Six days before leasing signing, ceiling caves in!

122 Replies

Picture it...Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of old houses with serious problems and the people who live in them. At the end of October, the bathroom sink upstairs springs a leak. The leak flows across the tile floor and into the crack between the hall and the bathroom. It slowly soaks all the joists and the heavily-textured plaster ceiling downstairs. The house is empty, waiting for the tenants to move in on the first of November.

Oh Rhett, Rhett, whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go? The tenants are scheduled to move in, their lease is up at their old place, where are they supposed to stay? Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly? WHAT SHOULD I DO???

Seriously, I'm extremely curious what those of who don't do any of the work in your own places do in this situation and under this time pressure. I know that you all believe your time is too valuable for this. "Work on your business, not in your business"...so what's your solution? Find a handyman willing to do this repair and pay him whatever he wants to get it done chop-chop? Call up your regular plaster repair contractor? How much money are you willing to pay to fix a hole in a dining room ceiling of this size? How much of a hit is your war chest going to take?

@Jim K. Solution is pretty simple. Either pay for the emergency repair, or put the people up in a hotel while the repair is being completed. If all your contracts are solid, you obligated as the landlord.

Also, home owners insurance will pay for all of it... the repairs, the hotel, etc... you just pay for the deductible.

I have dealth with this before. Pretty straightforward.

Originally posted by @Sam Yin :

@Jim K. Solution is pretty simple. Either pay for the emergency repair, or put the people up in a hotel while the repair is being completed. If all your contracts are solid, you obligated as the landlord.

Also, home owners insurance will pay for all of it... the repairs, the hotel, etc... you just pay for the deductible.

I have dealth with this before. Pretty straightforward.

So...

Option 1: Pay emergency repair ($3K) or pay for people to be put up in a hotel for a week or so nearby ($1.5K). Hope all goes well.

Option 2: Pay deductible ($600), and the deductible will pay for contractors and hotel...eventually. Of course, it's October in Pittsburgh. Due to the cold temperatures and the furnaces being turned on, sudden shifts in temp/humidity/pipe leaks are happening all over the place. It's raining plaster in this town right about now. So you get a guy, he craps out because he signs for a bigger job four days in, you get another guy, he works slower than blackstrap molasses for three weeks, your tenants realize you're not going to get anything done in your house of horrors and skedaddle,  and you...just deal, right? Or is the plan to make them sign the lease on the busted house before they go for their hotel stay? Yeah, that's the way to start a landlord-tenant relationship in long-term rentals.

Sam, sorry, but I'm calling BS for a house that costs $70K and rent that runs $900/month in good ol' Pittsburgh. Both your not-so-simple plans likely lead to a month or so of drama over this. I don't think you quite understand the tradesman shortage in this part of Murica.

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@Jim K. Lol. There's too much drama there. I have a few handymen that I keep good relations with and will come out for emergencies like this.

My scenario, a drink driver in a large truck jumped the curb, plowed through the planter wall, plowed through the entire house and the neighbors brick wall.

I put the tenants up in 2 hotels rooms for about 6 weeks. All out of pocket. Got the insurance involved. Got the estimate. Used my handyman. Played him... out of pocket. Paid my deductible. Got paired for all repairs and hotel and food costs and got an extra 5K because my handyman is the discount type.

Work was flawless, couldn't tell it ever happened.

Long story short, have reserves and contingencies. This is part of self management and part of the REI. It's an adventure.

But... I do not know your market or your local handyman history.

Originally posted by @John Underwood :

Six days is twice as long as it will take for my handyman to fix this. 

Make sure you have a handyman or 3.

Ah, welcome to Yinzburgh and the barrel you'd be stretched over facedown. And remember, November 1 is on Monday.

Originally posted by @Sam Yin :

@Jim K. Lol. There's too much drama there. I have a few handymen that I keep good relations with and will come out for emergencies like this.

My scenario, a drink driver in a large truck jumped the curb, plowed through the planter wall, plowed through the entire house and the neighbors brick wall.

I put the tenants up in 2 hotels rooms for about 6 weeks. All out of pocket. Got the insurance involved. Got the estimate. Used my handyman. Played him... out of pocket. Paid my deductible. Got paired for all repairs and hotel and food costs and got an extra 5K because my handyman is the discount type.

