Tenant’s refrigerator broke.

25 Replies

A tenant’s refrigerator broke and the earliest any appliance tech could get out to look at it was 7 days later.  I told the tenant there was nothing I could do, but to buy bags of ice and put them in the fridge/freezer until the tech could come out.  I told the tenant I would reimburse her for all the ice.  She was grateful but said it won’t keep all her meat, and she can’t afford to buy more.  I already bend over backwards to help this woman, and she is moving out in the summer.  Should I pay for any of the food that goes bad too?

Are you in town where you could store it at your place? Does she know any neighbors? Otherwise try another company. Outside of a tiny town there should be someone available in 1-2 days. Thirdly. Get her ready for the idea that the repair may/probably will cost more than a new fridge if it isn’t cooling. (Likely compressor) and maybe she should just buy a new one today instead. If she can’t afford to replace the meat she can’t afford to fix the fridge. 

@Mark Brennan - This may seem like an obvious answer but why not buy a new fringe? Honestly, you can get a new fridge or even a used one for less than $500. In addition, you'll need it for the new tenant anyway once she moves out. If you really want to save the current fridge, you can always store it and when the tech is available, have him check it out, fix it and utilize it on another property. 

At the end of the day, if you want your tenants to treat your place right and pay on time, you have to offer a certain level of customer service. Someone going without a fridge for a week is a huge hassle and the fact that you can not address it quicker definitely affects how your tenant views the property and you, which could result in worse consequences such as non-payment, late payment, or not taking care of the property. Treat people how you would want to be treated and the universe will return the favor. 

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I keep a small apartment size fridge that can usually be handled by one maintenance guy in the garage to use in this case. Sometimes if we have a nearby empty unit we unlock the door and let the tenant use the fridge in the empty. (The one we have is below but we got it much cheaper-- look on fb and craigslist)


For me a fridge, a washer, dryer and oven are always replaced or fixed immediately in a rental. I think dishwashers are less urgent. 

It sounds like your tenant is more than reasonable and I don't see why her moving out would have any impact on you fixing the basics of life for her. Buying ice is not a valid solution. Buying a used refrigerator is and then you've got a spare if the old one can be fixed.

I was tell tenants the following:

"I own my home. If my refrigerator breaks, I have to wait a week for a technician, just like you. I lose my food, just like you. Nobody compensates me for the food unless I happen to have insurance capable of covering it. I will get your refrigerator repaired as quickly as possible, but I can't take responsibility for your food."

As someone else said, you should look for a used one to purchase. You can find a good, used refrigerator pretty quickly for under $200 in most markets. It's very easy to spend much more than that on repairs, particularly if your refrigerator is more than five years old.

If they have renter’s insurance, the spoiled food is something that should be covered under their policy. This further removes the question of whether the landlord should cover it.  I always require renter’s insurance and most people are fine with obtaining it because it’s relatively inexpensive. 

Originally posted by @Jill F. :

I keep a small apartment size fridge that can usually be handled by one maintenance guy in the garage to use in this case. Sometimes if we have a nearby empty unit we unlock the door and let the tenant use the fridge in the empty. (The one we have is below but we got it much cheaper-- look on fb and craigslist)


This is the way to go. I've done the same thing in the past and it works well. It's also a heck of a lot easier to get a small fridge to a tenant on the fly than it is to have to find someone to help me bring them a replacement fridge. 

I've also done something similar when a furnace stopped working: I brought the tenant a space heater (she lived in a small 400-something sq.ft. apartment) and it kept her warm until the HVAC guy showed up on Monday.

Small fridge isn’t going to take care of keeping frozen meat etc from going bad 

I would say WOW so sorry to hear that 

Any chance you know someone who has a used one for sale?

If so I would be happy to pay for it 

Good chance they will find a used one.  Get it onto the apt and the old one moved out within a couple days for $500

They are happy and you don’t have to mess around with coordinating a repair persons visit, delivery disposal etc 

I find giving tenants a chance to have control over things make them happier and less work for me.  

