Tenants heat is out, what to do?

38 Replies

My tenants heat went out last night. Luckily, I have a home warranty. I called and the soonest they can get one of their contractors out there is Monday. The tenant is not happy about this with today being Thursday. I could call an emergency HVAC guy over to fix it, but then the cost would be out of pocket. 

Should I handle the situation myself out of pocket, or tell him he is going to have to wait? If I make him wait, how should I make the situation right, deduct some rent off? Whats your advice? 

What does your lease say and what does the law say?

you may be covered by scheduling it immediately, there is a reasonable expectation of time delay. Everyone knows things don't happen instantly. That said there are laws to keep everyone in line, your state might be harsh on this stuff.

If you got the tenant call within the last 24 hours and you have the fix scheduled to be in the next 2 business days, I "personally" think that's reasonable, but the law is what matters.

if you're within your lease and within the law, I would tell them to hold tight. Maybe rent a space heater for the them for the weekend. I would not deduct rent as it sets a really poor precedent. You are making the situation right, it's just inconvenient, don't take on some personal guilt.

Hey @Ryan Davis

Sorry to hear that, I had the same issue a couple months back. I chose to be up front with my tenant in explaining the situation and offered to take $50 off that months rent. He was perfectly happy and I had no issues moving forward. I would definitely give that a try.

@Ryan Davis I don't know how cold it is where you're at, but if it's cold enough you might need to bite the bullet and get someone out there before Monday.  Residential leases usually have an implied warranty of habitability, which basically means the premises must be suitable for human habitation.  The exact conditions required for a residence to be habitable vary by state, but often include an operable heating source during cold weather.  So it's possible that without a heating source the home isn't considered legally habitable and you could be required to not charge rent for those days.  Weight that against the cost of just having someone come out there sooner, and you might find it's a wash.  If so, you might as well have someone come out so the tenant has heat and is happy.  Just something to consider.

@Ryan Davis I would call the warranty company back and tell them they need to get someone ASAP or they need to let you get this done and reimburse you for the repair.

I have heard that these home warranties are not worth the money. They charge you an annual rate and then the out of pocket costs for extras like freon tend to make the repair costs as much as it would cost to hire your own person. Also they don't tend to be quick in getting the repair handled as you are finding out first hand.

You will now if this warranty is worth it after you get the bill from the warranty company.

If you have a pleasant experience please share after the fact. 

Hold on.  Don't jump for your wallet just yet.

If you have a home warranty, and they are telling you the soonest would be Monday.  Then you have done your job to attend to the issue as soon as possible.  If YOU were the homeowner getting that kind of news, you would have to wait until Monday to get it fixed!  So, why should there be any special accommodations made for a tenant?

The only exception should be if the law requires more immediate action (like in the case of extreme weather conditions).  If THAT is the case, I would call the home warranty company back and let them know that there is a Tenant in place, and the law requires more immediate attention, and see what they will do for you.  Sometimes they can re-assign it to another contractor for quicker service OR they can allow for your contractor to complete the repair, and they would reimburse you for the portion of the expense that they would normally cover.  Discuss these options with the home warranty company.  And DON'T speak to the entry level person.  Escalate it to at least some type of supervisor.

In terms of how you explain it to the Tenant, I would come at it from a relational perspective, and remind them that you submitted the claim as soon as they alerted you to the problem, and that if this were YOUR heat that were out, you would have to wait the same amount of time.  Often times, Tenants are upset because they think you are holding out on them, but if you assure them that you have done everything within your abilities, they can't fault you for that.

Alternatively, you may consider bringing them a space heater, or authorize them to purchase a space heater to get by for the weekend.  This may be something that is necessary in extreme heat with elderly tenants and/or children present.

As always, you need to consult your lease FIRST as it is your road map for the relationship with your tenant.  How does it say that repairs will be handled?  Share the lease language with the Tenant so that they can see that you are doing everything required.

I second what has been said for the most part. Perhaps you could offer some space heaters for the time being. Know what is required of you by the law. Try to make your tenants happy, but also do not bend over backwards *too much* for them. There needs to be a line. Cara's post right before me is my favorite in this thread. Solid advice.

Do not depend on a home warranty to respond in a timely manner. I have no personal experience with them, but I hear time and time again that they are slow to respond. And when they do arrive, they tend to do Band-Aid fixes, therefore many times requiring follow-up visits to repair again (and again). I do not think home warranties are worth it. Hopefully you have factored into your numbers savings for repairs and CapEx stuff... to me, *that* is your warranty.

I would do whatever it took to get them heat asap. In most cases you are legally required to make the property habitable. Regardless of what you are required to do, what is the right thing to do? This is one of those items that you know you might deal with as a landlord, it's one of the risks. If I were a halfway decent tenant and my landlord told me that my kids and I don't get to have heat for four days because he didn't want to spend a few bucks on an HVAC tech, that would not sit well with me. Get someone out there, get your tenants heat and sleep well knowing you did the right thing and provided your tenants with excellent service. If you can get a reimbursement from the home warranty company, that's great, but I wouldn't count on it. 

here is the 5 day forecast for Moore SC .  Thats colder than here in Maryland .  Now he called and got an appointment , he covered himself there . But the next 5 days are going to be very cold . Go buy a space heater for each room of the house including basement or crawl space .  This way pipes dont freeze .

They are a business expense 

TONIGHT15 MAR Clear--7°0%WSW 27 km/h41%
FRI16 MAR Mostly Sunny 22°9°0%W 11 km/h45%
SAT17 MAR AM T-Storms 21°10°80%SW 22 km/h71%
SUN18 MAR Partly Cloudy 19°8°10%NE 11 km/h58%
MON19 MAR Showers 12°9°70%ENE 10 km/h78%
TUE20 MAR Partly Cloudy 19°6

YOu need to call the home warranty company back asap and dont let them off the phone until they get someone by tomrorow.   Tell them that you will have to get your own company out there if they refuse.  Call them back right now!

