My landlord and I have a previously discussed arrangement where if I am able to save him a call to a handyman by dealing with an issue myself, I can ask for "whatever's fair" off of rent. Yesterday, a visit by the utility company took up a large part of my day. Not sure if I should ask for money and if so, how much, and how to phrase.
posted by SpiffyRob to work & money (13 answers total)
Backstory: My building has seven units and is the only rental property owned by my landlord, who lives 15-20 minutes away. We don't have a Super. For the most part, as problems arise, landlord will either fix himself or make a call to someone to take care of it. On top of this, I have been designated "building captain." This just means replacing lightbulbs in common areas, shoveling/sweeping the sidewalk, and dragging trash/recycling to and from the curb. When lease was signed, we agreed on $40/month off of rent for these services.
Less-Far-Backstory: A couple of weeks ago, landlord informed me that he'd be traveling more in the coming months. He then stated two things:
1. Building Captain duties would now net me $50/month with no change in responsibilities.
2. If I wanted, he could start checking with me when calls for help come in to see if it's something I'd be comfortable with taking care of. If so, he'd be willing to pay me "whatever's fair" as an hourly rate (as it would save him a call to a much more expensive handyman.) We discussed the limits of my skills (basic home maintenance, snaking toilets, etc etc.) We did not set an hourly rate for "whatever's fair." In general, I didn't think too much about this: There's not a ton I'd be able to do that most tenants couldn't do themselves, but hey, sure, why not.
Yesterday's Stuff: On Monday, Landlord sent an email to all tenants asking if someone would be around during the day Tuesday (yesterday) from 8-12 to let in the gas company as they had to change the meter. He also stated, to all tenants, that the gas company would need access to all apartments with gas stoves (5 of 7 units) to check them and relight pilots, where applicable.
I was home sick from work, so I responded that I'd be able to let them in. I didn't hear anything back until yesterday at 10:30 (in the window provided) stating that he had let them in himself, and they'd determined they needed another part, and would be back at noon. Additionally, he asked (everyone, not just me) if someone could let them in at noon. I agreed. He then responded, just to me, to additionally state that all I would need to do is let them in the front door and hand them the master key, and they could enter all apartments themselves.
Full details of how the rest of the day played out:
1:30: Gas company arrives (expected at 12.) They inform me that they cannot enter apartments themselves, and I must accompany them. The master key only gets us into 6 of 7 apartments. They state they cannot begin work until they confirm the seventh apartment doesn't have a gas range. I call landlord, he tells them it is electric. Gas company insists they must see it themselves. I call landlord back, tell him this, then I go back to my apartment. Total time spent: ~30 minutes.
2:30: Landlord comes to my apartment to let me know they entered the last apartment, confirmed it isn't a gas stove, and started work. Also states that they will need to re-enter all apartments with gas stoves once they are done to verify. Asks me to help them with this. States they should be done by 5:00. I tell the gas guys to knock on my door when they're ready.
5:15: Still no word from the gas guys. I head down there to see what's going on. They have pressure tests failing, so I go knock on everyone's door to tell them to stop messing with the ranges until further notice. Pressure tests are resolved. We go back to each apartment to check stoves. Then an issue with relighting the one until with a separate furnace (rest are on radiators.) When all is said and done, they're not out of there until 6:45. Total time spent on this phase: ~1:30.
So: Should I charge landlord for the two hours I spent on this? On the whole, that time didn't bother me in and of itself, I'm mostly pissed off that he had sold the responsibility to me as simply opening the front door for them, but it ended up being a lot more. Additionally, the only reason I did it instead of him seemed to be that he didn't want to do it himself, not that he couldn't (as he came down at 1:30 to let them into the apartment the master key didn't work on.)
The money isn't terribly important to me, but I feel like we'd previously discussed the concept of being compensated for my time in similar matters. Additionally, I don't want to set a precedent that I'm willing to do things like this on a regular basis without compensation. It was a coincidence that I was home from work yesterday, otherwise he would have needed to do this himself or have an authorized agent be there for a much longer portion of the day, which would have been considerably more expensive to him.
Finally, if I ask him for money, how do I phrase it, and how much should I ask for?