First tenant, first day and already major issues

20 Replies

Hello Dear BP members. I need an advise. My first rental property, got a tenant, elderly couple. Property is 55+ condo. They moved in on November 1st. I have not seen them, but real estate was the one who showed and helped me with paperwork. HOA did an approval and also background check, references, etc. Right after they moved HOA started the project to redo all hallways (it is Florida so all outside) and sidewalks with the new cement. 7pm last night they allowed people to leave units and my tenant went with his wife who is in wheelchair outside. Today president of HOA calls me and tells me he ruined all freshly put cement, everywhere they see wheelchair marks. They are billing me for the damage $500. What do you think? Should I pass the fine to the tenant or just pay it? What is the sensible way of dealing with this?

Thank you all in advance.

If HOA opened sidewalks up to tenants use, and it got ruined, there is no bill you or the tenant are responsible for: the people who put cement in called it 'cured' too early, thereby letting normal usage mess it up. Discuss this with HOA management, show them how their announcement it was OK to use sidewalks prompted use. Normal wheelchair use will not wreck concrete sidewalks. The person is charge of making that call should pay for repairs, not you nor the tenant.

@Angela Kriv

ask the HOA for proof and present that to your tenants, and definitely bill them for it. You have to hold them accountable especially they're new. If you don't, they're going to start stepping all over you.

Your HOA is going to bill you for the damages regardless if your tenants pays it or not.

agree with @Tim Sabo on this, if they made the announcement that it was ok to use it, then that's their own fault or the contractors fault.

It doesn't sound like the tenant did anything wrong. If they got the OK to use it, whoever gave the OK is responsible.

Agree with the others. The person that said it was ready for use is the one a Judge would say pays.

Thanks everyone for an input. I've got a scan of the note that HOA posted and says that 9am - 5pm nobody can use sidewalks. They guy went out at 8PM. Nobody stressed out that only walking permitted without the wheelchair, so I will fight this charge.

I have a follow up questions. My husband says - what is it now we are responsible for everything our tenant does? And I have no answer. What is our responsibility?

I've heard so many podcasts and felt like I learned so much, but now I am having my first tenant and feel like I do not know anything.


When your tenant or guest does damage to your unit, they must be held financially responsible to you for the cost of the repairs. When the tenant or their guests damage public (HOA owned) areas, they must be held financially accountable BY the HOA, not you, unless that is specifically spelled out in your HOA contract (that you must hold them accountable, you must pay HOA, whatever the language is).

Sounds to me like you need to read your HOA contract and your lease and get very familiar with the rental laws in your state, including renting in 55+ zones and in HOA areas.

Get smart to protect yourself, or you'll get run out of business.

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Tim is correct in advising you to educate yourself on both your HOA rules, they are in effect your landlord, and your state landlord tenant regulations. Any advice you receive on here is only "opinions" and should be taken with a grain of salt. Do not make war with your HOA. You may win a battle but you will make a powerful enemy.

Before you go forward learn the rules of your business.

You need to talk to and make friends with your HOA. As their tenant you should have a relationship with them the same as you would expect your tenant to have with you. No one wants or appreciates a confrontational a tenant. Not you and certainly not your HOA.

I believe that the contractor who released the property for usage is the one at fault. 

If they now say that it was only for walk traffic, then they/you should maybe also check with ADA, because that would mean that they are now punishing someone for being handicapped in a way. I don't think that would go over well, especially, if they only went out 3 hours after the sidewalk was released.

Thank you, everyone who took a minute and answered. I've decided to sign up for legalshield service and consult a lawyer before answering the letter from HOA. I used legalshield years ago and they helped me, then stopped the service. Now I feel I need it again. I agree that my tenant or I not liable if the letter clearly stated you can go out after 5pm, but at the same time I do not want to make my relationship with HOA bad since they are the one who approve the tenants and if I decide to sell approve the buyer.

Saga continues! I feel this tenant is going to be pain in the neck. He gave me a list of issues. Fine, there are small things that needs to be corrected - net on one window, blinds are hard to close, etc. One issue seems more serious -  the lights keeps flickering. He tells me he is afraid to be in an apartment. I called licensed electrician who is coming today to see what's wrong. I just called my tenant to tell him the guy is coming and the tenant tells me tomorrow fire marshal is coming to see if place is livable or not! WHAT?? !! What do you mean? I am asking him who's going to pay for it? I am not, you reported the problem I called the person to fix. What else am I supposed to do. I am so upset. Thanks for any advise!

