Difficult Tenants and a Broken Fridge 3 Month ordeal - HEL

14 Replies

Please Help. Going insane.

We leased out our Home in Boca Florida, for $8k a month plus a month, on a two-year lease. The first week or two, the refrigerator started leaking. This is a $12,000 built in 48 inch refrigerator. But older. I sent people to fix it, and the first people that came to fix it said they would never go back to my house again the way the tenants treated them, very rudely and mean and speaking down to them. I found someone else to come fix it, he came with his people and seemingly fixed it. But he did say to me, the woman in the house who is very rude to us, will not be happy until she gets a new refrigerator, she doesn’t want to fix the refrigerator. But I did not want to spend $10,000 on a new refrigerator, and they are not easy to come by these days.

After no complaints for a week, I paid half the money to fix it $2000, there was some more leaking so the guy came in and patched it up, and then another week later I paid an additional $2000, for $4000 total fix. The guy gave me a receipt and all that and is a pretty well respected individual, but he told me it would be permanently fixed.

Well a couple weeks later, things started happening small things, leaks and it stopped working, and I brought an extra refrigerator for the tenants to use during the fix. Let’s just say the guy keeps coming in and fixing it for free, but small things keep happening to the refrigerator, which has the guy suspicious the tenants or maybe doing something.

It is now been three months, I paid $4000, and this guy and his team have been back to my house at least nine times to fix the refrigerator. Each time they send me a video saying it’s working perfectly, and then a couple days or a week later I got a video from the tenant saying it is not working. I seriously don’t even know who to believe anymore.

Add this to the fact that three people from the appliance place will not go back to the house anymore because the way they’ve been treated by the tenants, which seems to be somewhat racially motivated with them yelling and talking down to the employees.

I understand the tenants are frustrated and the refrigerator is not working consistently, but now I’ve sunk 4000 into a fix, and they have their lawyer calling me demanding I buy a new one for $10,000.

The guy who fixes the refrigerator assures me it’s one minor thing he can go in to patch up and then it will be fine, no extra cost to me, but the tenants will not allow him back in to the house to fix it and are demanding a new refrigerator.

I totally get their frustration but I’m looking for options where I don’t have to buy something for $10,000, because the guy I paid $4000 to stands by his work and says he gets it working anytime there’s an issue, but now they will not let him in the house.

Help! I’m losing my mind.

I had a built in Miele K in this cabinet that carpenter built to match the you know the whole nine yards... It ALWAYS needed the coils cleaned (I had a Golden Retriever and she loved the sound of the exhaust to sleep by) I learned to get every spec of dust and dog hair away myself but still it didn't last too long. Me cleaning it took an hour every month. Original cost was $9000 and each repair was about $500.  So I maybe had $11000 into that cold box.

I changed it out for another brand that sort of fit but the dog didn't like to sleep near it as well, maybe the kids were in college, and less people opened the door to give her treats.  Cost $3000 and it isn't such a pain to keep running clean.

Moral of the story? A refrigerator today is built to last 5/6 years. Luxury ones are a pain. The more people who open it and stand in front of it for air conditioning or thinking about giving the dog a piece of chicken the harder it runs, the shorter it's life.

Your picky tenant will never be happy. Tell her you are ordering a new one. It take 4-5 months to get one now because after covid no trucks were shipping parts, so that's going to make her more difficult.  Your lease doesn't say you provide x brand of ice box, so get one that fits into the cabinet space and call it a day.

@Mitch Polatin Sorry but @Greg M. is right. These people will never be happy so perhaps it would be worth letting them out of the lease and cut bait on this thing. Do you know if they are purposely breaking the fridge in the hopes of getting a new one? I would make sure the repair person documents exactly what the issue is and the cause. The other problem is that you have a luxury home, those are not always easy to have as rentals. Tenants in luxury rentals often feel entitled to be treated a certain way and if you don't meet their expectations, it can get ugly. Good luck! 

@Julie Hartman

Thank you all.

A few things. They threatened to want out of the lease and I offered them a no penalty out because I can rent it for more money — but they backed down.

This is a 48-inch built in refrigerator. This is what I figure my options are.

- buy new and wait — $10k or so

- get this fix to stick but sounds like it may not? I don’t know if they are sabotaging it but they certainly aren’t helping.

- I read somewhere people sometime buy a smaller non built in and then “fit” it with some extra paneling from the kitchens. Anyone know if this is possible?

I’m fine spending $5k to be done but twice that is a lot.

Thanks for any advice!

Get a used refrigerator to go in the place and store the old one until they leave.  DO NOT buy them a new one, just any old used one that fits in the space.  Tell them you will never buy that kind of frig again with how many times it has broken!  Plus there is no shipping date even given for things like that right now.

If they are unhappy, let them break the lease and move on.

I'd also tell them that they can treat your repair people with respect.

