Can my landlord charge me for a diagnosis?
January 7, 2013 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Long story short, my dryer was not working no matter what setting I put it in, so I had my property manager send a tech over to look at it. Apparently, it worked just fine when he came over to take a look. My property manager is charging me $50 for the tech on that day. Are they allowed to do this? I don't think it's written anywhere on my contract that they can charge me over a diagnosis. I will take this to small claims court if needs be.
posted by RaDeuX to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No one will be able to answer your question without knowing where you live or what your lease says about maintenance issues.

With that caveat, landlords will some times charge for false alarms, i.e. if a tenant calls to have something fixed and its not really broken then you have to pay. This is done to cut down on nuisance calls and to make sure that the tenants really pay attention before asking for a service call.

In all likelihood you're not "being charged for a diagnosis." You're being charged for calling to have something repaired when nothing was broken.
posted by alms at 12:00 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, is the dryer still broken for you or was the tech correct and everything's fine?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:16 PM on January 7, 2013

I'd say no. Not if it was not functioning, and now it is.

Were you there when the tech came over? Did he trouble-shoot it and find a problem?

Does it work now?

More details please.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:18 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's written into my lease that if I contact the landlord about a repair, and they send someone over but that person is unable to get in to my place (because the apartment is locked from the inside or if I had a dog loose in the yard, for example), they will charge me $25 for the visit. This seems similar--the repairman probably charged your landlord for a service call, even though nothing was fixed. Check your lease and see if it addresses this sort of thing.
posted by donajo at 1:02 PM on January 7, 2013

Yes, You requested a service, a service was provided, you have to pay for said service.
posted by kanemano at 1:21 PM on January 7, 2013

At a minimum I would at least have the conversation with your manager to find out where in your paperwork this is the agreed upon policy. If it is not in your agreement then you are at least setting yourself to ask not to be charged for this time and also make them aware that if you are going to be charged in the future then you need to have them tell you at the time you call.

Personally, I think your time is probably more valuable than $50 divided by the number of hours it would take to deal with small claims court, not to mention potential increases in rent to recoup the fee that they might charge you if you start to be a difficult tenant, not to mention your costs for moving if you end up having to/deciding to because of this. So I'd say after having the conversation if you aren't able to easily get the fee dropped, then just pay it. It doesn't seem like an unreasonable thing according to some other posters.
posted by thorny at 1:42 PM on January 7, 2013

Generally, no, they cannot pass this cost on to you if they provided the appliance to you.

Were you there during the service call? How did the technician get the appliance working? Are you sure the appliance isn't broken in a way that causes it to work intermittently??

I wouldn't keep a dodgy dryer plugged in. It could start a fire. I wouldn't use it, either.

Unless the dryer was unplugged and the tech simply plugged it back in, I would nicely acknowledge that it was wonderful that they sent over a tech so quickly, but it is unfortunate he found nothing wrong with the dryer since it absolutely was NOT working previously. Tell them (in writing after discussing it over the phone) that you have unplugged the dryer and are concerned about using it. I think you should ask for a second tech visit or ask to have a working dryer from a vacant apartment swapped into yours.

Dryers don't just stop and start working all on their own. This appliance is a hazzard and should be dealt with professionally.
posted by jbenben at 1:51 PM on January 7, 2013

In other words, if you want to argue this, I think you are going about it all wrong.

Just because a tech came out, it doesn't mean this appliance is safe to operate. The circumstances are that the dryer was not working, and this is fact. The tech found no problems, which means he did NOT find the cause of the original problem.

But I really need an update.

How long have you been using this appliance? Were you there during the service call? Did the tech inspect the mechanics of the dryer even though it seemed to be working? Did it turn out the appliance was just unplugged? Did the tech determine you were turning the dryer on incorrectly?

I can better speak to this with more info, but so far, this is my two cents.

Dryers are known to cause fires, so I would be unhappy unless the cause of the problem was identified and dealt with before continuing to use the appliance or keep it plugged in.
posted by jbenben at 2:01 PM on January 7, 2013

Where are you located? Tenants rights are radically different across the world, and even in different states of America.
posted by smoke at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2013

You'll be more successful with a non-adversarial approach. "Landlord, we didn't talk about any charge for Repairguy to look at my dryer, and I wasn't expecting this. Maybe you could drop this charge, and next time I'll know."

If it's the landlord's dryer, you definitely shouldn't be on the hook for repairs.
posted by theora55 at 3:17 PM on January 7, 2013

Yes, they can
posted by 1inabillionmistake at 4:33 PM on January 7, 2013

No. It's his dryer, in his home, and you're not paying for it's upkeep and repair.
posted by ellF at 4:34 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, they may be able to charge you for this. We just signed a lease in Texas and there's something written into our lease called a "trip fee." One of the things that can result in us being charged this trip fee is a maintenance person coming out to fix something that's either already been fixed by us or was never broken to begin with.

So, you may be on the hook for this and need to figure out exactly what the charge was called (so you can identify it in the lease and in the law) to determine whether the landlord has the right to charge you according to the laws of the place you live in.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 6:12 PM on January 7, 2013

Well I'm getting both yes and no, so I'll add some details.

- No, I was not there when the tech was. I was 200+ miles away at my mother-in-law's.
- I cannot find anything in my contract where I have to pay for the service when the tech has done nothing.
- Speaking of fires, I smelled something burning coming from the back of the dryer. I'll notify my landlord about this issue.

I will call my landlord in about 12 hours, so I will make a follow-up post.
posted by RaDeuX at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2013

You really need to look at the laws of wherever you are located. Google 'tenant legal rights + ' or some such thing. Then find the relevant section and come back here and post what it says.
posted by Salamander at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2013

I am not a lawyer, but I spent a long time renting. Where I have lived, this is pretty easy, but my advice is all totally hypothetical, because I don't know what your lease says or where you live.

If I had contracted for a tech to come look at the dryer, it would be on my dime. This would also have been a last-resort thing to do, because the dryer did not belong to me.

Tenants are expected to have enough common sense to not abuse the appliances, but they are not expected to be experts on them. If the property manager wanted to assess whether a tech was truly needed or whether I was just making things up or not hitting the "Start" button right or whatever, it would have been within the property manager's rights to just enter my unit and take a look. If they call a tech, they're...managing the property. Not my call. This is pretty much the whole point of renting.

Again, this is just anecdotal. Consult your tenant-landlord law for your local area and your lease.
posted by desuetude at 10:54 PM on January 7, 2013

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