No heat/hot water, tenant wants a hotel

56 Replies

I would not hesitate offering the resident the equivalent to the cost of a nearby hotel.  When called for, I freely give them the money and they can stay with a friend or grab a cheaper place across town and pocket the difference.  For these rare occurrences a small step beyond the minimum makes me feel like I'm doing the best I can for all those I do business with.  It might not be required by law, but since you are an owner/operator this person is someone you deal with directly, I would treat them well.

@Anna Sagatelova sorry to disagree with you but @Nathan G. is correct, the only obligation a landlord has in this situation is to act in a timely manner to address the issue which @Lyndal McMurphy is doing. Whether heat is restored in 15 minutes or 15 weeks, the landlord's ONLY responsibility is to act on it in a timely and reasonable manner. Additionally, most leases address this issues and provide for cures should the unit become uninhabitable and allow for the tenant to break the lease after a certain period, and even if the lease doesn't contain a clause that says so, most states landlord tenant laws address this issue. 

The landlord is under no obligation to arrange for a separate living arrangement for the tenant and quite the opposite actually, it is the tenant's responsibility to arrange for proper insurance i.e. renter's insurance which may very well cover the costs of a separate temporary living arrangement. With that said, just because the landlord is under no obligation to do anything other than act in a timely manner (landlords can't predict the future and don't have a magic wand) it doesn't mean the landlord can't offer a rent discount for the inconvenience however, this is a courtesy and a personal decision. 

@Lyndal McMurphy Something similar happened to us but it was mold and got water. We put the resident up in a hotel for a few nights until the issues were fixed. That is what I would want if I was in that situation... golden rule. Go with your gut.

I had this situation happen to me a couple of years ago.  The boiler went out in my two unit.  Had to be replaced.  Took a week to replace it.  Put them up in red roof inn.  No heat no occupancy.  Minimum temp must be maintained at 68 degrees per the code.  No way space heaters were going to keep up in the winter here in the Chicagoland area.  If there was no water, the building is unhabitable.

Could I have been a jerk and tell them I won’t charge you rent for those days and your on your own.  I felt I had a moral obligation to take care of them.  I wasn’t concerned about how I could manipulate the language of the lease where I’m not responsible.  This is what gives landlords a terrible reputation.


@Lyndal McMurphy I had similar situation where water heater was shorted and caught on fire, tenant acted quickly and used the fire extinguisher to put it out. Fire extinguisher came with the property when I bought it from previous landlord who was a fire marshall. Thank god!!

I moved them to extended stay hotel for $165 and it took is three days to clean and replace water heater. She was so grateful and I wrote it off as an experiment my tax return for that property.

Fast forward, she decided to move year later and brought her best friend to take over the unit because she liked how I treated her. She moved out and her friend moved in next day, zero turn over cost and increased rent. It paid off.

I would recommend to pay her excess utility bill and write it off on your taxes, if leak is fixed then you don’t need to put them in a hotel.

Originally posted by @Lyndal McMurphy :

Interesting dialog.  Even if we're not all on the same page, it's good to see the range of responses and interpretations of not just what my legal obligation is, but also moral obligation, which is why I included "morally and legally" in my original post.

FYI, the gas is still out and I expect it will be back on Thur or so. It is going to get interesting tomorrow night when it gets down in the 20s and snow on Wednesday. However, I found a decent STR in a safe area for about $55/night after fees and offered her that or I could not charge her rent for the days she is without gas (@ $27/day). She elected to stay at home and take the discounted rent. She is microwaving water to wash her child and do some light cooking.

Next thing I need to address is her latest gas bill which was over $400.  And I even think the billing period for that bill ended well before we discovered the leak, so there could be another large bill incoming.  Hopefully the gas company will provide some relief on the bill.

So the reality is, she managed to get by with space heaters and the microwave, even though the Landlord offered her another place to stay.

