Tenant Broke Kitchen Faucet But Lied About It

21 Replies

After I paid to replace a kitchen faucet, the plumber indicated to me that the tenant "kinda admitted" that his kids had used the faucet to climb up to the sink.  I called the tenant and asked if someone may have pulled the handle off the sink somehow.  He said he didn't know.  I also asked if someone may have been standing on the counter and he said he didn't know.

Based on pictures, from the plumber it makes perfect sense.  I'd like to send a letter to the tenants telling them what I discovered and that I expect them to pay for the repairs to the sink as well as the replacement of the wood floor that is now warped.  

If this was your tenant, how would you handle it?  This is not the first "unexplained" damage to the house and I live in a different state from the tenant.  Thanks for your perspective.

California is pretty cut and dry about what is wear and tear vs. what the tenant breaks. Check your states laws I believe you could keep part of the deposit. I'm on the other end of the spectrum where I have had to bring a lawsuit against a past landlord for keeping the whole deposit (over $2000.00) Every state varies and as long as you keep good documents you should be fine.

keep pictures of it and the bill  and the cost and when they move out take from the deposit 

If it's legal in Missouri have a lease that has the tenant paying for any repairs under $200. 

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Ahmed Poter has it right keep documentation of everything and take it from the security deposit. Maybe something in your lease would allow you to file for eviction if it's a recurring issue but obviously that's a lawyer question.

You will need to depreciate the value of the kitchen faucet and flooring if you plan to bill
bill the tenant.  Be prepared for pushback as "kinda admitted" does not hold up well if you go to court.  They either admitted to damaging the faucet or did not and the plumber would need to provide an affidavit specifiying the damage to the kitchenn faucet was caused by misuse or negligence of the tenant.   

Hi Ben, 

I would call the house insurance because the tenant policy might cover part of the damages. It seems to me your tenant might accept the bill because when you asked him about the causes of the damages he didn't say "NO". I would try to get a description of the work made by the plumber, and call my tenant. I would make him know I am aware of how the problem happened and let him know I keep part of the deposit based on the contract that both signed. After that I would send him our conversation by mail.

  

@Ben Gilmore - What do you estimate the damages are? How much is the security deposit? Is this a long-term tenant? 

Originally posted by @Jeff B. :

You will need to depreciate the value of the kitchen faucet and flooring if you plan to bill
bill the tenant.  Be prepared for pushback as "kinda admitted" does not hold up well if you go to court.  They either admitted to damaging the faucet or did not and the plumber would need to provide an affidavit specifiying the damage to the kitchenn faucet was caused by misuse or negligence of the tenant.   

This is my exact concern.  There's what I know and what I can prove.  At this point, it seems I can either tell them I know the real story and expect them to pay for the damages or I can eat the costs.

Originally posted by Account Closed:

@Ben Gilmore - What do you estimate the damages are? How much is the security deposit? Is this a long-term tenant? 

Damages so far are about $200, but the floor that needs to be replaced is a bigger concern.  I'm guessing another $500 to replace the flooring since it's a small kitchen.

Their security deposit is $1200 and there are 9 months left on their lease.  There have been other minor issues in the past that were questionable as well.  Bottom line is, I do not plan to renew with them at the end of the lease.

@Ben Gilmore - based on that - I would echo what others have said. Document all repairs and see if the plumber will write down why the faucet broke (or what he suspects caused it). You might want to keep the old faucet and take pictures. Faucets don't break themselves..... If they do much more damage to your house you may not have any more security deposit to pull from at move out...

Originally posted by @Mercedes Cantero :

Hi Ben, 

I would call the house insurance because the tenant policy might cover part of the damages. It seems to me your tenant might accept the bill because when you asked him about the causes of the damages he didn't say "NO". I would try to get a description of the work made by the plumber, and call my tenant. I would make him know I am aware of how the problem happened and let him know I keep part of the deposit based on the contract that both signed. After that I would send him our conversation by mail.

  

 @Mercedes Cantero

Mercedes - I hadn't even thought of checking to see if this might be covered by our Landlord Policy.

