Damage Found During Initial Inspection

Hi, all. We did an initial inspection with the tenant for our 3 bedroom Fremont rental, and one of the double sinks in the master bath had been badly damaged with big chips and several cracks. The tenant took full responsibility and understands some security deposit will need to be taken to remedy this. I need some advice on deducting fairly from the security deposit.

The tenant thought we could run to Home Depot and easily just replace the sink since it looks fairly standard. However, the bathroom cabinets, granite counter, and sinks were custom ordered and a nice set, not a Home Depot special.

The company we purchased the bathroom set from only does cabinets now and no longer does counters and sinks, so we couldn’t easily get a sink from them for replacement.

Has anyone run into anything similar? I think we’ll need to charge parts and labor for the replacement of the two sinks to match. This set is only a few years old and still very nice. My greatest fear is we’d need to replace the counter in addition to the sinks in case we can’t find matching sinks that fit the current countertop.

The tenant does understand that the sinks would need to match and would pay for the parts and labor to replace both. He actually asked if he could do the installation to help save money since he needs to get as much of his deposit back as possible. If it turns out the whole counter and sinks need to be replaced, would the tenant have to bear any of the cost of the counter replacement?

I want to be fair, but replacing the cracked sink is not as simple as the tenant thinks it is. He said he’d research getting the replacement since he thought it’d be easy, but he’s now asking me what my estimate is for replacing the sink since he obviously wasn’t able to find an easy solution since we last discussed this during the inspection.

Thoughts on the best and most fair approach for repairing this and deducting from the security deposit? Thanks!

Not sure how to get a fair estimate in your case. But never, ever have your tenant do the repair work. His and your incentives don’t align. He just want to do a quick job and be done with. You are the one facing the long term consequence, if the work is poorly done.

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I would get an estimate from a two or three counter/cabinet installers and then present that to the tenant. This is the fair way to approach it.

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Here are the fair replacement costs that we do with tenants. Just showing the case of refrigerator. The life period or amortization period may vary depending on item.

You buy a refrigerator for $700 and it has normal life period of 7 years. You may amortize the cost $700 in 7 years for tax purpose. If the tenant damages at the end of 4 years of refrigerator life period, he spoiled balance 3 years of refrigerator life.

When you replace with new refrigerator (assuming same model costs now) with $910 (current rate), you can deduct 3 years of life period with old tenant which is (3 x 910)/7 = $390.

In case the amount goes high and tenant later challenges you in Small Claims Court, you can show the detailed itemized statement to court.

You need to evaluate similarly for your sink .


@Jil’s response I would agree with. Just to do a deeper dive, are we talking undermount or overmount sinks? It sounds like you did undermount sinks with granite over it but it is not clear from your posting. If overmount sink, I wonder if someone can just swap it out without really damaging the counter itself? As you probably know, materials from Asian supply houses around here are not as expensive anymore and is fairly plentiful. The labor is another story of course with both finding it and cost.

Thanks for the advice, guys.

@sfdragonboy, the sinks are under mounted. Yes, I’m hoping that the repair work will not damage the counter. Fingers crossed!

A smart tenant would have replaced them himself and you would never have known! Undermount sinks are not hard to replace. you just measure them and buy a replacement sink the same size. The trick is to make sure the drain pipes match up to your current sink to avoid any problems with your drain pipes.

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Hmm, is it really that easy to replace? Aren’t they sealed at the top seam (with counter) to prevent water from leaking through the gap? And isn’t plywood used in between there as well?

Come on, how many tenants have you encountered in your lifetime who would do this (instead of telling you at move out)???

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No they are not. They are connected to the plywood with wood screws and metal connectors. The sink in kept in place similar to a light cover. It just hangs from the connectors. The top never needs to be sealed because the sink never fills up with water and if it did you would rather have the water spilling underneath the cabinet rather than above.

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Ok, good to know @sheriff. I think mine probably do have at least some caulking to seal out stray water. Sounds like that would be relatively easy to separate (as opposed to some glue or perm sealer).

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I had a similar situation about a year ago. One day tenant called and said the bathroom vanity sink had a crack and started leaking. I bought the property remodeled so I didn’t know the origin of the materials, but it was a small under-mount porcelain sink with granite countertop and a pretty big piece of backsplash glued on the wall. I stopped by and took measurements then headed to home depot but they didn’t have anything that small. So I had to go online and there was a match so I ordered it. After the item arrived at the house the tenant measured it and told me it was way too big so I had to return it. After spending a lot of time doing research, I had to settle with a sink that’s a little bigger than the hole on the countertop but still able to fit into the cabinet. I had my handyman install it, and he had to drill new screw holes on the granite from the bottom in order to secure the new sink. The new sink is also deeper than before so plumbing adjustment had to be made. At one point before I made the purchase I was seriously thinking about replacing the whole thing as some vendors have the whole assembled units for sale that you just need to hook up plumbing, but what stopped me was the big backsplash glued on the wall on the existing vanity that I will need to rip off and repair afterwards.

From what you described I don’t see why you can’t replace just the sink. Have you got an opinion from a handyman or contractor on whether that’s feasible?

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Turns out the tenant really needed his deposit back and busted his hump tracking down the exact same sink and hiring a pro to replace the sink same-day. He did this after I contacted him to let him know I’d be getting quotes for the job.

We did the final walk-through yesterday and everything looked great. The sink looked good (had someone who is handy join me for the walk-through and got his seal of approval) and the house was virtually spotless.

I’m relieved it worked out!

@manch, your advice about not letting the tenant do repairs is sound, but this tenant is very Type A and jumped on getting it done. Hope his Type-A-ness translates to the replacement sink being OK for the long haul.

Thanks again for the advice, all!


Interesting turn of events. :smile: I have never seen tenants so motivated…

Good tenant. So far, all my tenants deny responsibilities even though in some cases, is pretty obvious the damage is recent. So far, I have yet to make tenants pay for any repairs and appliance replacement, I absorb them as cost of doing business.

Yes, really good tenant. I had one client like this and they stayed at home until they bought a home.

I behave no differently. Remember, I was the one that hardily ever raised the rent on my tenants. I have to be meaner now since things like water is costing a lot more. Business is business.

Mom and pop rental is not really business. In any case, mom and pop businesses are usually relationship based. I prefer to view rental as “Tenants paid me to take care of my house”. I view issues raised as something I would resolve if I’m aware of it, so I’m glad that they raise it before it becomes a bigger repair.

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I would like to think most of us behave exactly as you described. You have just been lucky. I tell you what, go ahead and stop buying liability insurance. Why do you need it? I mean, all tenants are wonderful and love you. Come on, get real, real fast. Believe me, if a tenant thought that he/she could make a gold coin off of you, he/she would. That is fact, Sir.

It is like exercise. In general, exercise improves people’s health. By no means will it eliminate health issues though. Life and medical insurance is still needed.

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Let’s use another example that we may know of personally or know someone else who went through this. I know someone who did unfortunately. Tenant is past due on rent. Ma and Pop owner decides to be nice and let it slide some. Charade continues to now months if not longer. Owner of course is eating it, but knows for sure it will resolve itself with the tenant paying all past due rents and interest. Come on, @hanera, don’t tell me you would not give notice and start eviction proceedings or at least consider it…