Tuesday, September 14

Frugal Landlord - Is this an "Emergency"?

If you aren't up for a rant, you might want to skip this post.

I had a surprise emergency expense earlier this month. I say "emergency" in empathizing with my tenant although if I were living in the house I would hardly consider this an urgent repair. The A/C went out over Labor Day weekend. Now, the temperatures over the weekend ranged from 50(!) to the upper 80s. Are you kidding me? An emergency?

The tenant called me Friday and asked where the filter was located. At that time she did not tell me the unit was not working. Since this tenant has been living there for two years, I was really displeased to think that in two years the filter had never been changed. I include a statement in my lease that requires tenants to change this regularly (alas, it rarely happens).

Saturday the tenant called and insisted something had to be done: the air conditioner wouldn't turn on. They were burning up. I arrived to find them laying in the floor of the living room with three fans on. Seriously? It was in the mid-60s outside when I arrived. It was a holiday weekend, so getting someone out to the house was a challenge as well.

I try to be the absolute best landlord around. Keeping my tenants in place generally is the most cost-effective strategy since there's a good bit of cost involved in vacancies, from lost rents to repairs and cleaning. The A/C unit is old - I knew eventually I'd be replacing it, just not when.

To make matters worse, the tenant called me later Saturday and said she knew an HVAC repairman and was calling him. I did not want to stir up any drama, so I told her that was fine. Still, if I have to pay for a repair, particularly a major one, I'd like to decide who I call. I didn't pay for a 10 year subscription to Angie's List so that my tenants could just call anyone out to fix something.

How would you have reacted? On the one hand, the unit was old and I knew it. On the other hand, was it reasonable for the tenant to insist on such a timely replacement? My air conditioner has been completely turned off for the last three weeks... it's just not that hot outside. Had I been able to wait until after Labor Day, I would have been able to call on my own HVAC repairman, and coming up with funds when banks are closed... let's not even go there.

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