What should I do? - Snow Removal Issue on Duplex

11 Replies

I recently signed up new tenants on a 12-month lease, starting in June, for the upper level unit of a duplex I own.

The lease signing at a local coffee shop was the first time I had met the tenants. My wife had met them twice (during an initial showing then follow up showing of the unit). I wasn’t available because of business travel once and demands at other property the other time.

During the signing they brought up that my wife mentioned that if they were to perform some snow shoveling duties they may be able to receive a break on rent. My response was that I had always planned to include in their lease the shoveling of the sidewalk in front of the building after a snowfall. (The city mandates that the walkway is shoveled within 24hrs of snowfall). I noted that this is typical of leases on duplexes in this area as the owner is not always able to get to the building within 24hrs to shovel since, being 2-unit buildings, duplexes do not have a caretaker like an apartment building. FYI – I am still responsible for shoveling other areas and also mowing the lawn.

They were understanding and agreed to accept the front walk responsibility without any adjustment to the rent. We then signed the lease and both parties left with signed copies.

The next day they sent an email saying they were disappointed they didn’t get any break in rent and asked for an adjustment of $10 less per month (they signed the lease at the rate of $1010/mo + utilities).

What should I do? If I say no, that we need to follow the lease and I don’t want to go to the hassle of signing another one and giving them a break I feel like they will feel resentment for me every time they pick up a snow shovel. This could lead to some negative long term consequences.

If I say yes I feel like I’m just giving away money for no good reason after the deal has already been done and contract signed.


Appreciate the help, especially if you have gone through a similar experience!

You say no! That we discussed it they agreed!! People are going to ask for the world that doesn't mean you agree to it! Since I have a break lease clause, I would inform them that they are welcome to breaK the lease but owe me 2 months rent and 2 months fee! Stand yor ground politely!

Having the lease say they are going to do it and them actually doing are two different things.

I wouldn't pre pay the shoveling all summer with no idea if they are going to do it or within 24 hours. They could move out before winter and all the pre payed snow removal reduction was for nothing.

So im probably more of a push over than I should be when it comes to tenant relations; but theres no way Id give them the $10 break on this one. It was discussed, and the lease was signed. Plus, its $10. This seems like the perfect spot to draw the line, and not have them think your skipping out on something major. This just seems like the whole "give them an inch, they take a foot" cliche

I think that $10 per month for a happier tenant is money in the bank. I would do it all day! I'm also the type of landlord that gives my tenants an incentive to pay rent early. In my duplex each tenant can save $20 per month by paying the rent early as in before the first. I also include a late fee of $40 if they pay after the first. In my experience they feel like they are getting a deal every month and they love it. Also I feel great seeing the rent check EARLY every single month!!

If you give them a deal on the small things, but remind them that this is a business and that your bank wants the money for your house. They will be happy with their small victory and will feel like they owe it to you to pay happily each month! It's all in how you present it!

Your wife needs to understand this business better and not be making offers to tenants that have not been well thought through. Stand by the rental terms which you advertised.

I would not want my tenants taking on the task of shoveling the snow and risking injury. If they do it on their own, that's their decision. If you build it into the terms of the lease and it is customary in your area, then maybe it will be fine. If they actually do what is necessary to be in compliance with a city ordinance, its a win for you.

However, if you make an agreement with them to do the snow shoveling in exchange for a rent reduction, then it seems you have entered into a contract for their labor. What about the tenants in the other unit? What if one tenant or the other is not physically or mentally capable to do the task? Also, what happens if they don't do the task and as the property owner you get cited? Might get a little dicey.

We handle a number of tasks ourselves for our multiplexes. For example, landscape maintenance, pest control, gutter cleaning and snow removal. But then, we rarely get snow and don't have a 24-hour snow removal ordinance. If we did, I might consider hiring a snow removal service to keep on top of it.

If your wife told them, she would give a discount do it and not try to weasel out of it over $10.

Joe Gore

@James Miernicki

Dont do it. If your wife agreed to it and it was in writing in the lease that is one thing. But you sound like you made it clear before the lease was signed and all parties agreed to it. If you give them this break they are just going to ask for another one and it will never stop. That is my experience. Its not personal, it is just a business and this is what our contract clearly states.

@Brady Ernst,

Have you ever heard the old saying your word is your bond?

Joe Gore

I am not experienced with real estate, but I have experience with insurance. The question you should ask is whether your liability coverages (check your homeowners/GL and your umbrella/excess forms) might exclude bodily injury to a hired worker or otherwise exclude coverage to your tenant's injury while doing this work for you. Given the break in rent, it seems like you are basically paying the tenant to do the work. That might make an injury to your snow-shovelng tenant excluded from coverage and you might have a potentially huge uncovered exposure.

I would suggest picking up the book "landlording on autopilot" by "Mike Butler". I found a lot of his processes to be very people friendly and all about promoting and creating "long term, good tenants". He provides some really good insights on how important presentation is and how easily it can turn a bad situation into a win/win.

Let us know how this plays out!


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