As you have probably learned the hard way, there are some property renovations that just won’t wait for a convenient time. Whether you have a tenant in place or are preparing to place one, there are certain considerations for timing your property improvements. If you already have a tenant in your property, the rental income will at least partially offset the costs of your repairs. Should you make Improvements During Tenancy? You will have to consider the tenant’s convenience and possibly make some concessions to them. If your property is not currently rented, you can take advantage of the vacancy to get the repairs done quickly. As always, time is money, and you will be losing income for every day that your property sits empty.
One of the Key Determining Factors
Is the repair required or is it an improvement? Required repairs include items like plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and essential appliances. Check your local laws. Some of these amenities may be required in order for your unit to be deemed habitable. Your municipality or your lease may also spell out how much time you have to rectify the issue. What good faith efforts must be made, or other remedies that the tenant might seek? Remember to allow time for the repair to be completed or for the replacement to be installed. These types of issues should be repaired immediately, whether you have a tenant placed or not.
A big concern in these situations is the tenant’s implied right to quiet enjoyment of their living situation. In most cases where you are repairing something and bringing it back up to the previous standard or better, you are not considered to be disrupting quiet enjoyment. Normal wear and tear is to be expected and will eventually lead to disrepair. Check your local laws for how much lenience is given when repairs are inevitably needed.
Don’t forget that in addition to your property insurance, you may have required your tenant to have renter’s insurance. The renter’s policy may compensate a tenant who feels their life has been unduly disrupted by the inconvenience of the repairs being made.
Aside from emergency repairs, you may also choose to make improvements such as painting, countertop replacement, new flooring, and the like. Projects like these, which are typically seen as elective, will not be compensated through renter’s insurance. These fixes may be cosmetic, functional, or both, but it does not mean that they are not disruptive to the tenant. These projects may keep a tenant from using a room, require them to empty out cabinets and drawers, or subject them to fumes or unfinished conditions. Performing upgrades at the end of a tenancy may further aggravate your renter, who will not be able to enjoy the improvements you are making to the unit. If you time your improvement to benefit an incoming tenant, be aware that your outgoing tenant may be disgruntled.
In the end, you should keep your tenant in the loop when planning to make improvements during their tenancy. Are the repairs required or desired? Some tenants might be flexible, and perhaps you can perform improvements while they will be out of town. Be aware of your tenant’s ultimate plan when they are negotiating with you and perhaps you can find some middle ground. Once you have agreed to any repairs or improvements, get everything in writing. You may need to write concessions that you are willing to make into the terms. This will keep you both on course and minimize misunderstandings and unhappy tenants and landlords.