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Should you reimburse your tenants?

Should you reimburse your tenants for emergency repairs –if so, what, when, and how?

You’re out of town for a wedding and miss two panicky calls from your tenants after midnight telling you water is pouring out of the ceiling. After a couple of attempts to reach you, they call an emergency plumbing service and charge it to their credit card.

They want you to reimburse them.

Who pays?

That depends.

What constitutes an emergency?

Discomfort or inconvenience, such as a non-functioning burner element, noisy neighbors, or a clogged drain that can wait until business days/hours, do not constitute emergencies.

An emergency is any maintenance issue that can cause injury to your tenant or the building.

Emergencies include:

  • Broken or burst water lines or frozen pipes
  • Flooding
  • Fire
  • Broken door or lock you cannot secure
  • Gas leak or broken gas line
  • Sewer back-up and flood
  • Water emergencies
  • Leaking roof
  • Carbon monoxide detection
  • Extended power outage
  • Intruder break-in
  • Non-functioning primary heating system during winter months
  • Malfunctioning electrical system

Many tenants are multicultural and may need to know which services to call for emergencies. It’s good practice to provide tenants with an emergency contact sheet with pictures and phone numbers of which service to call for police, fire, and utility services.

Additionally, since emergencies happen outside of business hours, providing tenants with an emergency service contact name and phone number so that tenants can contact the designated emergency contact for repairs gives you both peace of mind.

If there’s no emergency contact and the tenants couldn’t reach you after a couple attempts within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant is within their rights to arrange the repairs at a reasonable cost.

Although landlords are required to reimburse tenants for emergency repairs, let tenants know they are required to submit receipts, along with a written summary.

If tenants follow this procedure but the landlord doesn’t cover the expenses, tenants can deduct the repair costs from the rent.

If a tenant deducts repair costs from the rent and you believe the costs were too high, or the repairs were unnecessary, or caused by the tenants, the landlord can either:

In this case, the emergency repairs for a plumbing issue not caused by willful damage by the tenant. The repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. For the tenant to receive reimbursement, the tenant needs to prove the landlord was informed of the need for repairs, and be paid based on the evidence (receipt) from the plumber.

Do you have a tenant reimbursement story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it.

To take advantage of helpful tips, tools, and educational resources for DIY landlords, sign up for a membership for Landlord Fundamentals 101. To save even more time and money, combine Landlord Fundamentals 101 with one-on-one coaching to qualify for the Canada Alberta Job Grant.

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