Truly win win 

If they say NO.  Then I would say ok I’ll get you a replacement ASAP 

Call the local used appliance store.  Pay over the phone ask them to deliver ASAP 

Is it her fridge or the fridge that you supply with the rental?  Suggest she talks to a friend and asks if they have freezer space.  You can also look online for a used fridge/freezer on kijiji and then sell it again once the fridge gets fixed.

Otherwise as Nathan said, if you home fridge goes, you are responsible for the food-no one pays for anything that gets spoiled.  

Appliances are almost always worth replacing rather than repairing. If it’s your fridge, you should just replace it, especially if it’s over 10 years old. 

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There are almost no scenarios these days where appliance repair will cost less than buying a new appliance because of parts and end-of-life which is the usual culprit. I assume it's the tenant's fridge and you don't supply a refrigerator with your rental? If so, that is definitely a problem for them and not you, but if it's your fridge, it should obviously be replaced. And even if it is their fridge, as others have said, wouldn't it help you to just throw a fridge in there for this and the next renter. I've never rented a unit without all the appliances in.

@Mark Brennan I have had really good luck with some refurbished ones in my area and have also used American freight where you can get a slightly dented fridge for about 400- then get a warranty for 5 years for an extra 150. If there is one in the area you are it is definitely worth a look at their inventory.

If you don’t have a clause in your lease concerning renters insurance then you should add one. I have one and when going over the lease make it very clear that anything covered by renters insurance is not covered by me. If they decide not to get it then that is their risk. Renters insurance can cover all sorts of risks from medical to loss of use to damage to possessions etc…. If my fridge goes out the mortgage company doesn’t pay for my food. In this case I would be liable for the fridge and tenant for their food.

However unless you bought the fridge new and it’s less than 3-5 years old, repair is not being responsive. A repair means waiting for repair man to come out and then waiting for parts to come in and then waiting for repair guy to get back out there. Unless you are putting a really expensive fridge in, the costs and wait time is not worth it. My own $3000 fridge went out a couple of months ago and it was 6 or 7 years old but was going to be $1600 to fix. Just not worth that much when something else could go out.

This is exactly why I don’t provide refrigerators, or W/D.

In my own home, my 4 month old fridge needs warranty service. I was told 6 weeks. No way am I dealing with that with a tenant.

They provide a fridge, it’s their problem. One less item for me to fix or replace.

Id say if you can afford to help them out then do it. If you can't then just do what you can. Like others have said its always good to have a small easily transportable refrigerator on hand for emergencies like this.

Are you able to haul a refrigerator around?  I ask because the last time one of my tenants had a frig that bit the dust I was finally lucky to find one at a big box store (after checking four in my area) but delivery was going to take at least 6 days.  Luckily we were able to deliver it ourselves.

If you don't have any extra small frig to use in an emergency keep some of those ice chests in storage for situations like this.  The "real" ice chests seem to do a better job than these temporary ones you find in many stores during the summer months.

More than a couple of years ago we had an ice storm in my area that knocked out the power for us for 8 days.  I kept the freezer closed in my house except for adding bags of ice (quickly).  The ice cream melted but everything else in there did not spoil.

Sometimes the problem trying to reimburse a tenant for spoiled food is that you suddenly find they claim the crab legs, lobster, shrimp and T-bone steaks they purchased have gone bad.  If you want to reimburse for lost food require that the tenant provide you the receipt on what they paid for the stuff.

There is usually too much risk in trying to repair. What if the repair person comes out in a week and then you find out it needs to be replaced? My advice is find someone who can deliver a new one quickly. I can usually get a refrigerator delivered within three days. I never reimburse for food. That is just part of the risk a tenant or homeowner incurs. Your lease should state that you are not responsible for food loss or damage to personal property caused by faulty appliances. 

That all being said, I have repaired refrigerators multiple times with something as simple as replacing a $10 relay. If you can get a repair tech out quickly, they will figure out quickly if the fix is easy or not. For me the bigger issue is tenant frustration waiting a week plus for a refrigerator, so I am willing to spend money to fix the problem faster.