Do you allow tenants to make improvements?

6 Replies

I just leased my newly rehabbed home to a tenant. Everything is going well so far. He paid 2 months up front and has been a pleasure dealing with.

When rehabbing I cut a few corners and went kinda cheap on the kitchen sink option. It’s a bit small.

This tenant is a handyman (so he says) and he called me asking if he can upgrade the kitchen sink to something better and bigger at his own expense. I don’t mind the place being improved but and I have no reason to believe he would do a bad job, but I also don’t want to risk him causing damage or installing something improperly.

How do I handle this situation correctly and protect myself and my house?

Say all upgrades must be by a licensed and insuranced contractor who is not a current tenant of any of your residences.  That’s how I word it to my tenants because I don’t mix business and tenants. 

    It’s a bad idea all around.  

It's not that complicated, assuming the counter can be cut in place. A bit trickier if the counter needs removing and cut on sawhorses or worktable. Worst that can happen is the counter top could snap at the narrow points if you don't brace it during the cut and moving back into kitchen. Most likely, your counter top could be replaced for less than $75 if the worst case scenario happens, assuming they are new.

Sounds like you can't really lose on the deal. 

I don't allow improvement or repair by tenants either.

It's a bit more complicated then whether the tenant will mess up the sink change out.  There is also the issues of liability and ownership.

By changing out the sink, he would have to redo a bunch of stuff such as drain connection, water supply connections, garbage disposer, dishwasher hook up etc etc etc...so let's say after the sink was put in two months later a leak develops under the sink.  Who's responsible?  Would that be him who did all that stuff?  Didn't tighten enough a supply hose or nicked the dishwasher hose accidentally?  What if the leak was undetected for a while and caused additional damages to the cabinet sides and bottom and the flooring below?  Or would it be you the landlord who should be responsible for plumbing "failures" in general?

Who owns the improvement?  When a tenant buys his or her own refrigerator it's theirs and they can remove it when they leave.  When they buy a sink and modifies your countertop and plumbing to fit, they can't take it with them.  But can they claim they own the improvement and want some rent credit or payment in exchange at the end of the lease?  Like you want to charge them $450 for cleaning, painting and recarpeting, he saids he put in a sink for you that's worth $500 so you owes him $50 back?

What about issues that arises during the install?  He goes to buy a deeper bigger sink, ripped yours off, widens your countertop sink cutout, only comes to find out, that the extra depth of the sink lowers the disposer outlet enough to not work with the existing drain stubout at the wall.  Now he needs a shallower garbage disposer but he may want you to pay for it.  You can't go back to the old sink because the cutout has already been done.

The last time I allowed a tenant to "improve", they wanted to just paint one room.  They rolled over electrical wall plates, rolled over edges of window blinds, dripped paint on baseboards...it was A LOT OF work to undo their work.

To me it's not worth it.

Minor improvements are ok with me. I have a couple who have done numerous "upgrades" (ceiling fan, flooring, vanity, etc.) with no issues. Sometimes I will buy the material and they install it and sometimes they just do both. They are aware that they can't take the upgrades with them which I think allows for a longer term tenant. I do understand that there could be some liability if anything was to happen, so you should also keep that in mind.

For me, it depends on the tenant and the situation. In your case, you admitted you got a smaller sink that doesn't really work.  Why not offer to split the costs to have it professionally installed?  In your case, you just did renos, so you don't want to have to replace the counters.  I had a tenant who was in construction and let them replace the sink, on the condition that it stayed with the unit when they left.

Originally posted by @Vincent Plant :


This tenant is a handyman (so he says) and he called me asking if he can upgrade the kitchen sink to something better and bigger at his own expense. I don’t mind the place being improved but and I have no reason to believe he would do a bad job, but I also don’t want to risk him causing damage or installing something improperly.

You said you have “no reason to believe he would do a bad job”, but it sounds like you also have no reason to believe he’d do a good job. It doesn’t sound like you’re familiar with the quality of his work one way or the other, so the reality is you really don’t know what kind of work he’d do. 

I personally don’t let my tenants work on my houses because most are poor craftsmen, no matter what they say.