Tenants built a Deck

14 Replies

Ok, this is one thing that I didn't expect. I have a 4 unit in Tucson, AZ under contract and had it inspected last Tuesday. The 4 plex is two separate duplex buildings on a single parcel. All of the units have their own private backyard with a privacy fence. I own and live in the identical 4 plex right next to this one.

Well one of the tenants in the building built a deck in the back yard. The literally just sat some wood directly on the ground. Below is the image from the inspection report.

I'm just wondering what other landlords would do in this situation? The termite inspection found minor termite damage, but none in this area, and I have a termite contract to spray my other buildings annually and will do the same for this building. Still I am worried that this could make matters worse.

The current owner told me that he became aware of the deck a few months ago, but since these are some of his best tenants who have lived in the unit for 5+ years, he lets them keep it, with the provision that they tear it down when they move out.

Has any other landlord had a similar issue?

@Anthony Gayden

Personally, I would make removal of the deck a condion of the sale. They're only your best tenants if they are not doing things to actively ruin the property such as building an avenue for termites into the house. Whether it will make you, as the new owner, and those tenants the best of friends is an important consideration however. That is something you'll have to think about.

Is the deck that much more likely to get termite damage because it is not built on blocks or with posts cemented into the ground? Especially since you are spraying yearly? It would just be bad to lose a tenant over a potential non-issue. You could ask your termite guy what he thinks. 

Dose the wood on the deck connect to the structure of the house? Or is it just touching the stucco? 

I would spray more often rather than piss off a tennant that has been there for 5 years. Or raise the rent and see if they move out.

If it is pressure treated wood, I wouldn't be worried about it re: termites. From the pictures, the place looks like a mess, and if these are his best tenants I would be worried about the quality of tenants more so than the wood deck. 

Personally, it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. The way the tenants are maintaining the property would be more concerning - if that picture had a nice couple of chairs on top of it, with a little table, clean and neat, I wouldn't care a bit. Is the concrete underneath broken up? I would think it probably looks bad, or is bad, because few tenants want to spend a couple hundred bucks on wood for a patio that's already there. 

Originally posted by @Anthony Gayden :

Ok, this is one thing that I didn't expect. I have a 4 unit in Tucson, AZ under contract and had it inspected last Tuesday. The 4 plex is two separate duplex buildings on a single parcel. All of the units have their own private backyard with a privacy fence. I own and live in the identical 4 plex right next to this one.

Well one of the tenants in the building built a deck in the back yard. The literally just sat some wood directly on the ground. Below is the image from the inspection report.

I'm just wondering what other landlords would do in this situation? The termite inspection found minor termite damage, but none in this area, and I have a termite contract to spray my other buildings annually and will do the same for this building. Still I am worried that this could make matters worse.

The current owner told me that he became aware of the deck a few months ago, but since these are some of his best tenants who have lived in the unit for 5+ years, he lets them keep it, with the provision that they tear it down when they move out.

Has any other landlord had a similar issue?

I'm not familiar with termites as such, but have worked with insurance and know that it's wise to be cautious when it comes to bugs/mice/ect. I would have the wood removed immediately, as this might be the onset of even bigger surprices further down the road. 

Originally posted by @JD Martin :

If it is pressure treated wood, I wouldn't be worried about it re: termites. From the pictures, the place looks like a mess, and if these are his best tenants I would be worried about the quality of tenants more so than the wood deck. 

Personally, it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. The way the tenants are maintaining the property would be more concerning - if that picture had a nice couple of chairs on top of it, with a little table, clean and neat, I wouldn't care a bit. Is the concrete underneath broken up? I would think it probably looks bad, or is bad, because few tenants want to spend a couple hundred bucks on wood for a patio that's already there. 

 The back yard is a little cluttered, but nothing unsafe, and nothing that is too bad. Looking at that picture, I can see how you may think they aren't great tenants, but they have family get togethers often with their kids and grandkids, which may help explain the clutter. They keep the inside of the unit and the front/common areas pretty clean. Also they pay early and on time and rarely call for maintenance issues according to the current owner.

If you are treating annually and it is pressure treated wood there should not be a big risk but I don't know your area, you might want to get a local opinion. 

I would be inclined to only have them remove the non-pressure treated rickety divider I see in the picture. Some will also depend on what the insurance says.

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

If you are treating annually and it is pressure treated wood there should not be a big risk but I don't know your area, you might want to get a local opinion. 

I would be inclined to only have them remove the non-pressure treated rickety divider I see in the picture. Some will also depend on what the insurance says.

 Sounds good, especially the part about checking with my insurance company.

What people dont understand outside of the southwest is how bad termites are in Tucson. You can not have bare wood touching dirt here.  If you just leave it alone since the tenants are good...then I would insure that there is no physical connection to the main structure that would allow a path for the termites to enter and that their security deposit, in addition to all the usual things, is conditioned on its removal at the end of the lease.  Another concern would be liability, if they built it and it becomes structurally unsound and hurts someone...then who is responsible? That I cant answer for you.

Originally posted by @Michael Leung :

What people dont understand outside of the southwest is how bad termites are in Tucson. You can not have bare wood touching dirt here.  If you just leave it alone since the tenants are good...then I would insure that there is no physical connection to the main structure that would allow a path for the termites to enter and that their security deposit, in addition to all the usual things, is conditioned on its removal at the end of the lease.  Another concern would be liability, if they built it and it becomes structurally unsound and hurts someone...then who is responsible? That I cant answer for you.

 Good point on the liability. 

If the overall size isn't too large, you should be able to pick up some concrete pavers pretty cheaply and create a more permanent solution for them that wouldn't involve insects.  It has the added effect of being a value add to the next tenant.  Just a thought.

Originally posted by @Jon Behlke :

If the overall size isn't too large, you should be able to pick up some concrete pavers pretty cheaply and create a more permanent solution for them that wouldn't involve insects.  It has the added effect of being a value add to the next tenant.  Just a thought.

Never thought of it that way. 

As I went through each post I was thinking like @Jon Behlke  finally commented about the pavers. My first thought would be to seek some advice from my pest control, if they can keep it under control that would be great but if they feel it's a problem I'd consider replacing with pavers to keep good tenants happy.

@Anthony Gayden You may want to read this piece: 

http://www.insurancequotes.org/home/how-pests-affe...

What a lot of people may not realize is that typically in insurance policies, pest/vermin infestation is NOT a covered peril under their policy; due to a myriad of reasons. This article speaks pretty well to that point, as well as this definition on the "Vermin Exclusion":

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/v/vermin-exclusi...

While each insurance carriers' policies can vary slightly from their competitors, in general (without getting into to much boring insurance detail) most policies are based off of an industry standard known as "ISO" (ISO - Insurance Services Office). They create standard insurance policy language, and in most policies I've seen, there is a "Pest/Vermin" exclusion. 

What that means in short, if there was a termite issue, the likelihood of your insurance carrier paying out on that claim could be slim to none; however, stranger things have happened, and all policies can (and do) tend to vary - carrier to carrier.

Good luck with the property, Anthony. I think that there was a good idea to do the pavers. I think that would be an olive branch type of offering, because you would be maintaining your property in the way you would like to see it maintained, yet, you wouldn't be taking anything from them, you'd actually be adding some value to them. It's all about the way you sell it to the tenants. 

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