A tenant's pursuit of lost wages

Malfunctioning door is a burden, but is landlord liable?

By Inman News Feed
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Malfunctioning door is a burden, but is landlord liable?

Robert Griswold
Inman News

Q: Recently the garage door of the home I rent got stuck and I couldn't get my car out of the garage to get to work. I missed part of my job and I asked my landlord to reimburse me for lost wages. She said she doesn't have to. Is that true? I work on an hourly salary, so I wanted to bill her for the lost hours.

A: I would side with your landlord, unless the garage door got stuck because of an ongoing failure of the landlord to properly maintain the garage door. The reality of life is that things in any home or apartment will break. It is unfortunate, but if this was not a recurring problem then there is no way the landlord could have known it was going to happen.

Did you ever complain in advance and warn the landlord that you were having problems with the garage door?

While landlords need to be responsive, they are not the guarantors that nothing will ever break or go wrong in life. If the electric power goes out in your apartment in the middle of the night and your alarm clock doesn't go off at the set time, does your utility company reimburse you if you are a few hours late to work? I don't think so. I think you are being unreasonable.

Q: My sister lives on disability and recently hired a plumber to clear a stopped drain in her shower. The plumber said it was a hair clog and sent the landlord a bill for $137. The landlord turned around and sent the bill and a letter to my sister demanding that she pay because it was her fault. Who's responsible for the bill?

A: Many tenants are aware of the concept that their landlord cannot make deductions from their security deposit for items that are normal wear and tear. So I am sure that you and your sister are thinking that hair in the shower is part of normal wear and tear. Well, that is debatable.

Another way to look at it is that a shower drain clog can be avoided with a little care such as a hair trap over the drain rather than just letting the hair go down the drain and build up over time till the only solution is to call a plumber for an expensive service call. Your sister could also use products to keep the drain clean on a preventive maintenance basis. Remember that regular cleaning and proper use of the rental home is the responsibility of the tenant.

Q: We have rented a house for several years and every year before the holidays we have paid to have the carpets cleaned throughout the house. We are on a month-to-month rental agreement and just heard from the landlord that she is selling the home in 30-60 days. Fortunately, we have found a home to move into so we don't mind the move.

The landlord came by last weekend to do a pre-move-out inspection and to tell me what she thinks is beyond normal wear and tear. She was generally reasonable but she is insisting that we have the carpets completely re-cleaned or she will do it and charge us even though they were just professionally done a month ago. She says the new owners want the carpets to be sanitized before they move in. Can she do that?

A: I think your landlord is being unreasonable to insist that you pay to have the carpets re-cleaned so soon after you just paid to have it done. If she didn't sell the house and you continued to live there, the carpets would have been just fine.

So unless there has been some unusual dirt or stains in the last month, I would politely inform your landlord in a letter that you object to her proposal to charge you for a second carpet cleaning. You should include a copy of the carpet-cleaning invoice as confirmation so there is no doubt that you had the work done.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com.

Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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