Landlord charges a deductible for repairs on the property?
April 6, 2015 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Can my landlord apply a charge to every repair that is made on the house, necessary or cosmetic, while I live in the home?

First, I'm renting a house in Atlanta, Georgia. I've lived in the city for twelve years, lived in the house for two, and never needed the landlord to do anything until very recently. A few weeks ago, a pipe burst outside the house, and The landlord sent an emergency plumber to deal with it. He then told me that there was a $50 "deductible" on all repairs to the property, and I'd be paying that and he would take care of the rest.

My question is, is this a normal thing that's done, first of all, and if not, is this even legal? I've never heard of anything like this before, and just want to make sure everything is on the up and up before I pay anything like this again.
posted by ASoze to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, that's bullshit.
posted by notsnot at 6:59 PM on April 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

That is pretty bullshitty and not at all normal in my experience, unless the pipe bursting was somehow totally your fault. I charge my tenants only for repairs that are obviously and directly their fault- say, they backed into the house with their car (actual example).
posted by charmedimsure at 7:06 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is it in your lease?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:06 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth, there is a clause like that in some leases. It's only enforceable in some jurisdictions. Is there any mention of that in your lease?
posted by mercredi at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do you have a lease or rental agreement or some other contract you signed? Finding it and reading it is your first task and, most likely, your best defense against skeevy practices.
posted by peacay at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2015

IALL, although not a LL in Georgia.

This strikes me as not only bizarre, but also completely out of order. As always:

1) What does your lease say?
2) What do your local tenant regulations say?

My lease stipulates that the tenant is on the hook for anything that they've actually done to the house (e.g., they break a window, set fire to the kitchen...). I absolutely do not get to charge the tenant for things like exploded plumbing. That's part of the whole "I own property and need to maintain it" routine.

Your LL does not get to invent charges that aren't in the lease. If the lease says nothing about this "deductible," you may wish to contact a local tenants' rights association for advice about how to tell him that you aren't going to comply with this request. (Even if the lease does say something about's the landlord's responsibility to maintain habitability, and pushing that off on the tenant is the sort of thing for which lawyers were invented.)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

On preview: as peacay points out, you will need to find out if this deductible, if it's in your lease, can be legally enforced in the first place.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:09 PM on April 6, 2015

hahhahahaha. This is crazy. Look at lease, call tenants rights group. Pop popcorn, take a nap - your landlord is crazy.
posted by Toddles at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

You absolutely must check with a tenant's rights group in your area because they probably have a lawyer on staff and I am not a lawyer. I would like to point you to the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated. Specifically, OCGA 44-7-2(b), which reads:
In any contract, lease, license agreement, or similar agreement, oral or written, for the use or rental of real property as a dwelling place, a landlord or a tenant may not waive, assign, transfer, or otherwise avoid any of the rights, duties, or remedies contained in the following provisions of law:

(1) Code Section 44-7-13, relating to the duties of a landlord as to repairs and improvements;

(2) Code Section 44-7-14, relating to the liability of a landlord for failure to repair;...
And OCGA 44-7-13, which reads:
The landlord must keep the premises in repair. He shall be liable for all substantial improvements placed upon the premises by his consent.
And OCGA 44-7-14, which reads, in part:
...the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.
You can also have a read of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs' Landlord Tenant Handbook.
posted by fireoyster at 7:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for your help thus far. I'm still going through digital copies to find the lease, but the landlord made mention of this existing in a lease document, though I tend to be quite thorough about riding things before signing them, and I remember no such clause. (As I said, though, I'm still going back through my scanned documents to find the official document.)
posted by ASoze at 8:23 PM on April 6, 2015

Atlanta Legal Aid has a tenant rights brochure, and it says, "Georgia law says that a landlord cannot make a tenant make or pay for repairs, unless that tenant, his/her family or guests caused the damage."

There may be a free legal clinic in your area where anyone can ask quick legal questions about how the law applies to their specific situation and get ideas on how to respond - Georgia Legal Aid has a find legal help page that can be searched by county, and the phone numbers for Atlanta Legal Aid are listed on the tenant rights brochure.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:26 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know your area but it is extremely unlikely that it matters at all what's in your lease as far as this goes. "call tenants rights group. Pop popcorn, take a nap - your landlord is crazy" is a good summary.

Re. "before I pay anything like this again" -- please call the local tenants' advisory whatever and ask how to go about retrieving the $50 you were scammed out of. If only for the sake of this jerk's future tenants.
posted by kmennie at 10:45 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I lived in a place where the landlord pulled this. Repeatedly. I ended up deciding it wasn't worth it to go to small claims over... $100 or something, but it became an utter nightmare when i moved out when they not only kept my entire deposit, but tried to collect another ~$1200 from me.

Make sure you save the info of whatever tenants rights organization you speak to, because you're going to need them again when you move out. All kinds of "damage" from small leaks, wind storms knocking shoddily mounted downspouts off, etc is going to be attributed to you and they're going to try and extract cash. Mark my words.

It's not normal, and it would blow my mind if it was legal where you are. But be wary of ending up in a jousting situation with it where say, your fridge burns out but the guy won't replace it until you pony up $50(i ended up in that exact situation, over that exact amount. i had no fridge for a month and... yea, ugh)

Having been through everything i've been through, i'd be making plans to move the instant a landlord tried to pull this on me. NOPE. It's a sign of very bad, tiresome things to come.
posted by emptythought at 2:40 AM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, more information about finding an attorney and free or low-cost legal assistance is available at the MeFi Wiki Get A Lawyer page. Some attorneys are willing to provide free first consultations, and it may be very helpful to speak with an attorney for ideas on what to do.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2015

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