How to Handle Tenants’ Unreasonable & Reasonable Requests
The landlord’s dilemma can be a rollercoaster, especially when dealing with tenants with a never-ending list of peculiar requests. From changing lightbulbs to expecting an endless supply of toilet paper, it’s as if tenants think you’re responsible for everything in the house, because you’re the landlord.
While some landlords want to be helpful, it’s important to draw the line. After all, you’re not running a charity here.
So, even when some tenants act like hotel guests, it’s essential to learn how to navigate them with finesse and savoir-faire.
You need a system in place for dealing with tenants’ requests, especially for tenants with disabilities, where their demands are reasonable. That’s because not meeting reasonable requests risks you getting sued.
In this article, we’ll look at reasonable and unreasonable tenant requests and what you can do to address them.
Reasonable Tenant Requests
Tenants come in all shapes & sizes and so do their expectations! If a tenant’s request is minor or improves the property it should be given serious consideration. Just make sure a “reasonable” request doesn’t expose you to additional liability.
- Painting a room a custom color: Typically, this should be allowed if the tenant agrees to paint the room back to its original color when they move out.
- Planting flowers: While this may seem harmless to allow, make sure they don’t plant anything illegal or go too crazy and plant a huge flower garden. They may weed it weekly, but your next tenant – probably not!
- Installing Keyless Locks: The only issue is making sure you have a copy of the key or some other access to your property. You can also require the tenant to leave it behind when they move.
- Ceiling Fans: Due to potential liability issues, it’s best if the tenant pays you, upfront, to have this done.
One of the most important types of tenant requests you should be aware of is those that relate to a person’s disability. These are sometimes called accommodation requests.
So, what exactly are reasonable accommodation requests? In a nutshell, they are modifications or adjustments made to a rental property that allow tenants with disabilities or special needs to enjoy and access their homes fully.
Reasonable accommodation requests can vary widely depending on the tenant’s specific needs, but here are some common examples:
- Ramps and Accessibility Features: Installing ramps or handrails to provide easier access for tenants with mobility challenges. Many states allow landlords to require the tenant to install these & remove them upon MoveOut at tenant expense.
- Accessible Parking Spaces: Having designated parking spots close to the entrance for tenants with mobility impairments.
- Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal Accommodation: Federal law doesn’t allow landlords to even consider service animals to be a pet, even if your property has a no-pet policy. Learn more about ensuring your tenants give you a legitimate emotional support letter here.
- Visual and Auditory Aids: Installing doorbells with flashing lights or providing visual smoke alarms for tenants with hearing impairments.
- Flexible Lease Terms: Offering extended move-in dates or lease renewal options to accommodate medical treatments or recovery periods.
Importance of Obliging Reasonable Accommodation Requests
There are many reasons why it’s crucial to oblige to reasonable accommodation requests. Apart from it being the right thing to do, there are legal repercussions for landlords who fail to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities.
Fair Housing Act
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), discrimination based on disability is strictly prohibited. If a tenant files a complaint or lawsuit against you for failing to provide what they need, you could face hefty fines, legal expenses, and damage to your reputation as a landlord.
Accommodating tenants with physical or mental disabilities can foster a positive and inclusive rental community. Happy and satisfied tenants are more likely to stay longer, resulting in reduced vacancy rates and improved tenant retention—a win-win situation for landlords and tenants!
Implementing a System
You must have a system in place to save yourself from any legal repercussions or damaging your reputation because of unmet reasonable demands. Here are 3 things you can do:
- Create a Clear Policy: Develop a written policy that outlines your commitment to providing reasonable accommodations in compliance with fair housing laws. Include this policy in the lease agreement or provide it separately to all tenants.
- Establish a Dedicated Point of Contact: If you’re working with property management, ensure you have a specific person to handle accommodation requests. This ensures that you promptly address all requests and nothing falls through the cracks.
- Offer a Standardized Request Form: Provide tenants with a standardized accommodation request form that clearly outlines what information they need to provide.
