Be Wary of Work Orders Reported by Tenants Paying Rent Late
Written by David Lowrey, Owner of Stress Free Property Management
Have you ever noticed when a tenant is late with the rent they start reporting repairs that are needed? This sort of behavior ends up costing you a lot of money in unnecessary repairs, aggravating conversations with the tenant, and constant fights about whether the late fee will be paid. Am I right?
As an amateur student of psychology over the years, I’ve formed an opinion and a system for dealing with this situation more constructively.
First, as I’ve mentioned before, don’t give your phone number to tenants. By communicating only in email, you save yourself from these “soul destroying” conversations. Second, do not ever allow the conversation about repairs get connected with paying rent on time. If you do, you are giving the tenant a “free pass” in paying late fees that they will use against you every month.
Of course, you need to maintain the home according to proper standards. But, I’ve stopped automatically putting in repair requests, when I’m dealing with a tenant that owes me rent. I make them provide detailed pictures. If the pictures don’t clearly show some sort of emergency, I will put off until a legitimate work order is reported. This way I’m not spending a bunch of money to fix minor things that is only being reported, as a way to “save face” when you are trying to collect rent. For example, tenants might report a closet door off the rails and or the refrigerator shelves are cracked. These sorts of repairs are minor and can wait.
The way we side step these minor repairs, when rent is late, is to require they send photos and then stress that the rent and late fees are still due. The late rent and repair requests have nothing to do with each other unless you allow the tenant to tie them together. By requesting the tenant do additional work, you are throwing the hot potato “repair item” back in their lap.
The bottom line is to stay off the phone as much as possible. If you do need to talk, block your number when you call the tenant. Don’t get drawn into a conversation of how all these repairs are needed and allow them to delay paying rent. Make the tenant provide photos and description of work. If repair is minor, delay until a necessary repair item is reported and do them all together.