Question for experienced landlords - dilemma

22 Replies

My basement had water a few days ago, and I immediately contacted my contractor and his crew to come in to remediate the issue. The tenant had a few items damaged, and I had warned him before that it may flood. In fact, after the clean up, I went there to sanitize and mop the basement. 

Now, he is asking for rent abatement (luckily his contractor was there when the flood was discovered and helped moved his items to reduce the damages), in additional to the low water pressure discovered recently. (which I will address)

He is an attorney, so I don't plan to bring up my lease yet. I do have a clause stating "Landlord will not be held liable for any of tenant's property" and "Tenant should have renter's insurance" etc. I understand it will be a losing battle to argue with a lawyer on contractual issues. 

My solution is to offer him some money, and clearly state it's a 1 time courtesy. And to gently remind him that I was very responsive with the issues. If he pushes even more, then I will offer him to break his lease and return his deposit. I don't want this to set a precedent that he will demand reduced rent due to issues I cannot control. 

I would love to hear your professional opinions.

Chris T.

    Chris,

    If he is an attorney, he signed The lease, he knows what it says. He should have  a renters policy for his personal belongings, end of story. If you had remedied the situation in a timely manner, I could see maybe helping in some way monetarily, but you stated that you jumped on this immediately 

    Kim Meredith Hampton, Real Estate Agent in FL (#BK0601196)

    I agree with Kim, but I can also understand if you go with your own plan as well. In the end, it's what you think is best. However, don't let the fact that he's an attorney make you easily back down. As Kim mentioned, it sounds like he was well aware that he is supposed to have renter's insurance.

    Nicole A.

      thank you @Kim Meredith Hampton @Nicole A.

      My mindset is to always maintain a professional relationship with my tenants. 

      Therefore (regardless of my tenant's occupantion), I always jump in to help. 

      A small sum to appease him, is much better, than a vacancy. Plus I will use this as a reminder of the renter's insurance.

      Hopeful he thinks I am being fair. So if he tries to push harder, then I will ask him to leave. 

      Chris T.

        How much $$ are we talking?...... that answer will usually dictate whether I take on this "battle" or not.

        I would point out the lease terms.....the renters insurance recommendation....and straight up ask, so what is it that you expect from me?

        Congrats, you are a lawyer...... please review the legal document you signed and let me know what you expect from me that is not written in the legal document you signed.....

        Ned Jackson

          Originally posted by @Ned Jackson :

          How much $$ are we talking?...... that answer will usually dictate whether I take on this "battle" or not.

          I would point out the lease terms.....the renters insurance recommendation....and straight up ask, so what is it that you expect from me?

          Congrats, you are a lawyer...... please review the legal document you signed and let me know what you expect from me that is not written in the legal document you signed.....

           Not much, under $1K.  That's why I was thinking of offering a couple of hundred, instead of saying no. 

          Chris T.

            I'm confused.  Does he think you were negligent in some way?  It sounds like his renter's insurance (that you recommended) would cover this type of loss.  It also seems like your lease spells out you are not liable for any property loss.

            I would be careful about giving him any kind of settlement as I don't see where this is on you.  I think it sets a bad precedent.

            Would you be considering this if the guy's job was a software developer?  Again, I'm not sure why you're entertaining his - frankly - demand.

            You need to follow the lease. If you set a precedent for the lease being an optional code of conduct then you will slide further down the hill and he will run away with it. You did nothing wrong and fixed the problem promptly. He needs to have renter's insurance, this is a good time to remind him.

            Aaron Mikottis

              If you offer him money you are admitting responsibility which is contrary to your lease.

              Clearly you have not dealt very much with tenant issues let alone lawyers. Either hold to your lease or rewrite your lease removing any reference to tenants being responsible for their own property.

              Sounds to me like he has you running scared. No reason to have a lease if you have no intention of enforcing it.

              Your tenant is blowing smoke.

              He must not be a very good lawyer , if he has to rent a house .

              Think of it like this , if he owned the house and the basement flooded what would he do ?   ...........Contact HIS insurance company , so thats what he should do , as long as he has renters insurance .

              thank you for your feedback @Wesley W. @Aaron Mikottis @Thomas S.

              Tom, you're absolutely right. Most of my rentals are in good areas, so I don't usually have many issues. I treat everyone as fair as possible, and hence zero issues with lawsuits. 

              Just to clarify, the compensation was to pay some of his contractor's time from minimizing the damages, not for the actual damages. And it was not a demand. 

              I appreciate your inputs. 

              Chris T.

                I would not pay him. You’ve already paid however much to clean, sanitize, and repair whatever needed to be done. And it sounds like you did it quickly. You suggested to keep things off the floor. You suggested renters insurance. I think you’ve done everything (and more).

                You can’t help some things, and I think it sets a bad prescient.

                If you want to buy some shelves for the basement to keep things off the ground, I think that would be a better use of your money. Plus, it will help future tenants too.

                Just my $0.02

                I don't think you're crazy @Chris T. to be considering a couple hundred dollar payment to keep your tenant happily occupying your property and paying his rent in full. We all know that vacancies and turnovers are more costly. Draft a little one page Release that states everything you have talked about in this thread (you're not at fault, releasing you from any and all other damages from the incident, and having him acknowledge the sections of your current lease will prevail in any new situations going forward). It's not a defeat as a landlord to try to keep a quality tenant in place without unnecessary court battles or vacancies.

