Can I charge a renter for repairs if I do them myself?

Written on October 12, 2017 by , updated on June 18, 2018

charge renter repairsThere’s no reason you can’t charge your tenants for repairs they’re liable for—even if you do the repairs yourself.

Landlords generally pay to repair leaks, electrical failures, and anything else that affects the habitability of the rental. They can pass on the bill to renters if negligence or recklessness necessitated the repair. The same condition applies when a landlord withholds repair charges from the security deposit after a renter has moved out.

In either scenario, there’s no reason why you can’t perform repairs and, if your renter is liable, charge for them. To avoid problems and to satisfy regulations in some states, itemize the repairs and charge a reasonable labor rate.

Normal wear and tear

Most states publish guidelines for withholding security money for repairs. It’s important to familiarize yourself with those in your state. California and New York, for example, allow landlords to withhold money for repairs over and above those caused by “normal wear and tear.” Many state guidelines incorporate that phrase. To get a handle on its meaning, read Landlordology’s Ultimate Guide to Normal Wear and Tear. Here are two examples of repairs for which you can bill a renter:

1. Broken appliances

The dryer may not work properly after a renter moves out. If that’s due to a faulty thermostat or some other part failure, it’s normal wear and tear. However, if the renters neglected to clean the lint trap and the dryer overheated, you can deduct the cost of the repair. You can also pass on the cost of replacing a garbage disposal damaged by misuse or repairing a dented refrigerator.

2. Damaged floors and walls

Scuffs on floors and faded paint are inevitable consequences of normal use and the passing of time. Burns on the floor and paint scraped from the wall by scraping furniture, children, or pets aren’t normal, though. You can charge tenants for these types of repairs.

Related: The ultimate guide to “normal wear and tear”

What does the lease say?

When it comes to upkeep responsibilities, the language in the lease matters. This is especially true for maintenance-intensive amenities like pools and spas. No language can override the basic need to provide a safe and habitable living space. However, the lease should cover what happens when renters’ negligence or recklessness are the cause of needed repairs. If the lease states that the choice of contractor is your prerogative, the tenant, by signing it, tacitly agrees to pay you or your agent to do the work.

Charge a competitive rate for repairs

A lease clause doesn’t provide a carte-blanche to overcharge for services rendered. In California, for example, landlords must charge a reasonable rate. Although that’s a vague phrase, it provides an avenue for dispute. Renters aren’t likely to dispute a competitive invoice for work done in a timely and professional way, but they have the right to object to being overcharged.

Rates vary from trade to trade. Electricians and plumbers can charge between $75 and $125 per hour, while painters and general handymen typically charge from $25 to $45 per hour. Rates also vary by locality. They are usually higher in large urban areas than they are in small towns.

You can use one of a number of online resources to set a fair rate for the work completed for renters. Some sites, such as Pro Referral, offer an online Q/A service to help with this.

It could be a win-win

Most state tenancy codes require renters to notify the landlord when damage occurs. When the damage affects the habitability of the premises, you must respond within 24 hours. If you have the tools and know-how to complete the repair, you can usually get the job done faster than a contractor. Contractors tend to have other commitments and may not prioritize your repair. A DIY-savvy landlord familiar with the structural details of the premises is an asset, not a liability.

Related: 10 most common repairs that you can do yourself

Act like a service pro

A service-oriented attitude goes a long way. Deferring to the wishes of people living in your rental—within reason—makes for happy renters and good communication in the future.

Provide an itemized statement

Outline any charges in a detailed statement. This applies whether you’re charging renters for work completed while they are living in the rental or if you’re deducting money from the security deposit after they move out. Some states require this. Even if your state doesn’t, a detailed statement is worth the extra effort for the protection it provides in the case of dispute. The statement should specify the following:

  • The hourly labor rate
  • The number of hours you spent on the repair
  • The materials used and cost of those materials
  • Any other costs related to the repair, including transportation and dump fees

Get feedback

It’s a good practice to check back a few days after completing a repair to give renters a chance to comment. They may simply thank you. They may also have noticed something you forgot to do. Complete the job to everyone’s satisfaction, and you will avoid disputes. You’ll also make the maintenance of your rental property a team effort, and that will benefit you in the long run.

Get our free newsletter

Join 200,000+ landlords

  • ​Tips to increase income
  • Time-saving techniques
  • ​Powerful tools & resources

9 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Tracy Scanlon

    I am quite certain this could get you into trouble in Chicago. The city itself is governed by the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO), and requires an itemized list for any repairs deducted from a security deposit. This ordinance is one of the strictest in the nation, and nearly every infraction carries the penalty of 2 times the security deposit. Tread very carefully here, tenants are often litigious and lawyers take cases on contingency all the time.

  • JS Properties

    My lease in CT states tenants are responsible for the first $100 in minor repairs. I just repaired a toilet handle, exhaust fan, kitchen cabinet hindge and replaced a light in the ceiling. Are these things I can charge the tenant ? Are they normal wear and tear? How do you determine what repairs you can charge the tenant for under this “rule” written in the lease?

  • laura gojara

    Can a property management co (when deducting from your security deposit after move out) mark-up receipts for any materials used, like paint, etc., by 10% INCLUDING 10% of the TAXES??

    Ex: Item costs:
    Item + Item = Sub Total.
    + Tax.
    = Total.

    × 10% of Total Amt = Mark-Up.
    Mark-up then Added to Bill.

    Can you Mark up the tax??

  • Sarah

    Our tenants left our rental home a disaster. 5 years of dust build up in radiators, on woodwork, and ceiling fans. 83 nail holes throughout the house and 26 wall anchor holes causing extensive damage to walls and ceilings, missing light covers in 3 rooms, filthy and stained carpets, moldy toilets, cabinet hardware is missing, cabinet doors are loose, scratches and gouges in one year laminate flooring, windows and screens so filthy you can’t see out them, lawn was not cut and now is over a foot tall. They removed bushes in the landscaping. House is in NYS. I want to charge them for the cost of repairing walls,repainting, replacing bushes, prof carpet cleaning, new light fixtures etc.

    Is it legal for me to withhold the security deposit?

  • Nichole R Taylor

    Ia it legal for a landlord to make repairs wothout advising you prior to the repairs being made that you will be charged for them? Furthermore, if they are allowed is it legal to request for them to take it out of your security deposit once you move out? This is in the state of California.

    • ann

      I would like to know about this too. Can a landlord return your security deposit, with deductions taken out for work they haven’t yet performed? They sent an estimate of work from a contractor along with a check that deducted the estimate amount.

  • Dorothy

    Is it legal in Florida for the landlord to charge the first $50 for every repair ?? And what about pool repairs?

  • Lizz Conner

    Is it legal or common practice for a landlord to charge a monthly fee for the refrigerator and stove? I live in Moundsville wv

  • Denise DLR

    I purchase home and the A/C ground unit compressor had very little damage and stayed that way. I rented the property with NO ANIMALS allowed. The tenant got a dog I suspected it and had him send me pics. The pics he sent had the same minor damage as when i moved out but now, I had to build a fence around the unit and the urine ate through the coils from the dog they didn’t have. How would i charge for this? If they dented the garage door, how do i charge for that damage?

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Be short, sweet and to the point.