The pro-active landlord: pay for small problem or let it slide?

27 Replies

I always stress open lines of communication with my tenant. One evening, he informed me that the water dispenser on the refrigerator stopped working. He kept saying it really wasn't a big deal and not to worry about it, just wanted to let me know what was going on in his unit.

I want to be a pro-active landlord, so I'm on the fence: should I spend time/money trying to fix this (get a repairman or take the time myself) or listen to him and not worry about it?

Have you experienced landlords dealt with small issues bubbling into something huge and regret not fixing it when it was small?

At the same time, it really isn't a big deal and he reassured me that I shouldn't worry about it.

Be what u want to be, pro active! Go fix it ASAP. Your tenant is your customer. U have a opportunity to take care of a minor repair before it morphs into something bigger and show him how good you are which may help u in the future.

If u don't fix it now, you will get a call in future when he wants it fixed... And he won't be patient because it has been broken for so long!

Being proactive is a excellent strategy!

@Kyle Mack  I would check out the problem immediately. Anything to do with water could become a bigger problem. A friend our ours had a refrigerator water line go bad and it ended up flooding their condo when they were away.  They were "snow birds" and when they came back to their Palm Springs condo, mold had taken hold up the sides of the drywall in every room! Major restoration project.

Now, if the dispenser is an easy fix, go ahead and make it happen. Otherwise leave it be. The age of the refrigerator would also be a factor, as well as what would be expected in your rental market. We never buy refrigerators with water dispensers or ice makers, too much to go wrong and not expected in our climate and community.

It depends on how your lease is written.  I would definately fix something like that if I was responsible for it, regardless of what the tenant is saying.  This is the reason a lot of landlords (depedning on price point) opt for tenant to provide appliances or a freezer w/o an ice maker.

It would probably be cheaper to replace the fridge with a used $50 fridge that doesn't have a water dispenser and it will also be less of a problem when the tenant decides to sell or steal the fridge

Thanks for the pointers! 

I guess I'm just feeling paranoid because today is the 3rd (last day before rent is late) and a Friday and I'm patiently waiting, not really wanting to hear excuses :)

...and then on top of that have to charge a late fee for rent

The right thing to do is fix the fridge. 

I would go check it out first. If there is a leak somewhere in the line, you want to see it before it causes major damage. If you are handy, try to diagnose the problem - it is most likely either a kink in the water line, faulty switch on the dispenser, or a faulty water valve (on the back of the refrigerator, where the water line goes). I just replaced a faulty water valve in one of my rentals, cost me $30 on ebay with free shipping.

Hi @Kyle Mack  , I agree with the consensus here. Be pro-active. 

When it comes to water, always better to be safe than sorry. 

Good luck!

I say be who you want to be. Be Pro-Active, fix it as soon as possible, you are going to have to fix it later on down the road anyway, so might as well just do it while it's fresh on your mind.  Maybe if you show your tenant that you are on top of things, maybe, just maybe he will try to have your rent on time.

Best of luck.

@Kyle Mack  

As others have said, fix it now, but the next time you buy a refrigerator get one w/o the water dispenser (or an ice maker), in the long run, the water line to the refrigerator will become a liability.

I would definitely look at the fridge but it isn't an emergency so if you can't get out in the next day or so. No biggie. As for your thoughts as a whole. I  very proud of the fact that I am a responsive landlord. On the other hand I have found my sedition and the tenants vary. While always fixing repairs, remember sometimes you and your tenants will have different definitions. Therefore don't feel bad about saying no to improvements. Remember this is a rental not there personal. If they want to fix it up to personal property standards. They are welcome too at their own cost and they must leave it. I try not to say no (don't get me wrong I will say no), but to give them options. The option is ether they live withot, or if I am okay with what they want done,  they do it at their expense. 

@Roy N.   Great Point, note to self, next time get a refrigerator without an ice maker or water line.  It is a very simple way to prevent future problems.  I have had a water line problem on a ice maker in a rental and it caused some floor damage.  Tenant said it is leaking a little but it is ok so no hurry.  Only waited a few days and should have sent someone out faster.

@Kyle Mack   I would go check it out and fix it to show your responsiveness and also to prevent it from causing other damage.  With water lines you never know if it has been going on longer than the tenant realized.

I would fix the fridge.  Make a habit of resolving problems as they pop up.  Water is likely flowing to the fridge and you don't want to end up with a larger problem. 

Going further, I would not recommend providing refrigerators with water dispensers because that is just one more thing that can break.  Its a nice feature but unnecessary.  I personally always provide nice appliances they just don't have the added features and therefore have lower repair costs.


Kyle, when was the last time the filter was changed? I was looking at a condo a while back, and during the inspection we found this same problem but it turned out the filter just needed to be changed (which wasn't cheap for the record, but better than a water line issue...)

Be a proactive landlord try and make any small things happen so in the big picture you are doing your job and hopefully will be getting great referrals from tenants for attention to detail. I have repaired a few fridges and they always are a quick fix with the water lines are super cheap to get taken care of.

Strike up the you tube video and diagnose and fix it. They are generally pretty easy to fix. I had to replace the valve on my personal fridge.

Originally posted by @Mark Del Grosso:

Strike up the you tube video and diagnose and fix it. They are generally pretty easy to fix. I had to replace the valve on my personal fridge.

 That is an excellent idea, make a video of you diagnosing and fixing it and put on your YouTube channel, don't forget to put in keywords like apartment rental (Your city), etc to help bring you traffic.

Again, thanks for the comments!

Alot of comments mention getting fridges without water dispensers, but when we had the open house/tours, every prospective resident was impressed with the dispenser in the fridge, probably because every other smart landlord decided it wasn't worth the risk, haha.

After some quick youtubing, the first thing to consider is water line freezing, since its so close to the freezer, so I'm checking it out.

p.s. I did end up getting rent on time 

Being proactive is the way to be. Also, if the tenant keeps talking about it then it is a problem and they could just be testing how proactive you are.


@Kyle Mack  I'd fix it. I think it was the book The Tipping Point that mentioned the key to lowering crime in NYC was actually cleaning up the subway graffiti. Point is, take care of the small stuff because it leads to larger things later.  

Don't sweat it.

@Joe Fairless  good reference, i actually just finished that book about a month ago

From an investment stand point you want to keep your investment at 100% so it can always bring you appreciation and rising rents. I almost always recommend repairing or improving your property. 

Turns out, the fridge was set at a 9, which was too cold. The water line froze. Turned down the fridge to a 6, water dispenser working perfectly withing 3 hours.....

alot of hoopla about nothing, but glad the small issue is fixed

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