Work was flawless, couldn't tell it ever happened.

Long story short, have reserves and contingencies. This is part of self management and part of the REI. It's an adventure.

But... I do not know your market or your local handyman history.

I wish I knew YOUR market. The only guy I've got here who would treat me like that is my plumber, who is also my mentor in this business. Where are you located?

So are you saying that unless you are a skilled tradesman you have no business owning any rentals? How is it in anyway a scaleable business then? Self managing and self fixing rentals is just a job. And not a great one at that! Unless of course you just love walking around with a tool belt and its what brings joy and meaning to your life. In that case, go right ahead!

It looks the entire apartment is contaminated and a major asbestos abatement project.

Especially, if you get an insurance company involved. Then, you can get into some major trouble with a lawsuit.

I had the exact same problem with a rental unit where water caused a ceiling to crumble down. I did a little pre-cleaning, moved the tenant's furniture and when the insurance company arrived the adjustor asked for my liability insurance company information and wanted to sue me for contaminating the entire apartment. Luckily, I took pictures of the insurance company's PREFERRED CONTRACTORS handling the asbestos abatement with no masks, no gloves, eating food inside the rental unit and the insurance adjustor promptly dropped the claim against my company.

Always be beware when you get an insurance company involved for mold and asbestos cross contamination lawsuits.

Originally posted by @Anish Tolia :

So are you saying that unless you are a skilled tradesman you have no business owning any rentals? How is it in anyway a scaleable business then? Self managing and self fixing rentals is just a job. And not a great one at that! Unless of course you just love walking around with a tool belt and its what brings joy and meaning to your life. In that case, go right ahead!

No...this is what I'm saying.

1. Throughout the Rust Belt but especially in a place like Pittsburgh, where the housing stock is more often than not seventy, eighty, ninety years old, where the population continues to shrink and the price of getting things fixed continues to rise, the self-managing buy-and-hold model is next to impossible to get off the ground without significant handyman skills.

2. The tradesman shortage of the Rust Belt has long been noted. Just how bad it has become in the last ten years is often underplayed here on Bigger Pockets and elsewhere.

3, Anyone with dreams of running a successful string of long-distance BRRRRs from their yacht on the coasts in a place like Pittsburgh is next to insane.

4. Sooner or later, with a small portfolio, you're going to get stuck and you can easily get into a catastrophic financial position if you are unwilling or unable to pick up tools in the name of a breezy idea about how incredibly valuable your time is and how vaunted and exceptional your "real estate skills" are next to other people's time and skills.

5. If you think property managers were born to save your precious and tender cheeks whenever they lands in a tight spot, think again.

6. It's incredibly difficult to make money in elderly housing stock if you don't know a great deal about how to maintain and renovate elderly housing stock. Much of this is also regional in nature Nobody would believe a port-a-crapper salesman who insisted you could successfully launch and run a port-a-crapper empire ten states over and never smell crap. How do the gurus continue to succeed in telling gullible people that there's money to be made in old, fragile crapshacks and they'll never need to know how to fix a crapshack?

7. Think less about meaning and joy when it comes to your investments and a lot more about security and the duty you have to your family and you'll be al lot less dissatisfied if you decide to get into real estate.

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Anish Tolia:

So are you saying that unless you are a skilled tradesman you have no business owning any rentals? How is it in anyway a scaleable business then? Self managing and self fixing rentals is just a job. And not a great one at that! Unless of course you just love walking around with a tool belt and its what brings joy and meaning to your life. In that case, go right ahead!

No...this is what I'm saying.

1. Throughout the Rust Belt but especially in a place like Pittsburgh, where the housing stock is more often than not seventy, eighty, ninety years old, where the population continues to shrink and the price of getting things fixed continues to rise, the self-managing buy-and-hold model is next to impossible to get off the ground without significant handyman skills.

2. The tradesman shortage of the Rust Belt has long been noted. Just how bad it has become in the last ten years is often underplayed here on Bigger Pockets and elsewhere.

3, Anyone with dreams of running a successful string of long-distance BRRRRs from their yacht on the coasts in a place like Pittsburgh is next to insane.

