Tenant compains about not enought heat!

6 Replies

We have a 3 unit property in Montgomery County, PA.  It's been just less than one year since we purchase this property.  The previous owner had not taken care of the property well and had the first floor tenant control the thermometer for the all 3 units.  It was the oil heating system which was costing over $10K a year!  The heater got broken over the summer so we decided to replace (make an investment)  to replace the oil heater to gas heater.  We have the Nest thermometer installed so we can control the heat and we have set it to 73 degrees.  Then, I get a call from my 1st floor complaining that the heater is not working and that it is too cold.  My 2nd and 3rd floor tenants has no problem and they have additional portable heater running to keep themselves warm. 

We are ready to renew the lease and will be increasing our rent due to management cost, taxes etc.  1st floor tenant has been there for over 12 years and never got a increase in her rent and complains about almost everything.  (Want to color the front door for the holiday, the sink is keep getting clogged).  We don't want to lose a long term tenant but, what will be the best way to handle this situation.  Many experience landlords, please share your experiences.

I'd make appointment and go in and see the temp on the thermostat in her apartment.

If your other residents are using portable heaters I'd not let them, huge fire hazard,, electrical fires., I have a clause in my lease no other heat sources permitted, 

Is it forced air or radiators, your post only said type of fuel used, if it's radiators, go in make sure all radiators are system ready that they are full of water and no air locks,, YOU TUBE it to figure out how to do it. Make sure radiators or vents it it's forced air are not blocked, with furniture or something sitting on top of radiator. the air in the room needs to be able to circulate.

As for renewal 12 years no rent increase,, CRAZY.

I"d get her up to market rate ASAP and if she doesn't like it she can move.

Hi @Sarah Byun ,

The temp is the temperature at the thermostat not anywhere else so just something to keep in mind. You could set the temp to 85 and the whole rest of the place could still be cold.

Your first floor tenant has been use to spending 10K a year of your money to get the temp where she wants it. You will never do anything to make her happy temp wise in the future. I never recommend having a single furnace for 3 apartments much less one you pay for. I know it will cost more (and a whole lot more if you do it at this time of year). However in my opinion you need to get them on separate tenant paid heat sources. 

When you pay for heat you will drive by in the winter to windows open, when the tenant pays for heat it is usually kept reasonable.

Just my thoughts and good luck in whatever you decide.

Mike Cumbie, Real Estate Agent in NY (#10401285310)

Are you out of your mind? 73 degrees? You will go broke if you are paying the heat bill. If it's a boiler, bleed radiators and make sure the valves are turned on at each radiator. If it's a furnace, make sure the dampers are set open to allow heat where you want it. If you know nothing about either, use google. Regardless, I hope you installed a high efficiency one to keep costs low. We did that in our multi-unit 5 years ago and it has paid for itself in fuel savings twice over already. 

68 degrees is the max on the thermostat. If folks are cold beyond that, knit them a sweater. Really, some people are always cold, and need more heat than you can provide. Allow tenants to use UL listed electric heaters (if your electric service is up to date) to supplement their heat needs. They can buy their own, nice little fireplace jobs, for around 200 dollars, and you don't have to pay for the heat.

As for the tenant who has never received an increase in rent, and complains too much, it is not your fault she is a grouch, but treat her with respect, then give her a 60 day notice the rent will increase by 5-8 percent each year until it is where it needs to be to help you cover your T.I.M.E. If she can't do it, prepare for vacancy and use the opportunity to get her place up-to-date and set at a better rent.

And study your butt off to learn how to be a grown up landlord: this job ain't for kids.

Is electric separate and paid by each tenant?  If so I would have approached this differently.  I would have added baseboard heat to each unit so the tenant pays the electric to heat their own units.  Having one tenant control one heating system for all three units is a red flag to me before a purchase.  I would either have to see if they could be split so each tenant pays for their own heat or I would pass on the deal.  

In terms of a long time tenant being below market rent I would simply send them a letter 60 days prior to the end of their current lease (if that's the law in your area) and inform them that in order to properly maintain the property their rents must be increased to market rent of "whatever that is."  You may want to structure it in a way that it increases $50/quarter until you get them to market rents just to show you want to work with them on the increase.  If they say no then I would just get a new tenant to come in paying market rent.

Lots of good ideas, get some heating contractors in there for ideas about splitting the units into separate zones, each with their own thermostat. Get the rents up to market rate and make each tenant pay own utilities. Don't fall in love with a "long-term" tenant who is a pain, there are more and better tenants out there. Lots of posts on BP to answer your questions. Good luck.

@Sarah Byun The 1st floor tenant is just upset that she is not overlord of the heating system anymore.  Don't look into it anymore than that. 73 degrees is more than reasonable for a heating level in terms of temperature.  Hold your ground on this issue, it may be better if she decides to move out anyway from the sounds of it.

Michael Noto, Real Estate Agent in CT (#RES.0799665)
860-384-7570

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