Who would have thought it was possible? ;)

 

I had tenants move in December 1 one year,  with a 2 year old and a 4 month old.  Next day tell me no heat.  THAT day I was replacing a furnace in another unit,  it was a cold snap and furnace guys were very busy.  My guy agreed to come in at 6 a.m. next day.  Furnace was 28 years old.   I brought four space heaters but they wouldn't use them,  fear of fire as they were still unpacking.   Didn't light a fire in the fireplace as opening flue when it's that cold is counter productive.  Stayed at the wife's mom's house.  She lives an hour away.  So, next morning,  find out the tenant had flipped a switch that TURNED THE FURNACE OFF.  But, my guy was there, offering me a decent discount,  I went ahead I replaced the furnace.   Space heaters were on while we worked,  but of course I turned them off as I left.  It was -20 outside.  When I left house was only 42.  They came back at 3 p.m.,  house was 57.  They threw a FIT and demanded a hotel because 57 could "kill their baby".  I laughed so hard when he called.  The husband was from Poland.  I said "I KNOW you know people with houses this cold in Poland,  and the babies don't die. That house got that cold because YOU TURNED OFF THE FURNACE.  Use the space heaters,  go to a hotel on your own dime, but I've more than done my duty."    Later the wife (the more reasonable one) told me it was 68 by bedtime.  I honestly am quick to offer help and relief,  and go beyond what the law requires.  But not in the face of stubborn idiocy.

Just to be clear... it's not all fixed yet.  Plumber is installing the new kick-out on the house today and hopefully Okla Natural Gas does all their work tomorrow and gets everything inspected quickly and gas back on end of day tomorrow or Thursday. Tonight will be the first really cold night so we will see how the heaters work.

It's also worth noting that during this whole process a friend of hers that watches her child during the day reached out to me (presumably after seeing how I've been handling the situation) to ask if I had any other houses available for rent.  I have one coming open in April she is interested in.  

@Lyndal McMurphy I am not understanding why it would take a week to fix this ? We have this issue often and it is typically done/ fixed the same day. The gas co will also do an emergency turn on.

As far as paying for the gas, hmm, that is a tough one , but I think yes, I would pay, or at least 50/50 split, 

Originally posted by @Lyndal McMurphy :

Interesting dialog.  Even if we're not all on the same page, it's good to see the range of responses and interpretations of not just what my legal obligation is, but also moral obligation, which is why I included "morally and legally" in my original post.

FYI, the gas is still out and I expect it will be back on Thur or so. It is going to get interesting tomorrow night when it gets down in the 20s and snow on Wednesday. However, I found a decent STR in a safe area for about $55/night after fees and offered her that or I could not charge her rent for the days she is without gas (@ $27/day). She elected to stay at home and take the discounted rent. She is microwaving water to wash her child and do some light cooking.

Next thing I need to address is her latest gas bill which was over $400.  And I even think the billing period for that bill ended well before we discovered the leak, so there could be another large bill incoming.  Hopefully the gas company will provide some relief on the bill.

Since she has chosen to stay in the home, as someone who lived without heat/hot water/stove for 6 months, I will pass along some tips for her.  I was a renter living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.  The flooding also flooded the gas lines for the area I was living in.  And it was about 6 months before we had gas again.  And that was 6 months after we had moved back (end of Nov.).  I guess it was actually down for 9 months.  As an aside, I neither expected nor got a rental discount.  In fact, I was impressed with how promptly my landlady handled everything.  She needed to replace the heaters but, understandably, waited until the gas was turned back on.  However, once it was, the new heaters were installed promptly.  Of course, by then it was spring and we didn't need heat anymore.  But we appreciated she took care of it as soon as it made sense.

--Washing dishes:  Use a coffeemaker (for hot water) and fillable dishwashing wand.  Keep dipping the wand into the coffee carafe to hand wash dishes.

--Dusted off my slow cooker.  Used that and the microwave to prepare hot foods.

--For bathing, sometimes we used the shower but would stay outside of the spray.  Just get the wash cloth and soap wet.  Sometimes we would draw a bath with the normal cold water and heat up water in the microwave, in large Tupperware containers.  Pour that hot water into the bathtub, which would at least bring the total temp up to tepid.  If her stove is electric, that would be even easier to heat large amounts of water.