4. Sooner or later, with a small portfolio, you're going to get stuck and you can easily get into a catastrophic financial position if you are unwilling or unable to pick up tools in the name of a breezy idea about how incredibly valuable your time is and how vaunted and exceptional your "real estate skills" are next to other people's time and skills.

5. If you think property managers were born to save your precious and tender cheeks whenever they lands in a tight spot, think again.

6. It's incredibly difficult to make money in elderly housing stock if you don't know a great deal about how to maintain and renovate elderly housing stock. Much of this is also regional in nature Nobody would believe a port-a-crapper salesman who insisted you could successfully launch and run a port-a-crapper empire ten states over and never smell crap. How do the gurus continue to succeed in telling gullible people that there's money to be made in old, fragile crapshacks and they'll never need to know how to fix a crapshack?

7. Think less about meaning and joy when it comes to your investments and a lot more about security and the duty you have to your family and you'll be al lot less dissatisfied if you decide to get into real estate.

I partially agree with you. OOS investing in aged midwest property especially at todays prices is a dicey proposition. That is why I have sold almost all of my C class holdings (at a very nice profit I might add). However, many of us are much better with a spreadsheet than a hammer and if I even tried to fix things myself it would be an unmitigated disaster. Lack of skilled tradespeople is not just a midwest issue. I just paid $450 for what most would consider very minor handyman stuff in my San Jose, CA rental. Of course this was the only expense on that property all year and the rent is almost $4K per month so its much more palatable. In a midwest rental that's 50% of a months rent. That is why I try to educate the OOS people chasing $100/month phantom cashflows on the type of homes you are talking about. 

I do think you should find joy in anything that is talking up most of your precious lifes time. And most investors get into this for the dream of passive income, which is definitely not what you are describing!

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Originally posted by @Anish Tolia :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:
Originally posted by @Anish Tolia:

So are you saying that unless you are a skilled tradesman you have no business owning any rentals? How is it in anyway a scaleable business then? Self managing and self fixing rentals is just a job. And not a great one at that! Unless of course you just love walking around with a tool belt and its what brings joy and meaning to your life. In that case, go right ahead!

No...this is what I'm saying.

1. Throughout the Rust Belt but especially in a place like Pittsburgh, where the housing stock is more often than not seventy, eighty, ninety years old, where the population continues to shrink and the price of getting things fixed continues to rise, the self-managing buy-and-hold model is next to impossible to get off the ground without significant handyman skills.

2. The tradesman shortage of the Rust Belt has long been noted. Just how bad it has become in the last ten years is often underplayed here on Bigger Pockets and elsewhere.

3, Anyone with dreams of running a successful string of long-distance BRRRRs from their yacht on the coasts in a place like Pittsburgh is next to insane.

4. Sooner or later, with a small portfolio, you're going to get stuck and you can easily get into a catastrophic financial position if you are unwilling or unable to pick up tools in the name of a breezy idea about how incredibly valuable your time is and how vaunted and exceptional your "real estate skills" are next to other people's time and skills.

5. If you think property managers were born to save your precious and tender cheeks whenever they lands in a tight spot, think again.

6. It's incredibly difficult to make money in elderly housing stock if you don't know a great deal about how to maintain and renovate elderly housing stock. Much of this is also regional in nature Nobody would believe a port-a-crapper salesman who insisted you could successfully launch and run a port-a-crapper empire ten states over and never smell crap. How do the gurus continue to succeed in telling gullible people that there's money to be made in old, fragile crapshacks and they'll never need to know how to fix a crapshack?

7. Think less about meaning and joy when it comes to your investments and a lot more about security and the duty you have to your family and you'll be al lot less dissatisfied if you decide to get into real estate.

I partially agree with you. OOS investing in aged midwest property especially at todays prices is a dicey proposition. That is why I have sold almost all of my C class holdings (at a very nice profit I might add). However, many of us are much better with a spreadsheet than a hammer and if I even tried to fix things myself it would be an unmitigated disaster. Lack of skilled tradespeople is not just a midwest issue. I just paid $450 for what most would consider very minor handyman stuff in my San Jose, CA rental. Of course this was the only expense on that property all year and the rent is almost $4K per month so its much more palatable. In a midwest rental that's 50% of a months rent. That is why I try to educate the OOS people chasing $100/month phantom cashflows on the type of homes you are talking about. 

