Monday, October 15, 2012

Real Estate education through actual experience: who is responsible, the landlord or the tenant?

It was like an awkward moment people sometimes have at the end of a meal in a restaurant.
The bill comes and everybody is looking at it, wondering who will pick it either divide the bill or pay the bill.  That is actually why in some groups, to avoid this kind of situation, some people ask for separate bills.  They want to pay for what they clearly ate and drank. They may also want to avoid
being in situations where they have a differening opinion on how much to tip in general/how much of a tip is deserved.

My renter called me up early Sunday afternoon that when he was unlocking the door to the condo unit, the key broke in the lock and couldn't get the piece out.  So he asked if I could come down and try to get the key out or get a locksmith.   To make the coordination more difficult, he didn't have his phone or wallet with him, so he was actually calling from a restaurant. The manager was kind enough to let him to call me.  So, I couldn't just call a locksmith and tell him to meet my renter because there was no way the locksmith could reconnect with him as he got closer to the condo building.

So, fortunately timing worked, minus missing the Redskin-Viking game, and I was able to drive down to the condo right away. Unfortunately I couldn't get the key piece out of the door either so I brought in a locksmith. The locksmith gave a price and then asked for payment as he should. It was an awkard moment since I really didn't know "who was responsible" but it is my property billed to my name and address.  So I gave him my credit card and he took care of the problem.

In my several years as a landlord I never had such an issue.  I have dealt with appliance repairs, which are often addressed in leases.  In addition, the repair person can give you the root cause of the problem and from there you determine whether it is a landlord or tenant repair.

On the one hand, the key broke when he handled it and placed it in the lock. On the other hand, it is my lock and key.  We both wanted to do the right thing and at the same time neither of us wanted to pay for something that wasn't either of our responsibility.

This morning I described the situation to Jody Beal, the property manager at Weichert Realtors in Washington, DC.  She said the landlord should be billed. 

If you ever encounter this situation, don't just run with the above answer, as laws vary by jurisdiction.

If, as a landlord or renter you are ever in a situation where it is not clear/there is a dispute over who should be paying for a repair, as Judge Wapner said, "don't take the law into your own hands...", ask a third party, if your property isn't being professionally managed and you cannot determine the answer through reviewing your lease.  Try to avoid court. That could become more expensive than the potential repair. Hopefully mediating the issue answers the question and everybody walks away satisfied.

A number of investors retain a property manager because their job is to deal with such issues regularly, by drawing on their resources and experience.  In addition, as professionals, they don't get (hopefully) don't get as emotionally involved as the landlord/owner.  If the property isn't being property managed and you don't know a local property manager, please let me know and I will be happy to refer you to a professional who can review the situation.

If you or someone you know has ever thought of purchasing an investment property or converting a primary residence into an investment property, let's talk.

Life is good!

Call:  (301)943-4370

Weichert Realtors
Adam Bashein
Licensed in MD & DC
(301)718-4100 - ask for Adam

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