- Verify a Tenant’s Disability: When dealing with potential tenants with disabilities, especially those with physical or mental impairments that aren’t apparent, you must ask the person to provide proof of their disability. You can ask for a signed statement by a medical professional indicating that the tenant has a disability as defined by the FHA.
A well-structured system demonstrates your commitment to fair housing practices and ensures that you treat all tenants with respect and dignity.
Unreasonable Accommodations and Requests
While it’s important that you’re compassionate and accommodating as a landlord, some requests may stretch the boundaries of reasonability.
Unreasonable accommodation requests go beyond what is practical, fair, or within the scope of a landlord or property owner’s responsibilities. These requests may cause significant inconvenience, financial burden, or compromise the overall integrity of the property.
Here are some examples of unreasonable requests:
- Structural Overhauls: A tenant asks to completely change the property’s layout, such as knocking down walls or combining multiple units, which would require significant construction and compromise the building’s structural integrity. Only reasonable modifications that will help the tenant enjoy the home more fully should be allowed.
- Extreme Modifications: Requests for custom-built and expensive additions, like a private swimming pool or a home theater, are not essential for daily living.
- Out-of-Scope Maintenance: Requests for regular housekeeping services, minor inconveniences like changing a lightbulb, or yard maintenance beyond the usual landlord responsibilities.
- Non-Standard Appliances or Fixtures: Requesting high-end appliances, custom-built furniture, or luxury fixtures beyond the standard amenities typically provided in rental properties.
Importance of Saying No to Unreasonable Requests
As a landlord, saying “no” to unreasonable requests is necessary to protect your rental business and maintain a sustainable relationship with your tenants. Here’s why it’s crucial to stand firm in the face of these demands:
- Preserving Property Integrity: Granting unreasonable requests could lead to irreversible changes or damages to your property, affecting its market value and appeal to future tenants.
- Avoiding Financial Strain: Fulfilling costly and impractical demands can significantly impact your profitability as a landlord, resulting in you losing money in the process.
- Ensuring Fairness to All Tenants: Providing absurd accommodations to one tenant might create an unfair advantage or disadvantage for others, leading to resentment and potential conflicts among tenants.
- Preventing Legal Issues: If you consistently grant requests, other tenants might argue that you’re showing favoritism, leading to potential discrimination claims.
Implementing a System for Handling Ludicrous Requests
Dealing with requests beyond your duties as a landlord requires a systemic approach to maintain transparency and fairness. Here’s how you can establish a system to manage such situations effectively:
- Set Clear Expectations: From the beginning, be transparent with the tenant about your responsibilities and what accommodations are within the realm of possibility. Include a clause in the lease agreement that outlines the limits on modifications and accommodations.
- Promptly Review Requests: When a tenant makes a request, review it to assess its reasonability. You can consult with a property management team for different perspectives. And then provide a prompt response to the requests.
- Communicate with Clarity: Politely and professionally inform tenants when their requests fall outside the scope of what you can do. Provide a clear explanation for the decision.
- Offer Alternative Accommodations: While you may need to say “no” to some requests, try to identify any compromise or other accommodations that align with their needs and your property’s limitations.
- Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all accommodation requests, your evaluation process, and your responses. This documentation can serve as evidence in case of any fair housing complaints or legal issues.
When you have a well-defined system for handling unreasonable requests, you can manage these situations effectively with professionalism and uphold the integrity of your rental business. So, don’t be afraid to say “no” when necessary.
Strike for Balance, Thrive as a Landlord
Being a landlord and property owner involves striking a delicate balance between accommodating and maintaining a profitable rental business. By setting clear boundaries, preventing unreasonable requests, and having a system in place for reasonable accommodations, you can achieve harmony in managing your property.
Remember, it’s the right of a tenant with a disability to request reasonable accommodation. If, for any reason, you can’t deliver on the request, make sure you have a logical explanation to avoid any legal consequences.
If you need expert support to determine what are reasonable and unreasonable requests, Logical Property Management can do the heavy lifting for you so you can focus on making your rental business more profitable. Contact us today!