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Broken window in a rental- who pays?

somemomsomemom Posts: 9,120Registered User Senior Member
edited November 2009 in Parent Cafe
Managing a tenant for an elderly relative and they just left a message that a window is broken and gave us the cost to replace it.

Is that their problem because they broke it? Or my relative's as homeowner.

My first thought is that they must have kicked up a rock when mowing or something and then wouldn't that be their fault? If I had broken a window in one of the rental homes I lived in, I think I would have fixed it myself, feeling it was my fault, but maybe, since they are asking, I am not up on what is currently the standard?
Post edited by somemom on
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Replies to: Broken window in a rental- who pays?

  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Posts: 24,853Registered User Senior Member
    It matters how the window broke. If they broke it, they should pay for the costs. If, for instance, a lawn service broke the window, something that happened at my house, the person who broke it or the owner should paly.
  • DocTDocT Posts: 6,601Registered User Senior Member
    I have my tenants pay since the lease explicitly states that all damages in the house or outside beyond normal wear and tear are their responsibility.
  • younghossyounghoss Posts: 2,485Registered User Senior Member
    I am guessing you mean it had been in good condition, but broke while tenant was living there? You weren't completely clear...

    Under Ohio law, unless landlord breaks it, or his agent(such as a landscaper hired by landlord) then it is tenants' bill. Basically, the tenant has to return the home in the same condition he got it, minus normal wear. A broken window is not considered normal wear. In theory, if it was a rock thrown while mowing yard- and the mower was hired by the tenant, then the tenant could sue the mower to get his money back; but the tenant is still responsible for the cost of restoring the window to the landlord. In theory the tenants renters' insurance would cover it. But in practice, it is my experience renters rarely have insurance.

    There is the idea however, of doing a bit more than the law requires if a landlord wishes to do "something extra" for a particularly good tenant. It might be worth the cost, or offering to split the cost; not because of landlords' obligation, but as a gesture of good will. If I was going to pay all or any part of the bill(as the owner) I'd reimburse tenant whatever portion AFTER I had inspected the completed job. Early in my property management days I paid a tenant for work he performed, then after they moved out I saw they had just pocketed the $ and had not completed the work. Too late then to really do anything.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,120Registered User Senior Member
    DocT, good idea, I will read the lease. To further complicate the matter I am assisting the elderly relatives in foreclosing on the house; it is not in their name yet, but they are carrying all the paper and we have gotten rents assigned, so the tenant is paying them rent.

    Nothing complicated, eh! I sure don't want to lose the tenant or be an old poop with some one we hope will buy the house eventually (if they can sell theirs) but it seems odd that they would even ask the soon to be owners to pay!
  • LergnomLergnom Posts: 6,261Registered User Senior Member
    "You break it, you bought it" applies.

    The law descends from the old concept of "waste," that a tenant wasn't allowed to decrease the leasehold's value, allowing it to waste (away).
  • ConsolationConsolation Posts: 13,185Registered User Senior Member
    Are you talking about broken glass in a window, or a window where the actual frame or whatever enables it to move has ceased to function?

    If the former, it matters how it was broken, as others have pointed out. If the latter, it is probably the landlord's responsibility, unless it was broken by the tenant in the course of some egregious activity, such as heaving a chair through the window.

    If the tenant broke it, it should be covered by renter's insurance, assuming they have it.

    If this is a good and stable tenant, you may want to be generous and help with the cost, even if technically you could stick them with the whole bill. It costs a lot to find a new tenant, and a good one is priceless.
  • younghossyounghoss Posts: 2,485Registered User Senior Member
    Thanx for reitering my post, and my points Consolation. I'm glad we agree!
  • KelownaKelowna Posts: 2,666Registered User Senior Member
    Glass replacement is not that expensive. Especially if you can take the window to the shop - having someone do in on site is always much more expensive.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,120Registered User Senior Member
    Nearly $500 for a patio door side insert & install. And really odd, the quote I had faxed to me is dated from August

    I guess if the tenant does not admit to breaking it, the ultimate responsibility is ours.
  • mkm56mkm56 Posts: 3,062Registered User Senior Member
    My son was renting an apartment that had a faulty door latch on a patio door. One day it jammed, trapping him on balcony with no cell phone. He ended up breaking the glass while trying to pry door open. Even though this work order had been sent to landlord at least twice in preceding 6 months, son had to pay for it.

    Could we have gone to court and fought it, maybe. But not worth the hassle.
  • KelownaKelowna Posts: 2,666Registered User Senior Member
    Where I am a square foot of regular glass is about 4 dollars. Installation cost is minimal if you take it to them.
  • younghossyounghoss Posts: 2,485Registered User Senior Member
    somemom. you are telling us a little bit at a time, and for me, it isn't clarifying.
    So it's not a window broken at all, but is the glass in a patio door? And what's this about August? You mentioned no timeline(until now) for that to have any meaning.
    If your question has not been answered well here, could you post again, this time telling us all relevant facts, all at once, in something of a timeline?
    Did the tenant move in Jan of 1960? Sept of '09? Why is August so important? If this tenant has been there a while, it makes sense that if they broke the glass at the tail end of summer, that they may have gotten an estimate of repair then, but due to the cost, they may have taken no action. Now that weather is getting colder, they may feel a more pressing need to get it fixed, and they'd rather have someone else pay the bill.