@Mitch Polatin As far as I know, there is no requirement in the habitability laws that says the fridge needs to cost 10K. It just needs to keep the food cold and/or frozen, that's it. I like @Lynnette E. suggestion of buying a used (basic) fridge. I would not replace this fridge with an ultra high end model again; there is no value in that for a rental. If they don't like your solution of a basic working fridge, they are free to leave. 

@Julie Hartman

Thank you all.

The issue is. The only fridges that fit are $10k. I can’t find anything used.

Their lawyer called and said they will withhold rent until a comparable fridge is installed. I want them to leave. I can get more $.

This is in Florida.

And I can’t prove the fridge works when they keep saying it’s broken and taking photos of leaks etc.

I’m so stuck. Anyone in Florida I can pay to help me get a fridge?

@Mitch Polatin

You don’t owe them a $10k refrigerator. You owe them a working refrigerator. So have it replaced with an inexpensive fridge (or two) that are about the same size etc.

Sounds like they may be sabotaging the old fridge. Sorry you are having to deal with this.

@Lynnette E.

I dont know if providing them with a dump fridge when the tennat already contacted a lawyer would be the best approach. Poking the bee hive or pushing them to break the lease might be grounds for more civil complaints from the lawyer.

Mitch,

Call a lawyer! If they have money and a vendetta, I would be nervous.

Originally posted by @Mitch Polatin :

Their lawyer called and said they will withhold rent until a comparable fridge is installed. I want them to leave. I can get more $.

And I can’t prove the fridge works when they keep saying it’s broken and taking photos of leaks etc.

And your response to this should have been "Thank you for providing me the heads up. My attorney will be working on the eviction paperwork immediately."

Your proof that the fridge works is the professional company that fixed it and they will testify that the continued "breakdowns" are highly suspect and the tenants have been hostile, rude, and racist towards the workers. 

@Mitch Polatin I would call an attorney asap because just as @Greg M. said, the repair person can testify (verify) that the fridge worked at the time he left it. Their lawyer is blowing smoke - you don't have to provide a high end fridge to meet habitability covenants, that I am aware of. You need to provide a working fridge and you have been doing that in the form of repairing the old one. Obtaining a new fridge right now is nearly impossible. I suspect that Florida is a landlord friendly state so you should have the law on your side here but I would call an attorney today; you are in the weeds with this now. 

Originally posted by @Mitch Polatin :

@Julie Hartman

Thank you all.

The issue is. The only fridges that fit are $10k. I can’t find anything used.

Their lawyer called and said they will withhold rent until a comparable fridge is installed. I want them to leave. I can get more $.

This is in Florida.

And I can’t prove the fridge works when they keep saying it’s broken and taking photos of leaks etc.

I’m so stuck. Anyone in Florida I can pay to help me get a fridge?

There should be wood panels that will match the cabinets, or get some panels that are decorative to fit in the space around the frig hole after you put in a used one that sort of fits. The panels will make it look like it fits.  

The attorney is likely a free consultation and letter or call.  It is highly unlikely that attorney wants to go before a judge and tell him that his clients were rude to the repairmen, treated them poorly and would not let them in the house to continue to check on the status of the frig.  Their attorney knows that a judge will not require that you buy new or a specific brand.  Especially when they rented a house with an old refrigerator.  The attorney is blowing smoke to scare you.  He knows that no judge will tell you to do what they are demanding.  

Not sure about Florida, but most states to withhold the rent it must go through the court into an escrow type of  a holding account.  They can not just do it on their own...or through 'their' maybe real attorney.

Plus you have repairmen who will testify that they were rude, the unit was fixed, and they won't let them back in the house.  No judge will side with a tenant complaining something is broken when they will not let the repairmen in to fix it.  And you can show that you spent more than many rental frigs cost in repair costs with a guarantee.

Do go see an attorney--one to start the eviction process as soon as their rent is late in a few days---call their hand.  You have the winning hand here.

As a landlord you have to not react to the "I have an attorney."  Half of them don't and are just trying to scare you, maybe 49% have a friend or relative who may or may not be a real attorney or find a meeting/call/letter for free attorney, less than 1% may actually get an attorney, well less than that!  And even less have a chance of winning.

Get rid of them, then put in a basic 36 inch fridge with 6 " panels on the sides. I can't begin to tell you how many $10k (or more) refers I put in the houses I used to build. All the rich folks had to have them. They're all junk. But they're cool and groovy so the fat cats gotta have them. A basic GE is way better in terms of B for the B.....

@Mitch Polatin Buy the nicest in stock refrigerator at Lowes and have it delivered. Offer to put a "garage ready" fridge in the garage to compensate for lower square foot refrigerated storage. Tell them you will have a cabinet guy out to measure for cabinet modification soon. Wait for them to withhold rent for whatever reason...you do have documentation of offering to let them out of the lease? for judge...and evict. Or maybe they will be placated if they really only want a non-leaking fridge. Not sure if not having a 10k refrigerator will have an effect on your future rents. I had a $1350 month rental and bought a $1100 refrigerator replacement, in comparison, but I personally would also be very reluctant to replace @10k refrigerator esp. for those particular tenants.