Rent it Right
This isn't a sure winner for you. First, you knew about the improvements, so you can hardly say you had no opportunity to prevent them. (Granted, this doesn't amount to an agreement to pay for them, but it undercuts your side of the fairness argument a bit.) Second, it sounds as though these improvements were just that: commonsense upgrades that perhaps you, too, would have done in time.
More importantly, they may have increased the value of your property. By contrast, had the tenants installed a fancy wine storage closet or a studio-grade dance floor, you'd be able to say that these were unnecessary and unprofitable additions you never would have made, which might even have harmed your property's value.
On the other hand, given that you're going to sell a house you describe as old, you might argue that putting new fixtures in a bathroom that any buyer would remodel anyway is a waste of time and not a sound investment.
How you'll fare will depend on how the judge weighs these factors. If you're lucky, the judge will decide that the tenants were simply officious benefactors: people whose actions benefited others, but without the recipients' desire or agreement.
Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of "Every Landlord's Legal Guide" and "Every Tenant's Legal Guide." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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