After reading everyone's comments, I think the best approach is to call them, tell them what I know and ask them to pay for the repairs.  This would likely get them to admit the truth and pay for damages now.  Given what I've seen so far, I'm concerned that their deposit will not cover everything when they move out.

ever see the movie "the super" with joe pesci?...what the movie fails to explain is that the reason pesci's father in the movie doesnt fix anything is because these tenants act like animals that destroy everything and are never accountable for it.....just...like...yours. 1. send letter explaining shes responsible for repair expense, 2. have her pay for it or terminate her lease asap .3. when she moves out, install most rock solid faucet possible. 

Thanks everyone for your input!!

I would send them a letter now telling them they owe you $700. I'd tell them that you admitted your kids did it to my plumber while he was replacing. If you don't do it now damage will continue and your security deposit won't be enough.

I would send them the invoice. If they don't want to pay then I would not make a big deal out of it if they are otherwise good tenants.  But keep it in your back pocket should the day come when you need it.

had something similar, 2nd floor tenant caused flood to 1st floor but lied to me about it…fire department report says otherwise.  have a lawyer deal with it.  if they have a job, you can garnish wages.

not sure i would go the insurance route as each claim (big or small) brings you closer to having to find another insurance provider which means higher rates.  save insurance for the  really big stuff. 

1. Don't send it to your insurance - this is way too low of an amount to risk a jump in premium.

2. The plumber is yours - have them write down how they thought it broke plus what they were told. If you paid the bill and they aren't willing to help, find a new plumber.

3. You need to deal with the issue to a conclusion now. Delaying it to the end of the tenancy will only push the grief down the road. The more you attribute to a deposit now the fewer rea$ons they will have to leave the place clean at the end.

3b. Have a clause in your lease that specifies that all funds received go to fees, damages, etc. before rent. If they don't pay then they are late on rent. Deal with as appropriate.

Thanks everyone for your help with this.  Thought I'd close the loop so others might learn as well.  I'm still a rookie landlord but this was a good learning experience.  After 6 years of being a landlord, this is the first time I've had to deal with a challenging tenant.  I suppose I was overdue.

I confronted them with this last night and they maintain that they do not know what caused the faucet to break ("We never actually saw either of the kids use the faucet to get up to the sink.")  Unfortunately, they didn't fully admit fault to the plumber either.  So what I "pretty well" know and what I can prove are two different things.  Bottom line; I'll be eating the expense for the repairs.

Lessons learned... First, I've reviewed my lease and compared it to a few others.  With some experience behind me, I realize that the lease I've been using for years now is full of holes.  I've found a much better lease that addresses "additional fees" and specific scenarios where tenants would be liable for repairs and/or maintenance.  I'll have this reviewed by an attorney to verify it's quality.

Second, Thanks to some sage advice from Bigger Pockets, from a I'll establish specific parameters for screening new renters. The renters I have in this house are from a property management company that I fired about 18 months ago.  If go with another management company in the future, I'll double check their screening requirements.

The plus side is you're improving your lease! 
I agree with Mark though that this isn't something you'd just wait till the end of the lease to take the money out of their deposit. Their security deposit is not a line of credit.

You should charge any damages that are their fault as "Additional Rent" for the next month.

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Great advice from @Mark B. If they were great, long term tenants and this was the first problem, my advice woule be to suck it up and tell them that next time something like this occurs, they'll need to cover the cost, it's their responsibility to monitor leaks, etc. However, if they aren't great tenants and are going to be asked to leave at the end of the lease, get a letter from your plumber and document everything. Send it to them, asking them to reimburse you. If they refuse, keep it out of their deposit at the end of the lease, assuming you are certain that this was not normal "wear and tear." 

Corby Goade, Real Estate Agent
208-297-3010

Even with a very good lease, prepare for frustration.  Although my lease specifically says no smoking, for instance, a tenant burned a hole in the kitchen vinyl flooring, obviously a cigarette burn.  Because the flooring was old, about 8 years, even though it was in perfect condition when they moved in, I couldn't charge them for it because it's beyond the normal age.    

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