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Should Tenants Do Their Own Repairs?
Wear and Tear vs. Damage

Most often a property manager has received the dreaded midnight phone call from an angry tenant filing a maintenance complaint. Sometimes the problem may require a simple solution, however, there are times where the problem is more complex, requiring electrical or plumbing expertise. No matter the situation, the age-old question of, “Should the tenant fix it?” exists. To aid in the answer, here are some steps to take when considering who should be responsible for repairs. 

Assess Urgency:

First, determine the urgency of the situation. When a tenant calls, ask for a complete  description of the problem in detail, as well as an assessment of how urgent the situation is. When receiving this information, use your best judgement to determine whether the damage is a pressing matter to take care of now, or something that can wait until the morning. For example, a leaky faucet will survive the night, but a pipe burst requires immediate attention.

If the damage requires quick action, it is best to call an expert to handle the situation right away. However, if the damage can withstand some time, go to the property to assess the damage first-hand. You should also ask the tenant how the damage occurred. This will help you get a good idea of what type of repairs will be needed, which in turn, will help determine who is best suited to fix it. 

Tenant at Fault:

If the tenant is responsible for the cause of damage, and the damage is considerably small, then the tenant should also be responsible for repairing it. Examples of this include patching small holes in the wall, or replacing a broken light fixture. However, if the damage is considerably large and requires more complicated repairs, the property manager should be responsible for either fixing it, or hiring a professional to do so. In this case, the tenant should still be responsible for paying for the damage and repairs. 

Normal Wear and Tear:

If the damage is a result of breaking down from daily living, then the property manager should be responsible for repairs. However, the question of whether the manager should attempt to repair the problem themselves, or hire an expert still requires more thought. As a good rule of thumb, if the property manager does not have experience in making a specific repair, then he or she should consider calling a professional. A professional should also be called anytime a repair requires a license, or contains potential risk – both safety-wise and money-wise.  An example of this includes electrical wiring repairs.

Summary:

So, should tenants do their own repairs? The answer depends on the urgency, situation, legality, and your best judgement as a property manager. You should count on your tenant to take care of minute issues, however, a more demanding repair will require someone with special expertise. But, for any repair situation, always remember to communicate your solution with the tenant to avoid any possible confusion.