Many times tenants offer to perform maintenance on properties. It may seem like a great idea, right? You save money and things get fixed with little hassle. Well, unfortunately, it’s not that easy and can lead to more problems.
Landlords need to ask themselves why the tenant is offering to absorb the time and expense of the work. In our experience, most tenants don’t want to spend any money. There are tenants who are honest and capable, but sometimes there are underlying motives that property owners should question.
- Maybe a prospective tenant wants to entice the owner to accept their application. They know their credit is bad so they offer to do some work in exchange for rent.
- They are looking for a reduction in rent and have financial problems.
- They wish to avoid having someone check the property because of their upkeep.
As they say, "there is no free lunch" - there are questions to ask and answer before accepting a tenant's offer to do maintenance. Do you really know if the tenant is capable of the work and what will the quality be? Is it a simple maintenance item or a job for a professional?
The easiest way to approach tenant maintenance is to treat it entirely as a business matter, not a personal or emotional one. The questions to ask are:
- Will this really save money?
- Will this create a landlord/tenant issue?
- Will this create any liability?
- Will this become a legal issue?
At first, it may seem you, as the landlord, are getting the best end of this deal. The tenant does the work for perhaps only the cost of the materials. If they are capable, this could work out for the owner's benefit. What if a tenant does not know how to do the repair? Different scenarios could now develop and none of them are attractive.
Let me tell you a true story I heard from another property manager...
A property owner paid for materials and reduced the rent; the tenant was expected to do the work. The job never got completed fully and ended up causing other problems. Now, to complicate matters, more money is required to hire a competent contractor because the tenant has created more damage.
Will this now lead to a landlord/tenant issue? The repair has gone sour, more repairs are necessary, the owner feels the tenant should reimburse him for the damage, and a bad owner/tenant relation develops.
It gets worse! The tenant moves out, the owner deducts the damages from the security deposit, and the tenant sues the owner.
Now there is a liability issue. The tenant is now claiming pain and injury suffered while doing the repair. The owner has paid a non-licensed person to perform work and the court looks very dimly on the situation. The insurance company is now involved and the policy may not cover this issue.
No owner wants to live through a similar or worse scenario.
This story may sound exaggerated, but as Property Managers, we know these kinds of definitely do happen. We hear it from self-managed owners, from our Property Manager peers, read court cases, and know that trying to save a few dollars can ultimately cost the property owner more money, not to mention great stress. Therefore, we take the steps to "Protect Your Investment." Instead of allowing the tenant to do the work, we contract with competent vendors who are licensed and insured to avoid unnecessary problems.