I do think you should find joy in anything that is talking up most of your precious lifes time. And most investors get into this for the dream of passive income, which is definitely not what you are describing!

I figured as much, Anish. I've read a lot of your posts.

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.”
George Bernard Shaw

@Jim K. ,

That dining room to kitchen transition looks very familiar.

Sorry you’re going through all that.  Also sorry I can’t recommend a plasterer for you.  Is it all plaster and lathe, or 3/8” plasterboard with 3/8” plaster top coat?  Either way, it’ll make it harder to patch with drywall.  

How much larger is the waterlogged damage area?  Would it be possible (or even make sense) to rip down the entire ceiling and replace all of the plaster with drywall?

Best of luck going forward.

Please update the thread and let us know how you ended up handling it all.

Dave

@Jim K.

Unfortunate timing but an easy fix.

1. Fix the leak

2. Repair the plaster with drywall and repaint and retexture

In terms of systems, I’d focus on finding and creating a Rolodex of contractors and handymen who you can call onto for affordable rates who can fix issues like these as they come up.

@Jim K. I am sure the investors who do not do any work on their properties wonder what you are going to do as you and your properties continue to age.

That job is a plumber, then handyman job. Both are usually able to accommodate "urgent" situations. Also, most painters can patch that large a ceiling repair. Cost is vs opportunity cost. Just like some pay $300 to attend a sports or music event, some pay $5-600 (minus tax deduction) to avoid the hassle/frustration/time loss of repairs of this sort...ceiling. Plumbing I would assume most non-diy landlords/pms have on speed dial.

Handy people often think it is easier to just do it themselves. Others have no problem arranging for repairs to be done. Different folks.

@Jim K. ,

Depending what types of licensing / certification your town requires, best NOT to DIY. There's likely more damage than meets the eye.

What did your insurance agent say?

Do you have any other vacancies where you can put them up short-term? If none, the hotel idea is probably best. Contractors / handymen are likely quite busy these days. Is there a ServPro franchise near you?

Take care of the people and fix the damage FIRST. Worry about the money later.

My $0.02 ...

Originally posted by @David Coleman :

@Jim K.,

That dining room to kitchen transition looks very familiar.

Sorry you’re going through all that.  Also sorry I can’t recommend a plasterer for you.  Is it all plaster and lathe, or 3/8” plasterboard with 3/8” plaster top coat?  Either way, it’ll make it harder to patch with drywall.  

How much larger is the waterlogged damage area?  Would it be possible (or even make sense) to rip down the entire ceiling and replace all of the plaster with drywall?

Best of luck going forward.

Please update the thread and let us know how you ended up handling it all.

Dave

Yep, it's the place we met at, David. I got this.

Originally posted by @Marc Rice :

@Jim K.

Unfortunate timing but an easy fix.

1. Fix the leak

2. Repair the plaster with drywall and repaint and retexture

In terms of systems, I’d focus on finding and creating a Rolodex of contractors and handymen who you can call onto for affordable rates who can fix issues like these as they come up.

 Sure. All I need to do is find the right people. And rock stars know rock stars. Because the people to take care of things for a reasonable cost always exist and are available in every market. You just have to find them.

@Jim K. Wow!! I’m sorry for this stress Jim but like another post said thankfully it happened now and not week one while your tenants were have dinner!

I had a very similar repair to do on my first flip in my scenario it was two drywall pieces and texturing my wife was able to help and we were got it done in two days.

You could cut out the whole corner there say an 8’x12’ section it really shouldn’t take folks long to do the repair if you did all the prep work on had supplies on site I bet you could find someone to fit it in on a weekend!

Wish I lived closer and I’d be happy to help you! Keep us updated I’m interested to hear how this works out.

I'm guessing you already have this fixed, right Jim? Couple sheets of drywall and some mud.....

If it were mine and I had no skills, I would get the leak fixed and then throw up the drywall. Then the tenants can move in and get settled while you have someone finish the tape and texture.

There has to be a handyman/drywaller around who can do a small job like this?