Many of the stories shared on this blog are a direct result of things going on in my life, and it makes perfect sense to outline those publicly and help others.
A few weeks ago, we came home to a fridge running at 65 degrees and a lot of spoiled food (we didn’t notice the problem for a few days). Thankfully, we were about to do a grocery run, so the fridge and freezer were both light on food and not too much was lost. Since we rent, we immediately contacted our landlord and set the wheels in motion to have it fixed.
Three repairs and a lot of confusion and frustration later, the end result was a brand new fridge. The good thing is the landlord was fairly helpful and did pay for everything. Through the process, I learned a few things I want to share, some directly from our experience, and some words of warning based on what I know could have happened. My 9 tips follow:
- Read your lease before you sign it. Appliance repair is often governed by terms in your lease, not your local laws, which was a big surprise to me. If your lease neglects to mention who takes care of repairs, you enter a big gray area that relies on your landlord’s good will and “standard renter expectations” to get things done.
- Clarify who deals with the issue up front. When something at home breaks, is it your responsibility to deal with the repairman or your landlord’s? The difference means hours spent at home dealing with the issue instead of being productive.
- Insist on reputable repair companies. Whether you have to deal with the problem or not, insist that a reputable appliance repair company handle the problem, not a fly-by-night operation. In the long run, you’ll save both time and money for the landlord, and a lot of aggravation for yourself.
- Immediately set time expectations for the repair. Based on the severity of what happened, communicate your expectations to your landlord about how quickly a repair needs to take place for you to be completely satisfied. For example, a damaged A/C in mid-summer is a much more critical situation than an oven that’s not heating right. This sets a basis for complaints later on if the repair is behind schedule.
- Review local laws and regulations. Read up on tenant-landlord laws in your area that affect your rights. Many municipalities also offer free legal help to renters and/or low-income families that could help with this research.
- Be extremely careful about withholding rent. Most laws require you to follow a strict series of steps before withholding any amount of rent from your landlord. Consult your landlord or lawyer first, or you might find yourself evicted with little legal recourse.
- Keep a healthy perspective. Most landlords who want to stay in business want happy tenants who stick around and pay their rent with pleasure. When something goes wrong, they may be frustrated about it, but they usually want to work with you as much as they can to resolve it. Seeing it from their perspective can help stop you from making unreasonable demands.
- Understand how payment for repairs work. Does your landlord pay the repair company directly, or do you have to pay them and get reimbursed? Do you get reimbursed immediately or do you take it off the rent at the end of the month? Being clear prevents misunderstandings and resentment.
- Have a contingency plan. Your plan doesn’t need to be anything formal, but understand what you’d do if each of your major appliances at home are out of order. Example: If the A/C breaks, I will…(rent a portable unit from the hardware store). If my washer breaks, I will…(wash my stuff at the Laundromat at 123 Anytown Lane). Don’t go crazy and worry about the convenience appliances though, like the dishwasher—you can easily do without that for a few weeks.
A good relationship with your landlord and a lot of patience will go a long way to speeding up the process and getting you the results you want. At the same time, don’t confuse patience with passiveness and assert your rights when appropriate!
Note: In no way is this post intended to provide legal advice about your rights and options as a renter. Laws in all municipalities vary, and you should do your own research and contact legal council with questions.
Photo by o5com