    It still holds true that they are to return it as they found it. They are responsible for the cost of repair if it wasn't broken when they moved in. You may or may not get the money, but it is their responsibility. By Ohio law, even if vandals broke it, or if a burglar broke it, it is the tenants' cost. If they are claiming something like that, I'd ask them to fax me the police report they filed after the vandalism. If they didn't file one, I'd be VERY skeptical of their story. The tenant doesn't have to admit to breaking it to be his obligation. Look at it this way- YOU didn't break it, why should you have to pay for it? The tenants may claim they didn't break it too, but they have an obligation to return the house as it was.
    To go back to your post 1, no doubt it is going to be the owners' problem; because the tenant doesn't sound likely to pay it. The tenants' obligation can become the owners problem.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,120Registered User Senior Member
    Sorry, I am learning facts a bit at a time.

    Tenant moved in last spring under 'old' owner. About 6 weeks ago my relative began foreclosure proceedings so the info is trickling in and spotty. The tenant is now paying rent to my relative, but they will not actually own the home again until another couple of months elapse. The significance of August is that they had a deal with the old owner to make any necessary repairs and deduct them from rent, so why was this not fixed and deducted in August. Why now with no mention of it being old, it was just odd when the quote came through to see a date 3 months old.

    It is a fixed pane window the same size as a patio door, double pane glass with grid inserts. It is not a moving door. It was not broken when they moved in.
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 15,698Registered User Senior Member
    Somemom, is the property in California? (I ask because I am familiar with California law on tenant-related matters).

    What others have said generally applies, but there is an obligation that landlords have to maintain premises in habitable condition. If there is a dispute as to how the window came to be broken -- (or whose fault it is) -- if it effects the safety/habitability of the premises, the landlord is probably on the hook. Windows often end up broken through no fault of the person living in the premises - that is, it could be broken by a vandal, or because a burglar tried to break in -- or a neighborhood kid throwing a rock or a ball.

    I think you need more information. For one thing -- has this been fixed, and are the tenants now trying to recoup payment by deducting from the rent? Or is there a patio door with a missing pane or a large crack?

    If the property is being foreclosed there's probably something of a negative history in the landlord/tenant relationship. You can assume that the previous owners were probably not fulfilling all their obligations as to management. It could have gone either way -- and there may be something of an odd history to the rental arrangement itself. If the property is in foreclosure now, the owners were probably already in default of payment last spring when those tenants moved in. Is it possible that the owners were occupying the home, moved out when they could no longer pay the mortgage, and rented it out at that point in hopes of at least recouping some money for themselves? (I can see them figuring that they might as well have some income for a few months, collecting rent and pocketing it with no intention whatsoever to continue paying the mortgage). In such circumstances - they may have rented it in "fixer" condition to the tenant -- its fairly common for owners to rent property in poor condition to a tenant for a reduced rent and an understanding that the tenant will be performing maintenance on the premises. So it may be that when your in-laws came on the scene and started wanting to collect the full rent, the tenant is thinking that they are entitled to charge all maintenance costs off to the landlord. Or possibly, the previous, defaulting owners "rented" without actually collecting rent, perhaps renting to a friend who was also in financial trouble --- and the real problem is simply that the current tenants don't have the cash on hand to pay the rent due, so they are looking for some sort of rationalization to reduce the amount owed.

    Bottom line: you can't solve this problem by learning facts a bit at a time. If you are taking over a management role, then you need to meet with the tenant and get a full history. $500 is petty compared to the amount of money it could take to resolve a messy landlord/tenant dispute if there is a major misunderstanding. Obviously its in your interest for the meeting to be on friendly terms, but it should take place at the premises so you also have an opportunity to inspect -- as well as getting an understanding of the history, its a good time to go through room by room and determine what, if any, repairs need to be made and who the tenants expects will be making them.

    If things seem strange or if the tenant is uncooperative, you really need to get legal advice.

    If you are NOT going to be the person with management responsibilities, then you need to hire a property management agent to take charge of these issues. (Obviously your elderly relatives aren't going to be able to handle it well on their own).

    As a practical matter, if the tenants seem to be responsible people and are cooperative, then its worth foregoing a few hundred in rent at the outset to get the relationship off to a good foot.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,120Registered User Senior Member
    The patio side window is missing one of the double panes so it is a single pane now.

    No problems with them having rent money, they were through a service not a friend of the old owner, but he did have things going pretty casually with them.
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