Changing Filters....Who Pays?

15 Replies

I rent out a couple of SFR's where tenants are largely responsible for the property....yard maintenance, snow removal, utilities (gas, electric, water, tv, etc). one awkward scenario I've recently run into though...who should pay when the refrigerator water filter needs replacing (it's $50 so not nothing)? Who should pay when the HVAC air filter needs replacing?

Curious what some seasoned landlords do for these items.  Do tenants pay on their own or do you supply?

Originally posted by @Jeff Duford :

I rent out a couple of SFR's where tenants are largely responsible for the property....yard maintenance, snow removal, utilities (gas, electric, water, tv, etc). one awkward scenario I've recently run into though...who should pay when the refrigerator water filter needs replacing (it's $50 so not nothing)? Who should pay when the HVAC air filter needs replacing?

Curious what some seasoned landlords do for these items.  Do tenants pay on their own or do you supply?

 If the landlord supplied the fridge the landlord should replace it.  If the tenant owns the fridge then that's on them. As for furnace filters tenants should be encouraged to change them often but they may not be doing so even with encouragement. A landlord should pay to replace them at least annually as to not ad additional stress to the furnace.

I put it in my lease agreement and mention it to them.  Plus, I remind them once or so every 6 months.  Occasionally, I'll change out the filter, if I remember, when I go there.

@Jeff Duford  I am likely indirectly paying for the filters.  Here’s why I say that.  I have bi annual inspections.  This costs me 80 dollars.  A filter is left at this time for the tenant.  Pretty sure a filter is reallt cheap.  Probably costs more to install it 

The filters you mention arent free, but they aren't that expensive. I would install them, and use the opportunity to see how they were treating my property... BUT i don't supply refrigerators, and and i only have wall AC units with no filters. : )

Changing filters yourself is not scalable.  I have it as the tenant's responsibility, but I have clause in my lease  that if they don't do it, they will pay an extra $25/month for me to hire someone to do it.  Also, they pay for damages or dirty coils if they fail to do so. I have found the best motivator is to explain to them that they may be without AC or it will come out of their pocket if I change it and they may also pay more on their electricity bill if they don't change the filter (the AC works harder and is less efficient with dirty filters). The thought of paying up to $75 more on their electricity bill really scares a lot of them.

Doesn't always work that well as seen in my notice:

I buy filters for all my properties and leave them at the property. I then set up a quarterly reminder on my calendar to email the tenant to tell them to change the filter.

Realistically no tennant is ever going to go buy filters and change them even if they are responsible to do so.

@Jeff Duford

You put in a refrigeration that has a $50 water filter that needs to be replaced in a rental? OK, maybe there's a good reason, but you're in territory I know nothing about. Furnace filters, on the other hand, are my bread and butter.

I do SFRs and small multifamily because I wasn't making big bucks when I started getting into real estate. I do bad neighborhoods, also because I wasn't well off. I do not use a property manager. I fix practically everything myself. I do not consider myself a landlord in it for passive income on the side. While I have other gigs, fixing up and running rentals is my main job these days.

@David S. points out that this is not scalable: he's right. But being a self-managing handyman landlord was a high-cashflow, low-risk way into investing, and I intend to keep at it until I sell and do something else.

I generally change furnace filters myself. It is the least invasive way to do frequent home inspections, show the flag, and ask about the property. When my holdings get big enough, I'll have regular handymen do it for me according to a schedule and send me pictures of problem areas they find inside the properties. I pay for the furnace filters, just like I paid for the furnaces.

For those that say they make the tenants pay. What guarantee do you have that they will actually do it? This is your property, so if they fail to maintain it, wouldn’t that cost you more than the price of a filter?

Sure you can charge them for it, but how do you prove it wasn’t dirty from the start? How do you prove Maybe any damage is the result of the last tenant, and it just happened to fail on the new tenant.

How do you blame one tenant for the years of abuse accumulated by other tenants?

If time is the issue, it’s easy enough to have filters mailed to your properties every quarter. I’m not sure if that will increase the likelihood of them actually putting them in though.

Maybe it’s just the Soldier in me, and I don’t like anyone maintaining my equipment but me.

Thanks

Changing filters is a good time to do a brief walk through to check the condition of the property.... and catch "little" problems before they turn into "big" problems. 

JIM K I hear you. I started out as the handyman landlord, but have gotten too big to this work anymore.  I did the changing filters when I started out. However, after issues with tenants working the night shift and some ladies in various states of undress, I decided to start leaving filters at the door. This occured with prior notifications and knocking at the door for at least a minute. However, upon entry months later, I would find about six new filters laying around and a 6 month old filter. 

REGINALD I have yet to charge a tenant for cleaning the inside coils. I only mention that it in my lease. My goal is to get them to comply. Further, I have yet to implement the 25 dollar maintenance fee for extra maintenance.  My letter is a warning. Moving forward, I will start inspecting this regularly.  If my inspection team finds dirty filter or evidence that is it not being done, I will hire someone to do it for the $25 a month.

Maintenance is most home owners chore unless it is specified in the contract. 99% tenants never change or service the filters, flush the water heater, clean the gutters. If they are that motivated they would have left got themselves a home with zero or little down too.

Originally posted by @Reginald Moore :

For those that say they make the tenants pay. What guarantee do you have that they will actually do it? This is your property, so if they fail to maintain it, wouldn’t that cost you more than the price of a filter?

There's an old dog in my REIA who supplies the tenants monthly filters that have the month written on them. Whenever there's regular maintenance done on the furnace, the maintenance guy is instructed to take a picture. He uses that for support for charging back the tenant if he needs to clean the coils.

I don’t know how that works out for him but I do know he has been in the game a loooong time in a really difficult area of town so I think it works out well. 

He also doesn’t supply appliances at all. The tenant buys them so the tenant gets to pay for and change the fridge filter.