When and when not to do requested repairs on a property

8 Replies

Hi Everyone I'm new here and wanted to ask anyone's advice about knowing when and when not to do requested repairs on a property. I'm in California. I have 'good' tenants. The problem is they ask for a lot of repairs. Some were necessary like the dishwasher breaking down. Some not so necessary, like a fence that was getting a little old.

Now they are asking to repair several window and door screens. My handyman quoted me $755 for replacement plus labor.  $755 just to replace screens?  I'm sure some of you that have smaller pockets can attest, sometimes things can be a little tight.

I'm halfway thinking of just selling the property. This property used to be my primary residence, so with the rent collected, plus HOA fees, plus Property Tax we're still under a couple hundred a month.

Can I tell my tenants no for this repair?  There screens were there when they moved in. What's the best way to handle this situation? Or should I seriously consider just doing the repair and keep the property quality up? On the other hand if I do the repair and something more serious breaks down like the AC I'm in a deeper hole.

What do you guys advise?

Thanks
Marvin

The first thing I'd want to know is why all of the screens need to be replaced?  Were they old and falling apart/damaged for a while and the tenants are just now reaching the end of their patience with it?  Or do they have a cat, dog or child that destroyed all the screens.  If it's the latter, I would bill them back.  If it's the former, I would do the repair as, in my opinion, windows that have ratty or missing screens make the whole house look terrible and it's an issue if the tenants want to open a window to catch a cool breeze rather than run the air conditioner (behavior which should be encouraged, in my opinion).

I think the larger question is why, when there are so many properties in the country that cash flow really well, why you're hanging on to one that does not.  Are you hoping for appreciation?  

Either get this property to cash flow by increasing rents (if the market will bear it) or refinancing down to a lower payment or otherwise cut your expenses where possible.  Or sell it.  

Every time they ask you for a repair, you're going to be asking if it's reasonable, not because you're concerned about spoiling your tenants or otherwise training them to be needy, but because you're pinching pennies so hard they bleed.

For me, I want my properties to always be the best they can be and my tenants to be as happy as possible.  For non-emergency repairs, I ask my tenants to keep a list and every month I have "repair weekend" where I go to all the properties to take care of all the little things that are squeaking, sticking or otherwise causing a problem.  I'd rather take care of little things as they happen rather than have something snowball into a larger repair.

That said, $755 to replace screens is ridiculous.  If you're in the area, this is something you can easily do yourself very inexpensively.  The materials are not costly and it will take you maybe 20 minutes per window.

Hi Marvin,

The first thing I would want to know is why the screens need to be replaced.  Did the tenant do something or were they in bad shape already?  If they were in bad shape, how bad- are there holes letting in insects?  Are the operable (meaning can you remove them in the event that you need to get out in an emergency)?

How many windows are there?  I am pricing replacement screens for a few windows in one of our properties where the screens and frames are missing- it is about $55 per window at Home Depot to have them made for our large casement egress windows.  Our local hardware will put new screen in an old frame for about $25 for a similar sized window or I could buy a roll of screen and do it myself.  Another option would be adjustable screens- I think you can buy them for $5-$20 depending on size, however they won't pass our city's rental inspection so not an option for me.

Kelly

Linda,

Believe me I've argued with the wife about refinancing the property. It was the house we moved into when we got married. the other small upside is our kids love the pool... since we pay the HOA they still get to use it. I know it sounds small, but seeing my kids happy about that helps some of the sting.

I'm planning on re-financing the property. The only problem is my wife isn't working steadily so we're worried we won't qualify. She's more of the opinion of just paying the house off so we just have to worry about the HOA and Property Tax. We're about 5-6 years from doing that.

Also, we've had a hard time finding a property that will give us positive cash flow without us having to put down a huge down payment over 20%.  

I agree with everyone that you should find out where the old screens went?  If you don't know how to repair a screen I'd suggest that you just "Youtube" it.  I use Youtube all the time to figure out how to repair something.

Kelly N.

According to my Handyman about 3 window need to be replaced ($55 each from Home Depot).  

3 window screens ($55 each)             165

New Screen door with Metal shield 125.00
Rear Sliding Door Metal Screen. 165.00
Plus his estimated labor for the day (but he'll lower it if it only takes an hour or two) $300.  which equals $755.

I should add I do trust my handyman and he's done some good quality work for me in the past.  But, I guess I can negotiate his fee down...  I'm just aggravated by having to deal with this stuff.

Originally posted by @Marvin Q. :

Kelly N.

According to my Handyman about 3 window need to be replaced ($55 each from Home Depot).  

3 window screens ($55 each)             165

New Screen door with Metal shield 125.00
Rear Sliding Door Metal Screen. 165.00
Plus his estimated labor for the day (but he'll lower it if it only takes an hour or two) $300.  which equals $755.

I should add I do trust my handyman and he's done some good quality work for me in the past.  But, I guess I can negotiate his fee down...  I'm just aggravated by having to deal with this stuff.

 Oh.  Replacing actual doors, not just the screens in them.  That's different.  $755 isn't bad for all of that.

the window screen price still feels a bit high, but all in all it's a fair quote.

Linda,

Thank you so much for your feedback.  I feel a little better.  

Marvin

@Marvin Q.

Congrats on being about 5 years away from paying it off! If you have the ability to pay it off and be done with the mortgage forever (while keeping a reserve for that A/C) and that makes for a happy home then seriously consider it. Perhaps you can go for a 10 year mortgage if you re-finance? I wouldn't worry about "not-qualifying" Work with a lender that is willing to look at the finances in depth before spending a penny on the appraisal. Try a local bank or credit union. (I'm assuming that there are no problems with the LTV). Get to the "it's-a-go" if the appraisal works point - make sure the underwriter has picked it apart.

With regards to the Home Depot door screens - if they are the adjustable type they are AWFUL! We used those and they are constantly needing adjustment and don't slide well. We just replaced one of a few and now realize how bad they were. I would consider calling a door company with a good reputation and have them put in something that will last. If the frames are still good and you don't want to re-screen, I know our local ACE Hardware does re-screening.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you