Tenants keep running out of oil!

12 Replies

Small problem we are having with tenants which I wanted to start a discussion about.

In one of our properties our tenants do not have access to the basement for some safety concerns and so they can't go messing with plumbing or electricity... our problem is.. since they can't see the oil tanks in the basement our tenants are running out of oil, and are not consistently ordering enough oil to not have this problem again.

Each time this happens we have to service the boiler, and remind them to order more oil. I have thought about potentially writing into the lease that they need to be on some sort of subscription with an oil company so they get regular deliveries...

But I'm curious about what other people do with problems like this?

How do you encourage tenants to stay on top of these things?

- Tenant handbooks, addendums to your lease structure etc..

and what other problems have you come across and how have you learned to correct them?

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

We have a little plug in remote oil tank monitoring gauge in the kitchen.  I don't think it was very expensive, we plug it into an outlet and there is something wired to the tank.  Gives you the gauge reading. Could also put them on auto delivery. 

I t would be nice to wire in a sensor that turned on a light or buzzer when the oil level got low. I bet you can google a sensor or device that would provide this early warning system.

We service one unit with oil and according to the oil company, the oil company will come and refill it and check on it monthly through the winter. See if you can find a company that does that. 

@Ryan Luby

What are your safety concerns? What is the tenant supposed to do if a breaker trips? What if a plumber/electrician needs to get in to the basement and you are not available?

Is it even legal to not have access to panel box etc? Just asking because I’ve never heard of such a thing.

@Matt M.

It's an 1800's house, dirt basement, narrow slippery stairs, plenty of places to get hurt.. But we have a lockbox with a key to access the basement in case of emergency we can give anyone the lockbox code.. but we don't want tenants regularly accessing the basement for multiple reasons.

Honestly I don't know the laws regarding permanently not allowing tenants to access the basement but again it's an old house with only exterior access so we keep it locked with a lockbox on the door.

My dad used to own a heating oil company.  The best thing is to get on automatic delivery with the oil company.  They take into account the temperature each day and the size of the house, estimate how much oil your tenant will use, and estimate how long it will take to use up that tank of oil.  They will deliver oil before he or she runs out, and fine tune it as time goes on.  

@Ryan Luby Same as what @Peter T. said. Here in Juneau, AK the oil companies call it a "Keep Full Service". They will go out monthly to top it off. Maybe do an amendment to your lease that states that tenants are required to sign up for Keep Full service with an oil company. Ask them to provide documentation that it has been set up. Also, make sure it is clear and in writing that they are financially responsible for any service/repairs to the boiler or damage done to the house (freezing pipes) due to their negligence in allowing the oil to run out. 

@Ryan Luby

Totally understand the old houses and dirt floors. Personally I’d be concerned of some sort of plumbing leak going on and nobody would know. 
As for the oil, I get oil delivered To my house every 3 weeks or so depending on weather. Oil company just comes. I’ve never run out of oil. 

@Ryan Luby We do exactly what @Colleen F. mentioned earlier in this thread. Works great in these CT winters. Also, write in your lease that they have to pay for the servicing of the furnace if they run out of oil. Gives them some incentive to accept some responsibility and it probably will not happen as much.