Tenant Wants to Take Toilets that they installed

83 Replies

Regardless of your location, what does your lease/contract say about improvements? It is very common for leases/contracts to include a clause regarding any improvements to be approved by Landlord in writing and to remain in the property after Tenant vacates. Maybe a lesson learned after this one.

I'm sorry you're having this conflict.

I'm in alignment w/the comments here.  It depends on laws and what you're lease says.  Mine says they'd have to restore it back the way it was.  Since you were unaware I can't imagine him being able to take them without replacing them.  On the other hand, I've always thought that a fair amount of the lease is a bluff....

I'd need to know more particulars to say for sure what I'd do if I was in your shoes. Based just on what I've read here, I'd be clear that i don't owe anything but I might actually offer him $100 total to leave both after I got to look them over. My thinking would be that it's highly unlikely I'd sue or pursue him for the cost of the toilets or anything else and it's unlikely he'd pay even if I did and got a judgement. So I'd be nice and be thinking, "How can I minimize my cost overall with these folks?To install 2 new ones would be more than $100 total in my area.  I'd tell him all this rationale.  I'd then hope he thinks he's screwed me over and I'd hope he really doesn't want to load up 2 toilets as he drives away and therefore he'd leave them.

Then I'd keep any portion of his deposit that I was legally entitle to keep.  (Normally I'm merciful on returning deposits.)  

Good luck.

@Adam Soelberg I recall from a RE Principles class I taught, once something is installed as a fixture it becomes "Real Property," no longer personal, and cannot be removed along w personal property. That pertained to a sale but I would think the principle is the same. Hope that helps.

Great advice regarding this unfortunate situation. On an entirely different tack I personally have had bad experience with low flow toilets in buildings that did not have them to begin with. If I were to replace a toilet in one of my units it would be with a toilet that provides maximum flush.

Sounds like they are a-holes. If so, I'd reply as such:

Hang on, you made alterations to the property? I didn't authorize this and frankly am concerned that plumbing work was performed presumably by someone unlicensed. Upon you vacating the property I will send my maintenance staff over to review the condition/quality of the work and make repairs as necessary to restore the unit to its original condition as it was when the lease was executed. Any such repairs will be deducted from your security deposit.

Hopefully your lease also states that any alterations become part of the property with no recourse for reimbursement from the tenant. Let them take the toilets, then charge them against their deposit for installing new ones.

On a lighter note, if your property was in Illinois you should thank them for reducing your property tax bill:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/03/654201077/illinois-gov-candidate-removed-mansions-toilets-to-dodge-taxes-report-finds

Originally posted by @Matthew Olszak :

Sounds like they are a-holes. If so, I'd reply as such:

Hang on, you made alterations to the property? I didn't authorize this and frankly am concerned that plumbing work was performed presumably by someone unlicensed. Upon you vacating the property I will send my maintenance staff over to review the condition/quality of the work and make repairs as necessary to restore the unit to its original condition as it was when the lease was executed. Any such repairs will be deducted from your security deposit.

Hopefully your lease also states that any alterations become part of the property with no recourse for reimbursement from the tenant. Let them take the toilets, then charge them against their deposit for installing new ones.

Exactly this

This is why I'm not a huge fan of lease options unless you have a VERY qualified buyer you're confident you can get financed in a year or two. I'm not saying in any way that this is the OP's fault. I just find the model a little brutal when used improperly. It sounds like from reading your comments you're doing things the right way which I commend you for. 

They're totally spiteful. They've been there for 2 years and feel it's their "home".

Did they decide not to exercise their option or are they simply unable? 

We see this A LOT with foreclosures that people dig their head into the sand and pretend it's not happening until the day or week of then ask for help. 

OMG our tenants, after a complete rehabbed, insisted on paying their painter to finish the final coat after we primed all the new drywall. They insisted on buying & installing their own bathroom faucets & put in two new toilets. They upgraded our 'nasty' choice of tile backsplash at their expense & paid to install their choice of dining room, bathroom & kitchen lighting. After 5 years they moved south & left all (that were to her) the  'old' appliances (new when they moved in). In fact 3 years later I still have their 'old' BBQ & patio furniture at our Lakehouse. I still use her 'move in fully furnished' pictures when we need to rent it. 

Maybe ours were the exception.

@Merritt S. Maybe as a last resort you could offer to pay them for the toilets. I’m in another state but I am think that if a tenant does that without a specific agreement with the landlord s/he will get it back it belongs to the property now.

Did they install it properly? Did they ask if they could?

If the tenant installed  toilets without permission, then they need to reinstall toilets before they left.  Where are the original toilets?  

