January 2012: What Does The Tenant Want Now?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

There are times when owning a rental property can feel like pouring silver dollars into a big bottomless hole with no chance of recovering them. After a vacancy and repairs, the property successfully rents and then the tenant wants the property owner to spend more money on repairs. It could be a big property tax bill is due or the mortgage is adjustable and the payment is more. The property owner's attitude is - when is it going to end and why should I spend more?

There are times when it may seem never ending but it is important to stop and consider the tenant request; even if there have been recent expenditures. It may be logical to turn down the tenant's request but before doing so, it is important to ask a series of questions before automatically saying "no." Here are questions with appropriate examples.

  • Is the request a habitability issue? Example: there are large holes in the carpet that cannot be repaired and this could cause residents to trip and fall; if this happens, the insurance will probably not cover the accident if there is known neglect; it would have been cheaper to replace the flooring.
  • Is this request reasonable? It may be that the kitchen curtains are torn and dirty; the only solution is replacement and it reduces complaints from the tenant. Would you want to live with this condition?
  • Will refusing the request increase the chance of a shorter tenancy and increased possibility of a vacancy? Example: the request is reasonable but the owner turns it down and subsequent other reasonable requests; the tenant is not happy and there are many properties on the market; at the first opportunity, the tenant gives notice so they can find a better rental property.
  • Can the property owner delay this request for a reasonable period? Example: the tenant wants a new dishwasher installed because the current one is rusting and does not wash well; because of many recent repairs, the owner agrees to install a new one in six months and the tenant is satisfied with this compromise.
  • Is it appropriate to ask the tenant to share in the cost? Example: the carpet is serviceable but an outdated color. The property owner proposed they would put in new carpeting but that the tenant pays forty percent of the cost; the tenant agrees because it is cheaper than moving and they like the location.

Ultimately, will the tenant request provide any return on investment (ROI)? If you look at any of the previous questions and examples, you will recognize that any of them will increase a return on the investment for one or all of the following reasons.

  • By keeping the tenants happy and reducing the vacancy factor
  • By improving the property
  • By reducing liability and costly litigation