I hate home warranties for this exact reason. 

@Matthew Paul those temperatures are in Celsius. The actual temperatures are 50 - 70 degrees fahrenheit. I'm getting highs of 50 this week and we're running around in t-shirts and washing cars. I think they'll survive.

He made the call, the work is scheduled, and the temperatures are liveable. He should bring the tenants some space heaters to get them through the next few days but that's it.

I would not offer any discount on rent because they're not really suffering. As @Cara Lonsdale pointed out, my mortgage company doesn't cut me a break when the furnace goes out or a water pipe busts. There's no loss of use and the inconvenience is extremely minor.

As already stated you have fulfilled your responsibilities, Take one or two space heaters and do not give a rent rebate...sets a bad precedent and not required under the circumstances.

@Nathan G.  I see that now , dont know why weather .com did that .  I went back and the temps look fine , actually rather nice .  I would just give a space heater or 2 and tell them they have to wait just like any other customer 

I always keep electric space heaters around just for this type of problem. I explain to the tenant that even as a homeowner you are at the mercy of the repair companies schedule. And I never deduct rent money if I have done my job. 

Learn about thermocouples and how they work. This is quite likely a 10 minute fix for a beginner (check YouTube if you think I’m exaggerating). If it’s a fan motor or similar it’s not that simple, but the first place I look is a thermocouple.

Your furnace also likely blinks a code to indicate what has failed.

If it is a dirty furnace filter (also surprisingly common),... well, I’ve got provisions in my lease for stupid people causing me stress. And in this case I would use it.

Do the tenants have renter's insurance?  It may cover a hotel bill and meals temporarily until the repairs are done.

Regardless, your pipes freezing would cost you a lot more then a service fee. 

I am an HVAC contractor, if you know what the furnace is doing send me a message and I will try to help you out! 

Don’t let your pipes freeze!

At those temperatures....suck it up buttercup...... bring over some space heaters, and tell them to put a sweater on.

Home warranty companies suck..... they will send the cheapest bidding company to come over and do the crapiest job possible to band aid the issue, and you will still pay a fee for it. They are in the business to collect the yearly fee and do as little as possible to make your believe they are helping........ dump them.

A couple of space heaters should do it.

Originally posted by @Robert Cheek :

I always keep electric space heaters around just for this type of problem. I explain to the tenant that even as a homeowner you are at the mercy of the repair companies schedule. And I never deduct rent money if I have done my job. 

 This is exactly what I do as well. Systems are mechanical and they can break. If you can provide a reasonable alternative while waiting for repairs, that's all you need to do. I would not ever want to depend on home warranties, which are usually inadequate and has fine print everywhere - and often uses substandard contractors. If you have good relationships with contractors there's simply no reason to have to use a home warranty service anyway. 

I have 4 space heaters that stay in my mechanical room downstairs for just such a problem. I've had to deliver them once or twice. I use them in my garage once in a while in the winter to make sure they work good. I even have one that looks like a quaint wood burning stove so the tenant can have some ambiance while they wait on the HVAC guy. And my HVAC guy will get to a no-heat on one of my units the day I call him, even if it's 10 hours later. One of the advantages of using the same guy over and over. 

@Matthew Paul - When I saw your temperatures I was blown away, I had to do a double take and google the location to make sure I read it correctly.  I don't think it ever gets that cold in SC.  :)

@Ryan Davis - Like many stated, with temperatures above freezing bring a few space heaters and tell them how sorry you are that HVAC guys are so busy and can't make it sooner.  Also while you are out there, look exactly on what the problem is and Google or Youtube the issue.  You'll probably be able to fix 80-90% of the issues on your own.  If you can't figure it out, at least the tenant will see that you tried.


If you are feeling generous you can drop them off  a blanket.

We just had many lose power here for several days. Most just dealt with it. A couple of space heaters will be fine. 

This is South Carolina, NOT North Dakota!

I really can appreciate this situation and it's great to hear an owner that is concerned about the well being of tenants.  I thought I would take a moment to get other's thoughts on the topic of home warranties.   We manage thousands of homes and this situation is very common.  The homeowner has to choose between getting work done quickly and paying out of pocket or going with the warranty company and providing a poor experience for the tenant.  

Who would rather just not pay an insurance premium and handle and expense when it comes up?  Who believes that these plans are a good value?  I welcome your thoughts.  My preference is to simply pay out of pocket.

Thank you everyone for your responses and advice! Here is an update:

I have spoken back and forth with the tenant all day, I told him everything that was going on on my end. I had called the warranty company, asked for other options (fronting the cost = reimbursement?) I reiterated that I need someone out there asap, and they weren't very understanding. So I called the tenant and he was understanding but disappointed. I told him that the temperatures are looking pretty great over the next few days and he should be okay. I told him I would buy him a space heater if he wanted one. He said that he will see how everything goes tonight and let me know in the morning. 

I think it helps living in the other half of the duplex because we have built a good relationship. He knows I am not taking it easy and am putting it as a priority.  I feel if I was a distant landlord and didn't know the guy that well, he might have put up some resistance. I will make a post on the entire situation on how the home warranty situation works out once everything is solved. I feel like this makes for a good topic on is a home warranty worth it? Once again, thanks everyone for your responses, it is very much appreciated. 

@Alexander Felice @Christopher Finn @Kyle J. @John Underwood @Cara Lonsdale @Nicole A.   @Corby Goade @Matthew Paul @Christine Kankowski @Nathan G.   @Thomas S.   @Robert Cheek   Account Closed

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