From speaking with a plumber, with older homes, gas leaks can happen with galvanized pipes as they corrode. Galvanized pipe life span per one website is usually 40-50 years, but can be longer. Sometimes if you have a concrete slab floor, and the gas leak is under it, the easiest thing to do is run a new gas line through the attic, instead of jackhammer up the floor. One the gas line is turned off, it can become very hard to find out where the leak is if it's underground. With the gas on, it's much easier to detect the leak. You can buy a cheap handheld gas detector off Amazon.

In So. CA, The Gas Co. is responsible for the gas line from the meter back. At one property when we took over management, we noticed a gas smell right after we took over management. Luckily it was on the meter side, so the gas company replaced all the lines to the meters to the street. My guess is trees that used to be there, caused the leak. I'm still surprised the previous management did not notice the issue.

In Southern California, if you call in a Gas Leak the Gas Company will come really fast.

I did not know the answer, so I researched it if C02 Detectors will detect a natural gas leak.

Carbon Monoxide (Co2) Detectors won't detect natural gas. Natural gas is mostly methane CH4, and not C02. After natural gas is burned, and becomes part C02, yes, it will be detected.  CH4+O2 = H2O + Co2 or in English, Methane + Oxygen when burned becomes water plus Carbon Monoxide.


I only skimmed the responses so this may have been already mentioned but I missed it.

We require our tenants to have renter's insurance and indicate we do not pay for alternate housing.   We do not micro manage it (i.e. we do no verification that it is maintained) but it is spelled out in the lease that they shall provide their own rental insurance to include insurance coverage due to the unit being unable to be occupied.   

When such a situation occurs, we do not worry about paying for a hotel room.  Unfortunately, 100% of the times this has happened for our units (4 times so far all between 1 week and 8 months) the tenants have let the coverage lapse and were out of terms of our lease.  The latest incident affected 2 units for what looks like may be 8 months.  Because this one was so long, we terminated one tenant and gave the other tenant the option to end the lease but they have chosen to remain our tenant.  So somehow they have found short-term housing (possibly with family).   

Their housing costs in such an event is not our problem.  They agreed to have renter's insurance and did not maintain it.  That is all on them and so they need to somehow find a place to live and pay for it.

I wish they would all maintain the renter's insurance.  We have it in the lease to protect them as it does not cost much and most of our renters do not have excess money.

I would put them up in a reasonably priced hotel during the ordeal.  I would not provide a rent credit unless the tenant makes the request.  If the weather was better it would not be an issue but that does not appear to be the case.   

@Lyndal McMurphy

Morally get her in a hotel and make sure there isn’t any longer delays in fixing the heat and water.

This is one of many issues your will face as a landlord. Make sure you keep your tenant happy and retain a good relationship with your handyman on speed dial.

Originally posted by @Lyndal McMurphy :

Thanks for the info everyone! They found the leak today so I'm hoping it will be fixed soon and gas back soon thereafter. I do agree this is a legal question but when the cost of consulting a lawyer would cost more than the cost of a STR for a few days, it's obviously not worth it for just this one instance. But it does make sense to seek counsel on how to handle future situations, edit my standard lease, etc. I've had situations where water, sewage, or heat/air was not working for a few days, so I'll consult my lawyer on how to handle future situations. Thanks again!

 I feel like people over estimate the price of legal advice and underestimate the cost of not seeking it... Do you have a relationship with an attorney? Call and ask they probably won't charge a penny...

Originally posted by @Shane H. :
Originally posted by @Lyndal McMurphy:

Thanks for the info everyone! They found the leak today so I'm hoping it will be fixed soon and gas back soon thereafter. I do agree this is a legal question but when the cost of consulting a lawyer would cost more than the cost of a STR for a few days, it's obviously not worth it for just this one instance. But it does make sense to seek counsel on how to handle future situations, edit my standard lease, etc. I've had situations where water, sewage, or heat/air was not working for a few days, so I'll consult my lawyer on how to handle future situations. Thanks again!

 I feel like people over estimate the price of legal advice and underestimate the cost of not seeking it... Do you have a relationship with an attorney? Call and ask they probably won't charge a penny...