I generally would not acquiesce to allowing a tenant to install toilets.  But if you did, then you should have addressed the issue with the old toilets.

Your only remedy is the security deposit. The amount of damage to you is marginal - meaning the amount of time you spend fighting it will not really pay off. So stay out of court.

Originally posted by @Adam Soelberg :

This may be a question for people specifically in Washington. One of our tenants was on a 2 year lease option with us but decided to back out before the 2 years was up. The tenant is claiming since he installed 2 new toilets while they were living there, that he can remove them and take them when they vacate. I would assume this is not correct because it would cause "damage" to the property if removed. Thanks in advance for the help!

 Tenants do have the right to take it with them, if they have installed it. For the same reason, I never let tenants work on the property. It's explicitly forbidden in the contract.  Why did they do something on their own? Did you end up neglecting their request to repair a broken toilet, or they just wanted to do their "business" on a shiny new toy they found at Bed, Bath & Beyond? 

That being said, I would just negotiate a fair deal with them, and give them cash, and leave the toilets intact. If done poorly, it can certainly cause damage to the property. A good plumber is going to charge you a good amount too for coming out and doing the work, and it's really a lose-lose situation. 

Originally posted by @Pat L. :

OMG our tenants, after a complete rehabbed, insisted on paying their painter to finish the final coat after we primed all the new drywall. They insisted on buying & installing their own bathroom faucets & put in two new toilets. They upgraded our 'nasty' choice of tile backsplash at their expense & paid to install their choice of dining room, bathroom & kitchen lighting. After 5 years they moved south & left all (that were to her) the  'old' appliances (new when they moved in). In fact 3 years later I still have their 'old' BBQ & patio furniture at our Lakehouse. I still use her 'move in fully furnished' pictures when we need to rent it. 

Maybe ours were the exception.

 I will let them rent my next property. 

@Adam Soelberg Apparently most here have not looked into lease options. I assume that you received a non-refundable down payment for the option to buy, and the new tenant is responsible for repairs after 30 days or so. They are really just mad and want to use the toilets as leverage. The real risk is not the toilets, but additional damage.

As someone suggested, offer $100 (or even 200 with the toilets still in place) if they leave the place with no damage, and have "BUBBA" there "to help" with the inspection.  Paying them to leave quietly is less expensive than going to court, and probably a lot more productive.  You want to send them on their way as peacefully as possible, so you can get your next option deposit and rent check coming in.

I'm curious of their reason for not exercising the option. Were they unable to get their financing figured out? If that is the case, you could offer them an extension on the option for another year (if they have money, but not good credit) to give them time to fix their lending issues. Of course, there would be a cost for that, and a new negotiated purchase price (due to appreciation). that said, i'd let them take the toilets, but deduct from their deposit the cost of having a plumber install new toilets (if they "replace", they might jack it up and result in a lot of water damage). To be clear, I'd just say "sure", then line item this deduction, not tell them "sure but it'll cost you", otherwise they'll find somewhere else to "get their money's worth". I also hope you had a large deposit to secure the option to cover any other damage they might do and your opportunity costs not being able to sell.

I wouldn't want them replacing the toilets. I wouldn't go after them for $300. I would want to get as far away from these s**tbirds as I could, take the tax deduction, move on.

But...this is part of doing business the way I do, in the properties I have. Eating an expense like that per turn isn't a big deal. Now if it was three times higher, that would be a different story.

@Adam Soelberg

I would let them take them if they installed them. This will give you an opportunity to install them properly (wax rings/level/etc.) and reduce potential of future damage from leaking toilet. Toilets are cheap compared to repairs they may cause if not installed correctly.

@Adam Soelberg looks like they just try to throw a fit. See if you can talk some sense to them. Good diplomacy should work. If they don’t make sense whatsoever, have your attorney sending them a letter explaining to them that they’re liable to any damage to the property.

Look at the bright side, if they take the toilets with them, you will be installing two new (clean) toilets.  Deduct the expense from their deposit.

If you do not have a real estate attorney you need one. I am not an attorney and do not play one on TV.

Your commercial or residential lease should always include a clause stating "No changes or upgrades to the property without the prior written consent of the property owner."

Commercial leases and insurance policies discuss "Tenants Improvements and Betterments" this is not something normally covered in a residential lease.  Based upon your experience maybe I need to reconsider this.

If there were toilets in the unit when the tenant moved in there should be toilets when they moved out. If they remove them they have "damaged" the unit. This is a damage deposit item right away. If the damage deposit is insufficient to cover "ALL" damages, it becomes a legal issue. Find that real estate attorney.

If the tenant installed specialty or handicap accessible toilets then they need to restore the property to its original condition "IF" they remove the toilets. See damage deposit above.