Tenant attending to repairs and then billing me?

18 Replies

This is relating to a house I have a property manager for.

The PM informed me that the tenant reported a plumbing issue where dirty water was coming up from the bathtub or somewhere, the specifics were very vague.

I have a plumber I use for all my work. I tried phoning the tenant to schedule an appointment but as usual she never picked up. My plumber and I personally went and knocked on the door 4 times, with no answer.

Then I was emailed by the PM that the tenant had it fixed and the bill was $500, which apparently the tenant paid. I asked for a copy of the invoice and it's a little handwritten receipt, which says '$500, pipe replacement, Miguel'.

My response was well no, sorry I'm not paying this. The PM advised me just to swallow it. Obviously next month the tenant is going to try to deduct $500 from their rent.

My thoughts are to them slap them with a 3 days notice after they don't pay the full amount.

My PM calls them 'great tenants', despite the fact the backyard literally resembles a tip, there is a rusted, broken down car in the front yard and they generally pay rent mid month or when they feel like it.

Landlords in Miami are so scared of eviction these days as it takes months to evict tenants. I know my PM let's tenants call the shots because he knows it's a better option than going through the courts.

I recently met a builder/landlord couple who were incredibly good people. They said they slap the tenant with a 3 day notice, then make a follow up visit informing tenants they will remove their stuff and change locks if they don't pay the rent. They said they have followed through with their threats dozens of times. I was like 'what about the tenant suing?' and they said 'Who is going to have the money to pay the legal fees when they don't have the money to pay rent?'

The last paragraph was a bit off subject but I would like to know others opinions on the plumbing repair issue.

If you swallow it as the PM suggests you will get taken advantage of even further most likely.

What does your lease state for repairs?? Does it state landlord must be notified in writing for repair issues??

If the tenant did not give you access to the property and a chance to fix it then likely a judge will side with you on that issue in court. Even if the tenant used a legit person or company with a receipt it would be likely higher than what you could have gotten it repaired for.

In this case it sounds like the tenant might not have even had a repair performed and is running a scam. Bills do not usually end in a even number like that and 500 the middle of 1,000 to boot. It's just all too convenient.

If it was a  great tenant with an actual legitimate receipt that didn't follow protocol then you might work something out. This just sounds like a bad tenant going to worse. Sounds like either way you are looking at losses so get them out now with eviction or  get them to come in line, start paying rent on time, and follow the rules.

No legal advice.  

@Nat Chan   I wonder why you bother employing a property manager if you still have to deal with things like this. Isn't that what they are for?  I'm not sure you are being well served by them. 

You didn't mention your response time so I assume it was prompt. I think you would have been justified to enter the unit with your plumber after receiving her report of sewage backup. 

As it stands now, you might still want your plumber to go examine the situation...to confirm that work has indeed been done (properly or at all) and that the problem is now adequately resolved. 

Based on his findings, I'd pay or not pay the invoice. 

Plunger  $ 12.00  Ten minutes of work .   $ 488.00     With a invoice on scrap paper. 

Tell the property manager to do their job and collect the money from the tenant .

Your lease should state tenant will not do any repairs or renovations and also how much notification you need to give before you enter with or without tenant being present, like 24 hours (if not by phone, then after leaving a note on the door), then just have your manager meet the plumber at the appointment time you set.  If neither of you have keys to the unit, that is definitely something to remedy immediately.  As far as tenants not being able to sue because they have no money, be very careful as most states offer free legal advice and some have links to free legal help for low-income tenants, and lawyers can collect legal fees from you if they win against you in court.    

Personally, I would not pay for the plumber, would have the property manager notify the tenant in writing along with a copy of the lease provision stating tenant can't make repairs and definitely no reimbursement from a handwritten receipt, and I would follow eviction procedures if they don't pay the rent in full. If the tenant offers me a licensed plumber's itemized receipt, I would ask my plumber how much they would charge for the same service listed, and would probably agree to reimburse the tenant for the amount my plumber would have charged me, with the understanding they will not order any further repairs.  

@Nat Chan  I would let the dust settle and see what happens on the 1st.  It sounds like the information is hear say from the PM.  Let the PM address and if they don't perform... kick them off your team.  We need high performing A players in this game.


@Nat Chan  I am confused to why you did not have a legal right to enter the property using your key to the property.

In some Leases, it states that a Landlord can enter without giving prior notice to repair items that might cause damage..IE water backing up, leaking or other issues that could cause damage.

Originally posted by @Robert Blanchard :

@Nat Chan  I am confused to why you did not have a legal right to enter the property using your key to the property.

In some Leases, it states that a Landlord can enter without giving prior notice to repair items that might cause damage..IE water backing up, leaking or other issues that could cause damage.