                @Chris T.  I don't know if i missed it , but what was the source of the flood?  Is there any possible negligence on your part?  You warned him that it might flood, can you clarify on this in case of any relevance here? 

                Originally posted by @Jack Baczek :

                @Chris T.  I don't know if i missed it , but what was the source of the flood?  Is there any possible negligence on your part?  You warned him that it might flood, can you clarify on this in case of any relevance here? 

                 I suspect it was due to the GFI tripping the sump pump, hence it didn't run. We had a lot of water here recently while the ground was still frozen, and all the rain melted the snow as well, creating flood areas. 

                I may not be an attorney, but there're always ways one can always find negligence. 

                My regular real estate attorney has always told me in the past, it is usually best to settle amicably, regardless of whose fault, then battle it out in court. Attorney and court fees add up easily, and the verdict might not be in your favor. 

                I do agree with everyone not to set a bad precedent.

                Chris T.

                  You said the money is to pay his contractor. What did they contractor do?

                  Originally posted by @Chris T. :

                  My basement had water a few days ago, and I immediately contacted my contractor and his crew to come in to remediate the issue. The tenant had a few items damaged, and I had warned him before that it may flood. In fact, after the clean up, I went there to sanitize and mop the basement. 

                  Now, he is asking for rent abatement (luckily his contractor was there when the flood was discovered and helped moved his items to reduce the damages), in additional to the low water pressure discovered recently. (which I will address)

                  He is an attorney, so I don't plan to bring up my lease yet. I do have a clause stating "Landlord will not be held liable for any of tenant's property" and "Tenant should have renter's insurance" etc. I understand it will be a losing battle to argue with a lawyer on contractual issues. 

                  My solution is to offer him some money, and clearly state it's a 1 time courtesy. And to gently remind him that I was very responsive with the issues. If he pushes even more, then I will offer him to break his lease and return his deposit. I don't want this to set a precedent that he will demand reduced rent due to issues I cannot control. 

                  I would love to hear your professional opinions.

                   Personally, that is how I would handle it.  I would just make sure you write something up along the lines of "The leases states I am not liable and tenant should have renters insurance, but this one time I am offering X and if it happens again the tenant will have to use their renters insurance" 

                  If a tenant's fridge breaks, I compensate them for spoiled food.  I don't need to but I feel it is the right thing to do and it has not set a negative precedent 

                  Brie Schmidt, Real Estate Agent in Wisconsin (#57846-90) and Illinois (#471.018287)

                  @Chris T. first suggestion is never put a sump pump on a GFI circuit. Second suggestion is to install a water powered backup pump. I was looking at battery backup pumps when a plumber introduced me to the water powered ones. They can run forever in a power outage and the only side effect is your water bill. For every gallon they pump out, they consume one gallon of water. Cost me a few hundred to have installed and now I no longer need to worry about lost power flooding the basement.

                  I have had water issues and never paid the tenant for the inconvenience. I have paid tenants for helping with cleanup. Maybe that is a way to handle it. Tell the tenant your lease requires that his rental insurance handles payment so you cannot pay him anything for that, but you can give him some money to reimburse his time in helping you clean up the mess. If you pay him anything, require him to sign a document / receipt stating what the money was for. 

                  @Chris T. ,

                  You stated that you  "had warned him before that it may flood," and he put whatever down there, at his own discretion.  

                    Maybe it's just because  I hate lawyers, but I wouldn't give him anything.   It's one thing if he asked and said "Hey, unfortunately my computer was down there when it flooded, can you help?" but instead he throws out legal jargon pushing his law degree, trying to intimidate you...  his actions tell me he's just looking for discounted rent..     I'd tell him to contact his renters insurance, as you don't cover his personal property.  

                   I'd also remind him that you warned him against it, and you acted ASAP to get it fixed.

                  FOLLOW.THE.LEASE

                  if you break the lease, then you are setting precedent to allow him to.

                  I don't care what he does for a job, it shouldn't affect how you do your job, which is to follow the lease.

                  If you pay him, you won't gain any goodwill, you'll just be donating to charity. If that's what you want to do, I suggest a better charity.

                  Alexander Felice

                  So I guess I'm confused.....are you paying him for some labor that a contractor did to help clean things up or for damage to his possessions?

                  If its for labor, the issue is still paying a tenant back for labor/work that you didn't pre-authorize/approve to happen...another really bad precedent. But considering what the job was, you may have been paying someone anyway....and the work may have been somewhat urgent......but again, you need to make it 1000% clear that this is a one time deal for paying for stuff you didn't authorize.

                  Ned Jackson

                    Bring the lease up. He is trying to intimidate you. 

                    I usually talk to the owners to suggest a one time credit. If they say yes, I will do it.

                    I never agree on rent abatement.

                    I recently had a tenant, who is also an attorney who tried to bully me into lowering the rent. First, he reported mold. I send my inspector and he didn't find anything. There was nothing wrong with the house, he just decided that he deserved lower rent. 

                    The tenant asked another attorney from his office to contact me because he wasn't getting anywhere. After that, the tenant stopped paying rent. I served him a notice and told him that I will evict him if he doesn't pay.

                    His lawyer called me and said that he is so rich that he doesn't care if he is evicted. I told her that if he is rich he needs to pay the rent. He did.

                    What did u end up doing?

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