 My attorney allows free on the the phone consults with her paralegals and has even gotten on the phone with me to resolve an issue without charge.

@Lyndal McMurphy  I commend you for being so involved and eager to fix the situation for your tenant. Although I do agree with @Nathan G. about walking a fine line with what to do and what not to do. Trying to keep a tenant content and happy vs. loathing you as a landlord can be difficult in these situations. Your relationship can very quickly sour if they have perceived you in a negative light. My tenants wanted me to put them in a hotel for not being able to use the water in the kitchen for 12 hours overnight (still fully able to use all 2.5 bathrooms and laundry facilities). Needless to say I was not going to do so, and they left after a month violating their lease (glad they were gone). I would have done what you did and provided heat to the tenant as well as rent reimbursement if the issue lasted for longer than it should have. Bravo Zulu!

Originally posted by @Mike S. :
Originally posted by @Shane H.:
Originally posted by @Lyndal McMurphy:

Thanks for the info everyone! They found the leak today so I'm hoping it will be fixed soon and gas back soon thereafter. I do agree this is a legal question but when the cost of consulting a lawyer would cost more than the cost of a STR for a few days, it's obviously not worth it for just this one instance. But it does make sense to seek counsel on how to handle future situations, edit my standard lease, etc. I've had situations where water, sewage, or heat/air was not working for a few days, so I'll consult my lawyer on how to handle future situations. Thanks again!

 I feel like people over estimate the price of legal advice and underestimate the cost of not seeking it... Do you have a relationship with an attorney? Call and ask they probably won't charge a penny...

 My attorney allows free on the the phone consults with her paralegals and has even gotten on the phone with me to resolve an issue without charging

That's been my experience, but I pay to have my anything important done. Operating agreements for my llcs. Any and all contracts. Closings. Wills. Power of attorney. I don't know why people won't pay attorneys. Each if those things costs a few hundred bucks and then they give me free advice within reason. I've never had to handle an eviction but I don't care to, I'll pay attorney to do it. This is supposed to be a passive income source for me if I can't afford these things then the deal isn't worth it....


@Lyndal McMurphy I pretty much had a similar situation... no water or heat for two days. Put them up in a hotel for two days got the water on and put space heater in the home . I was able to get the boiler in after two weeks. I felt bad and just did what I had to do to make sure I didn’t do anything illegal and to make sure my tenant was happy. The Life of “landlording”

Hope all works out

Nathan G:

My husband and I were at a conference in Rotterdam yesterday. (well he was,  I went just for fun.)   When we arrived Sunday,  the room they gave us smelled horribly of smoke, and was cold as housekeeping left the window open.  We  politely requested,  and received,  a different room.  Actually a slightly nicer room,  and they also gave me 2 p.m. checkout so I could swim and sit in the saunas longer.  (wet and dry!).  We expected a nice room for the price paid,  and we got one.  I don't see that much difference between that and this tenant.  She pays rent,  she expects certain things.  Yes,  sure,  stuff happens,  but if she didn't cause it...why should she suffer,  anymore than I should have to stay in a smoke filled room?

Morally, it would be right to move them into another unit or a hotel. I've moved them into a vacant unit while I've repaired theirs and credited part of their month's rent due to loss of use. If they lose any items or personal property, that's on them, as they should had opted for rental insurance.

Originally posted by @Al Pat :

@Lyndal McMurphy I had similar situation where water heater was shorted and caught on fire, tenant acted quickly and used the fire extinguisher to put it out. Fire extinguisher came with the property when I bought it from previous landlord who was a fire marshall. Thank god!!

I moved them to extended stay hotel for $165 and it took is three days to clean and replace water heater. She was so grateful and I wrote it off as an experiment my tax return for that property.

Fast forward, she decided to move year later and brought her best friend to take over the unit because she liked how I treated her. She moved out and her friend moved in next day, zero turn over cost and increased rent. It paid off.

I would recommend to pay her excess utility bill and write it off on your taxes, if leak is fixed then you don’t need to put them in a hotel.

Ooh, calling @Natalie Kolodij to see if this is a tax-deductible item... 

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