Appliance Repair Addendums - How To Get Past "What Do You Mean It Broke?"
Anastasia Morgan - Thursday, May 30, 2019
To provide appliances or not to provide appliances—that is the question.
Or, at least, one of the main questions any landlord asks themselves, especially when they previously lived in their now-rental property. And it’s absolutely understandable. There are already so many potential clauses, addendums, and disclosures to factor in already. Now you have to factor in a new set of questions.
What if you provide appliances but your tenant breaks them and won’t admit it? What if an appliance you once knew worked like a charm breaks while your tenant is living there?
How in the world do you keep track of all that? How do you protect yourself? And who is responsible for the repairs?
Worry not, dear landlord, this one little document can ease your appliance-based worries: The Appliance Repair Addendum.
What are Appliance Repair Addendums?
Without getting too technical, an appliance repair addendum lays out two major facts:
Who is responsible for paying for/handling repairs—landlord or tenant.
What appliances are covered under the addendum and what are as-is.
Still confused? LawInsider has a great sample library that you can draw inspiration from (and get lost in...in the best way, of course!).
There are responsibilities on behalf of both landlord and tenant, and a repair addendum helps keep all your ducks in a row. Stephen Michael White at RentPrep.com not only suggests what appliances to include or omit from your addendum, he compares tenant vs landlord responsibilities.
If you want to include language in the lease agreement or addendum that puts the responsibility of appliance repair onto the tenant, you can put in a clause that states that you have provided the appliances for the tenant’s use but they are not part of the rent.
In other words, once the tenant takes occupancy, the use and any repairs as a result of that use, become theirs.
Some landlords take a middle ground and differentiate between damage or breaking vs. normal wear and tear.
For example, if a refrigerator needs repair due to tenant damage, he or she would be responsible for the repair.
If the refrigerator just stops working due to age or normal wear and tear, the landlords handles it.
Also, many landlords include language that puts responsibility on the tenant if they fail to report a problem with the appliance, like a leaky dishwasher, and the delay causes more damage to the appliance or surrounding area.
If the tenant does contract out for repairs, make sure your agreement states that you get a copy of the invoice for your records.
Also: Every landlord handles their property differently. Ensure you explain your repair addendum to your tenant with all responsibilities/expectations for each of you clearly written down.
Know before you go—age and condition of your appliances
First, figure out early on what is an as-is item, such as a swing set or above ground pools, versus what is a repair-worthy item, like a heater or electrical box. As-is items would be items that come with the home—nice to have but don’t ultimately impact the livability of the property. Keep in mind anything you put on the repair addendum as an item you will repair, you will actually have to repair it.
Tip #1: Make a list.
For the very bare basics, take inventory of all your appliances. Jot down approximate age, value, and condition. For more advanced record keeping, try something like this:
Tip #2: Take photos.
You’ll want to have visual record of appliance conditions. Plus, take shots with the appliance’s serial number and should you ever need to dispute something with the tenant (in court or otherwise) you’ll have a record at your fingertips. Make sure you store the photos some place that’s secure and in a location you can remember. Also add the serial numbers to the list mentioned in Tip #1.
Tip #3: Have all non-as-is appliances serviced/inspected.
Unless you have an appliance you don’t care about replacing—such as a $75 stove from Craigslist—be sure to have all appliances inspected and serviced appropriately. Not only could you save money in the long run, your tenants’ satisfaction and your reputation would remain positive.
Who pays for repairs?
So, there are a lot of questions in providing appliances in a rental property: Will the tenants pay for the repair? Will they pay for the replacement? What if the tenants "don't have the money for the repair right now"? Will it damage my property in the long run?
First, take a deep breath.
Feeling better? Centered? (Om...om...) Good.
Who pays for the cost of repair comes down to three main factors.
Anything you’re willing to pay for that doesn’t strictly affect the habitability of the property should be included in the appliance addendum. Remember that this does make you responsible for paying for any damages. Leave out anything you don’t want to pay for (again, so long as it does not affect the property’s habitability/structural integrity).
Repairs: If & When
Things break. It’s a fact of life. You may be asking, “If I have to repair/replace an appliance, do I have to fix it immediately? What if it’s on the weekend or in the middle-of-night? I don’t want to pay exorbitant rates! Couldn’t it wait until Monday morning?”
The answer: It depends.
If it’s an as-is convenience appliance like a dishwasher, no. Out of courtesy to the tenant, try to get someone out to fix it as soon as possible.
If the heater went out and it’s the middle of winter, YES. That affects property habitability. Not fixing a habitability-impacting appliance is against the law as the tenant’s life could potentially be put at risk (exception: heater breaking during summer, but who uses a heater during summertime?). You could end up in a legal battle that you will absolutely lose; it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep the tenant safe and the property livable.
While not strictly required, in the case of a non-critical appliance breaking with a delay in repair time, giving a tenant a goodwill/inconvenience fee or small rent credit could help smooth over any sore feelings. Again, not necessary. But definitely a nice gesture.
And in case you don’t want to deal with late night phone calls or maintenance management, a property manager like (like Navy to Navy) can handle that for you—quite affordably, too.
Do I HAVE to include appliances with my rental?
Yes and no.
No, you don’t have to include the non-essential, as-is appliances like toasters, microwaves, and washing machines. However, as stated previously, there are certain appliances that must be provided and kept in working order so as to maintain a property’s habitability. More than likely, though, you will have some appliances in your rental. Biting the bullet and creating an appliance repair addendum will save you so many headaches. As a plus, knowing what you consider an appliance can be helpful at tax time, especially if you had to do any major repairs, replacements, or installs.
So our recommendation is to save yourself some trouble and get a solid appliance repair addendum put together. And don’t forget that property managers like Navy to Navy have tons of experience and are here to help make your life easier—and know a thing or two about addendums of all sorts.
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