirty up the windows?  Who is going to do the windows :) ?

Cindy,

Oustanding post, and I'm very sorry about your dad. Thanks very much for sharing that tenant nightmare. I'm impressed that you stuck with REI after that! Gah, you're definitely right about putting your foot down, but you can empathize with me about putting a foot down with a sweet old lady... I feel pretty great about my PM, but they obviously run a business, so it's difficult to give one tenant special consideration. I think I'm leaning towards granting the request, but with a caveat that it's not going to be a regular thing, do you think that's too soft?

How many of you power wash your own house raise your hands?  

I would say to this little old lady that you have never had a request like this before, but if she would like to have it done, you don't mind at, but it will have to be at her expense.

When you give them what they want, but state at their own expense, you will be amazed at how much it's no longer a priority.

Nancy Neville

For non-essential requests from tenants I value, I generally offer to split the costs with them if the request isn't unreasonable. Better landscaping? Split the cost (and they maintain). Garage door opener installed? Split the costs. Gas line so they can hook up their BBQ? Split the costs. These are all capital expenses, but I'd probably go the same route with maintenance items (like power washing) if it's really not yet needed in my opinion.

I would do it this time. As far as any future non essential requests from this tenant I would tell her it is the tenants responsibility to keep the home clean as per the lease agreement. 

I would say it depends on what it is like now vs what it was like when she signed the lease. If it is a lot dirtier now then it was when she signed the lease then MAYBE I would consider it (I would need a lot more info to say for sure) but if not then I absolutely would not.

The thing is that it is easy to be a great landlord who takes good care of their tenants and it is easy to make money renting out houses BUT it is very difficult to do both at the same time. The tenant has a right to expect the house to be in relatively the same condition as it was when they signed the lease minus a little bit of wear and tear. They don't have to right to expect you to improve it.

@Kai Hicks

Oh, believe me, my husband and I can TOTALLY emphasize with you on two fronts: 1) We only rent out homes we would live in and try to give our tenants someplace they will feel good about living and 2) Elderly are our weakness (my husband is a contractor and has given lots of breaks/free stuff to the grey hairs........yeah, I know.....DISCRIMINATION!).

I would have the PM tell her that you are willing to let her have it done by one of their regular vendors and you will pay half; however, she should also be aware that if this results in dirty windows, she will be fully responsible to pay to have them cleaned.  @Steve Babiak  is right about the windows. No matter how good the washer is at his job, they are going to get dirty and that will lead to another call.  

Good luck!

If the unit needs to be power washed I would do it.  If the power wash will improve the look of the exterior I would do it.  If it is not necessary at this time I wold tell her that the power wash was not on schedule at this time and if she wants to share the cost of doing it I would cosider that request.  We just bought a duplex and a tenant that I have labeled a high maintanence tenant has also asked us to power wash and we are considering it.   It is something that should probably be done at least every 5 years.

Situations like this one are why I prefer to do my own property management.  I personally know and have developed a relationship with my tenants.  Knowing my tenants, I would be there the next day with my pressure washer and take care of it.  I'm also close by and it would cost me nothing but my time.    With a property manager, you're going to have to flip a coin whether they are going to be problem tenants.  Having said that, treating someone well at the beginning of a lease will tend to reduce problems, not create more.

Usually I'm against this kind of stuff but for $150 and something that absolutely benefits both parties, I would say consider it. With that said:

How far into the lease is she? She signed a 3 year lease but if it's only been a month then you may be correct in thinking she is a high maintenance tenant. If it's 9 months into the lease then get the power washing done.

The other thing you can do to try to create a mutual benefit is tell her that you will get the house power washed....but not right now. Tell her it's scheduled to be done in 6 months. This way if she is only testing the waters with how much she can get done, you can appease her without putting out any actual cash yet. If she balks, you know you're going to have  problem on your hands.

Originally posted by @Kai Hicks :

JD,

I like your idea of making it seem like my idea! I already implement this with great jokes I hear. So I let her know it's part of the routine maintenance / cleaning schedule, would you do it annually thereafter?

 I would probably do it annually, depending on siding material. Vinyl siding can get filthy in a hurry. Solid brick, probably wouldn't worry about it on an annual basis. You have to be careful with a pressure washer, as it can push water into all sorts of areas you really don't want water going. I pressure wash my own house (I own my own PW), but only on an "as-needed" basis, which in my case is almost every year because I'm in the forest. If she is on a busy street, in a heavily wooded area, or someplace real dusty, I can see it being annual. 

Oh, I'll have to raise my hands as one of the people who pressure wash their own houses, since someone above asked :)  . If the house is filthy and hasn't been done in a long time, no harm in doing it and telling the tenant it was already scheduled. If it is relatively clean, I would tell her it was scheduled for XX date (maybe just before her lease anniversary). If she's been there less than a year, that should suffice. Or if she's been there years and it's never been done, she may just have a legitimate gripe. 

@Account Closed I pressure wash my own house probably every other year.  

I would absolutely wash the house if it looks like needs it.  If it's dirty, wash it.  If it's not, tell the tenant it's not on the maintenance schedule yet, but you'll be sure to let her know when it's time or it to be done.

Vinyl siding get really mildewy on one side of the house in my area if you don't wash it regularly.

This isn't a "don't let the tenant take advantage/it's not essential/don't get pushed around" question.

The only question you need concern yourself with is this:  Is the siding dirty?

If it is, wash it.  If it is not, don't wash it.

I always err on the side of neater and better maintained, myself.  Helps with both the tenants and the neighbors.

I like the idea of splitting the cost. Her reaction to your offer will be telling.

I'd also consider how long she has been there before making this request.

Originally posted by @Kai Hicks :

Good evening BP community,

I have a tenant who has requested a full power washing of the house. My wife and I like her quite a bit, she is a sweet and very polite older lady who keeps the house in immaculate shape. She signed a 3 year lease, which is great as well. One of the reasons we got into real estate was to be the kind of landlords who are not just concerned with collecting rent, but providing people a decent place to live that they also enjoy. My only concern is that if we agree to the power washing (which my PM says will cost $150) this will open a floodgate (sick pun) of other non-essential requests. The wife and I are very new real estate investors and have zero experience with this sort of thing, so I humbly ask BP: what would you do?

I'd say no, unless the exterior of the house has mold or is so ugly versus neighboring properties that it's bringing down value of neighborhood.   The only benefit to you would be good will.  I would only agree to this if I was trying to attract a new tenant or preparing the property for sale.

If she really wants it, I would suggest asking her to split the cost with you as she would gain a majority of the benefit while she occupies the property.  If she has pride of living there, she will likely agree.  Otherwise, she doesn't want it done bad enough.  There's nothing like asking a tenant to put their money where there mouth is to help you make a good decision.

@Kai Hicks

Lets see a photo of what it looks like before you make any decisions. If it truly needs it, I would say you should bare the cost. I also didn't see what type of neighborhood this is, what kind of rent, etc. Lots of factors at play here.