This is my first post after lurking around a bit, and was hoping I could get some direction. I currently live in a house hacked duplex, and rented out the lower unit roughly a month ago. This is the 3rd tenant I have had in the space since purchasing myself. Today, I received the below email from the tenant looking for some fixes to happen on the unit. A number of them are straight forward enough and I can answer or take care of, but the final request seems to be a bit excessive, as basically the house would need to rewired.
"We are really enjoying the apartment so far and are slowly getting more and more settled in. Below please find a list of items that we have come across in the move-in process that need resolution.
1. Doorbell does not work
2. Ceiling fan in living room does not work; light works, but not fan component
3. Thermostat does not work; the display screen doesn't properly display so we cannot see the temperature or know what it is changing to when we hit buttons
4. Ceiling area looks problematic by bay windows in living room (photo attached)
5. Bathroom fan does not seem to function efficiently
6. Washer and dryer seem unbalanced
7. Electrical situation - There are no outlets in the kitchen that are available to use and some circuits are overloaded. This is difficult as it's in the kitchen where one would expect to plug in a blender, toaster, microwave, etc. We had plugged the microwave into the outlet with the fridge but have tripped the circuit several times, even when the fridge was not running. After an assessment of the electrical outlets throughout the apartment, it just does not make sense. We understand that this an older home but we want to feel comfortable with the electrical situation from a typical convenience situation as well as from a safety perspective.
As you can see in the attached spreadsheet (by circuit and by room), circuit 6 and 5 are overloaded. We tried moving the microwave into the dining room (after trying to microwave in the kitchen when the TV was off, living room lights off, and the fridge not running) but the only 3-prong outlet in dining room is on the same circuit as the kitchen so that didn't work. As it is, we have the toaster and coffee maker on the dining room windowsill where there is a 2-prong outlet not on circuit 6; however, when I was blow drying my hair in the bathroom it tripped the circuit because the coffee maker in the dining room was also on and it's on same circuit as the outlet in bathroom (I have now switched to using a different outlet in the bathroom on circuit 10 to avoid this problem).
We have tried over the past month to adapt and make adjustments but even the adjustments are not working, especially with the kitchen and appliances. After reviewing the attached spreadsheet, we would like to see if possible to have an electrician come out and assess the situation and see if there are any changes that can be made to add a usable 3-prong outlet in the kitchen as well as lighten the load on circuits 6 and 5. Please note that all 3-prong receptacles are not grounded. It also appears that there is a circuit for an electrical stove that perhaps could be used in some other fashion. The circuit breaker is a safety device; simply switching the circuit back on without investigating the underlying problem could become costly in the long run and, in many cases, extremely dangerous. We want to be sure that there is not a potentially dangerous electrical/fire issue.
There is also a socket in the living room where we can only access one section of it because something seems to be jammed in the other part."
This is the first I have been informed on all the above issues, as no other tenant made mention. Any thoughts would be great!
Did you make sure any of these were working before you rented the unit? In my opinion, if there is too much on a circuit, you need to fix it and adding an outlet in the kitchen I don't think is an excessive request. I would go walk the unit with the tenant and go over this checklist, I probably wouldn't fix #1 but I would check out the rest. Good Luck!
Also, now is the time to make the tenant feel confident on your landlord abilities, if you don't fix anything, the tenant will be less likely to care for the property since you don't seem to care, just something to think about.
This is a major issue with older (1960 and before) houses. They just were not set up with wiring to support the massive loads of electrical things that are now considered must haves. Back then a 60A service was plenty for a house. Now houses are being built with two or three 200A services. I would have an electrician get you a quote on bringing some of it up to modern standards and a GFCI outlet in the kitchen and bath would be priorities from a liability standpoint.
I would repair and make good any items not operating properly, The following in particular. 1, 2, 3, and 5. Numbers 4, and 6 are not issues. Number 6 is caused by the user.
For #7 I would tell them that it is typical of older buildings and that if they wish you will let them out of the lease. Many renters deal with this type of situation knowing that the level of rent is usually adjusted accordingly. I suspect these tenants could develop into a major pita which is why I suggest you offer to let them out of the lease. Their expectations are beyond their budget.
After they leave I would consider addressing the electrical but not while they are there. It would be a mistake as you will end up with nothing but complaints as the work is being completed and they will likely demand a rent rebate.
What about the last request do you find excessive?
Originally posted by @Michelle B. :
What about the last request do you find excessive?
I have been living in the area, and they are all old homes. I am just outside of historic districts and the home was built in 1890. While all the electrical in the home has been upgraded/updated, there are of course quirks to a home of this era. I have run into similar issues while renting, and made due with the circumstances. I guess, to me, it seems to be a large ask to have a home rewired to accommodate a single tenant. The home has been rented for 10+ years with the wiring as is, I cant speak to if any of the tenants of the previous owner had similar complaints, but it would appear everyone else has got by.
Appreciate the responses, and I definitely plan to address all the other issues. I probably should have done a more thorough inspection of all components in the unit, but had not had any complaints on any of this previously. I have not had to live in the unit, so I overlooked many of these smaller things. I know that my upper unit, which is a 2bed/1bath, has 2 total circuits basically split down the middle. The lower unit is a 3bed/1bath and has 7 circuits, with each unit having a separate breaker. I will definitely investigate it further, but it does not appear to add up.
Are the kitchen appliances yours or theirs? The reason I ask is that sometimes when an older appliance is getting ready to fail, you can see electrical issues with breakers or with a spike in electrical cost/usage.
The only electrical appliance provided in the kitchen is the refrigerator. They also get a stove, but that is gas.
Wow, you got a mess on your hands bucko. Better do something before you have serious problems. Doing nothing leads to bigger problems. The most important thing we can learn to do as landlords is to act promptly on OUR OWN BEHALF. even if you may not want to do something for a tenant you need to take care of your own property so you don't burn your own house down. If you haven't figures it our yet, being a landlord is kind of like being a parent; you get all the responsibility and sometimes get to smile a little bit when something goes right!
As I posted originally if you choose to do electrical upgrades get rid of the tenant first or you will regret your decision.
I'd have an electrician come out and check it all out. Might be as simple as swapping a few of the outlets over to a new or different circuit.
If someone asked me how to get out of a lease I would tell them to write the exact letter as you received. I would agree with @Thomas S. on this one. Let them out of the lease and then address the electrical.
Here is where she is declaring it is an unsafe environment and they are concerned for their safety:
"The circuit breaker is a safety device; simply switching the circuit back on without investigating the underlying problem could become costly in the long run and, in many cases, extremely dangerous. We want to be sure that there is not a potentially dangerous electrical/fire issue."
I would remain polite and let them know that the house is as is where is (minus the stuff that should be fixed doorbell/ceiling fan). You appreciate their concerns and the last thing you want is for them to feel unsafe. That being the case you are happy to allow them out of the lease so they can find a place more suited to them.
After they leave then get an electrician in to see what can be done to update it some effectively.
Best of Luck
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