 Yeah, exactly.  The knocking four times doesn't mean much.  How much time passed between when the tenant reported the problem and when they had it fixed?  

Get rid of everyone.

this really seems like a situation you should consider revising your lease agreement with your PM and your tenant. If you don't have youself covered with your lease then you need to fix that before it gets more out of hand. 

To expand on my first point. Tenants do not, i repeat, DO NOT have permission to spend your money for you. End of story. Any "property manager" allowing this practice needs to be fired. Any tenant insisting on this policy and deducting this "money spent" is to be evicted. NON NEGOTIABLE.

Good advise here so far. My two cents:
Not sure your PM is doing a good job protecting your interests. Not sure of the laws in Florida, but here in Ca, a tenant can only hire and pay for a fix and then deduct from rent if the landlord doesn't fix the issue in a timely manner (I forget time period). I would guess that different issues have different time frames?

My question to you:
Do you feel like your PM is doing a good job? Maybe time for a new PM.
Also, do you have any record of your attempt to fix the plumbing issue? If yes, then I would not let the tenant take advantage of the situation. I would put my foot down on this one. But, I'd make the PM put his or her foot down too!

Fire your pm, and it sounds like your tenant is trying to scam you.  If they get away with it this time, you can expect this type of behavior to continue.  Sorry you are having this problem.

@Nat Chan  I think you need a new property manager, I would send a plumber to see if work was done at all, and if so if done properly. In regards to your friends, tenants don't need money to sue you if you blatantly break the law. I knew a guy who used to remove the front door from a place rather than filing eviction, he also got arrested and the officer just couldn't get in front of a judge to request bail so he spent 2 nights there. The tenant basically owed him when it was all done tenant got over 50k,  but your right most wont fight back, it only takes one. 


NOTE: If you do not pay the rent or you do not move when

asked to by the landlord, your landlord cannot change the

locks, turn off the utilities, or do anything else which forces

you to move out This is called an illegal eviction or a

"prohibited practice" and is a violation of the

Landlord/Tenant Act. It can make your landlord liable to you

for three times your rent, or actual damages, whichever is

higher, and attorney's fees and costs. Each time the landlord

commits a prohibited act, it is a separate violation. For instance,

if your landlord turns off your water one day, and then turns it on,

and three days later changes your locks, that is two separate

violations which you can sue for. Turning off the water makes

the landlord liable for three times the rent and changing the

locks makes the landlord liable for an additional three times your

rent amount.

Your tenant and PM are both scamming you.  Remove them all from your business.  Legally, of course.

First, I would ask for proof that that plumber that did the repair was licensed, insured and bonded -- which I assume is required for plumbers in your city.

Next, I would inform the tenant that, assuming the plumber is not licensed, insured and bonded, that you will not be paying for the work they had done, you will be sending in your own plumber to verify the repairs and that if they chose not to pay full rent the following month, you would evict them as well as sue them for using unlicensed contractors to perform repairs on your property without your permission.

In other words, let them know that the most inexpensive solution for them at this point is to just pay their rent and not mention it again.

Originally posted by Account Closed:

To expand on my first point. Tenants do not, i repeat, DO NOT have permission to spend your money for you. End of story. Any "property manager" allowing this practice needs to be fired. Any tenant insisting on this policy and deducting this "money spent" is to be evicted. NON NEGOTIABLE.

 Not always good advice, it depends on your state.  Drains are a habitability issue.  That's why I asked how much time had passed between the report from the tenant and the repair.  In many states, tenants do in fact have the right to arrange for repairs and withhold rent to cover the cost, after a certain amount of time has gone by.

So again, how much time passed?  Without knowing that, everything else is speculation.

Richard C.

What you are saying is true, predicated upon the assumption that the repair was both known to the owner/pm and not being handled in a timely manner. Baring that situation, (which may be the case with said horrible property manager), which describes indifference to repairs by the landlord, THE TENANT DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEND THE OWNERS MONEY FOR THEM, AND IF THE PROPERTY MANAGER IS ALLOWING IT, THEY ARE TO BE FIRED.

J Scott threatening litigation against people like these is never a good idea, particularly when its a bluff. if the work was done right, ( or not at all), licensed or not, no " damages" actually exist...and lets say a miracle happens and a judgement is granted. ever heard the one about blood out of a turnip?....on top of which,making this threat is just going to end up making someone some new enemies.

Right.  But Nan acknowledges knowing about the issue.  And if she made four trips to knock on the door, that implies a certain amount of time passed.  How much time is going to make a huge difference.

I'm not even sure how much you can blame the PM, since Nan apparently prefers to handle calls like this with her own plumber.

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