PS: I think if I want to be a landlord I need to have a thicker skin, but probably comes with experience, this is my first tenant.

I'd be present if at all possible when the Fire Dept does the inspection. So call and find out from the Fire Dept what time they are coming.

I'd have the electrician still come and if he check the problem make sure he leaves some type of paperwork giving date of service and service done.

Obviously the Fire Department does the inspections for your city and the tenant feels they have the right to ask for them to come out, which they do, you shouldn't have a charge from fire dept for this but they will inspect to make sure of any things in condo apt that needs correction they will write up an order for that  and you will have a period of time to comply and schedule a reinspection. 

When was the last time you had an inspection done..??? Are you required to have a rental license for your condo if so then you probably are required to have inspections done to comply.. When was the last time the complex had a inspection done of common areas??

Know your landlord tenant laws for your state 

Concrete takes up to 28 days to fully cure to full strength.  Typically after 3 to 7 days you can drive on concrete but this all depends on the concrete mix design.  There is a lot more into concrete that people think.  It's one think to walk on fresh concrete but the wheelchair created point loads. 

Be very careful now that you are dealing with a handicap person due to ADA guidelines.  You may have bigger issues down the road.   You should get familiar with the laws of ADA.  Here is a link to the 2010 ADA guidelines.

"You're afraid to be in an apartment? What are you doing here? I'll be willing to let you out of the lease with no penalty while you look for something more to your liking." Guessing these tenants came from a house and believe they've taken a step down in living arrangements. They have all day to look for problems and not much you can do that will make them happy beyond "Yes, I will address that issue and here's what it will cost. What would you like to do?" Screen your own tenants from now on.

Thick skin is not enough to deal with tenants. You need knowledge; knowledge of laws, as @Jim Adrian stated, knowledge of services, as @Deanna McCormick stated, and knowledge of HOA rules, contracts, and so many other things. This knowledge-or experience-does not come quickly.

See if there is a landlord group or association in your area where you can learn from others. See if there are real estate agents that also provide rental services to 55+ tenants;  they will probably have a good knowledge of all these rules.  Speak to other reputable landlords in your area for more localized assistance.  Don't just throw up your arms and scream 'Help!' but find ways to help yourself, as you did posting in here.

Keep up the courage, keep learning, and don't let teants jerk you into making your business decisions. Personally, I would check out the electric myself-could be a loose bulb, or a worn out switch, but you allowed the tenant to push you into calling an electrician. Are you going to call a plumber when the toilet backs up? Are you going to call someone every time the tenant whimpers? No! Check things out for yourself first, then if you can't find the source of the problem, call for reinforcements. But you will need to learn as much about the basics of hvac, plumbing, electric, insurance, HOA rules, etc. so you don't have to PAY someone else forever for these things. You don't have to become an electrician to know how to do some basic tests of things.

Get smart. Good luck. Tim

Now they really seem like tenants that will be a pain in the butt. Calling the fire dept is sort of like calling code enforcement and I would do what I can to offer them to move. They will only get worse. 

As a landlord you are required to fix things in a reasonable time and manner. They seem to have unreasonable expectations and that usually clashes with landlords.

@Angela Kriv

Angela, I so feel for you. While I am only planning to go into property management, I still wanted to share with you a bit I do know.

You mentioned that the tenants had just downsized. Were they homeowners before? Anyway, since they are in a new situation they probably are too anxious and don't know what's the best way to resolve their fears.

It could be worthwhile sitting down with them and talking through this situation. Find out what their thought process is, what they think they are entitled to as tenants, what they think your responsibilities are. Then you can explain them or, better yet, help them see for themselves that the best way to fix broken things or anything that's causing an issue is directly through you. You can show them what you plan to do if their oven breaks down, if they have electrical malfunction, if plumbing issue comes up, if neighbours disturb them etc.

You can ask them about their biggest concerns and tell them how you will act if something like this comes up. 

Most of the time miscommunication is the cause of trouble. Communication on their part may not be perfect. They have already shown that they aren't good at it when they called fire marshall. So your role will be to set out the rules of communication and also set the example.

For instance, if they complained and you called electrician, you let them know an electrician is booked. Preempt the tenants' questions and worries. Be the first to communicate the progress.

In my current profession (architecture) communication is the first thing that can hold a project together. People lose clients due to poor communication. I just saw a builder lose $400,000 project to another builder simply because the first one was slow with his emails and very short when he did send them out. Clients could not decipher his abrupt emails and just chose another builder who did not leave any room for confusion.

Please keep us posted!

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