Waiting for the Repair Guy

My tenant’s stove is broken and the service company has given me a four-hour window during which they will arrive. If I give the tenant proper notice, can I expect her to be home until the work is finished and the service person leaves? If not, what should I do?

There is no proper notice to require a tenant to be home to allow entry of a service technician to repair an appliance. You may be thinking of the standard Notice to Enter when a landlord needs to enter a tenant’s unit. Civil Code Section 1954 discusses a landlord’s obligation to notify a tenant about entering the unit in order to make repairs. A Notice to Enter is when the landlord gives the tenant reasonable notice in writing of the landlord’s intent to enter with the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. Alternatively, a landlord and tenant may agree orally for an entry to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services, but it is always wise to follow up with the date and purpose of the entry in writing.

You should send your tenant a Notice to Enter with the information about the when and why of the entry. However, your question indicates you want the burden of waiting around for the stove technician to be placed on the tenant. The fact is, while you can casually inquire as to whether the tenant might be home for the visit (perhaps they are retired or telecommute), the tenant has no obligation to physically be there. Effectuating a repair of a housing service is one of your duties as a landlord, not a duty of your tenant.

If the tenant wanted to install cable or have a repair of some other service that you did not provide as a part of the tenancy, it would clearly be the tenant’s obligation to be present to allow the technician into the unit. However, I am assuming that you provided the stove at the inception of the tenancy as part of the rental unit, and thus the obligation to repair it is yours, as well as the obligation to make sure the repair occurs.

More often than not, small property landlords have two jobs: landlord and then their regular 9-5 job or what they often self-describe as their real job. Landlords should not sell themselves short; being a hands-on landlord is just as real a full time job as any other job. When things are going well, one can balance the two jobs, but occasionally, the two may conflict. Remember, being a landlord is a profession with serious responsibilities and obligations. Failing to make repairs could result in the tenant complaining to the Rent Board, Department of Building Inspection, or worse, having a valid defense to a possible eviction action you may have to pursue.

Sometimes it is frustrating when a landlord needs to take time off their 9-5 job in order to do something seemingly insignificant like wait for a technician. However, for most small landlords, the apartment investment is one of your most valuable assets, and thus you need to treat it accordingly. If you find that the time it takes to be hands on interferes with the 9-5 “real” job, you may want to look into hiring a professional property manager to assist in maintaining the property.

–Marina Franco

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