Landlording requires a delicate balance between caring for your tenants and caring for your property. Your tenants are your customers, so you need to keep them happy, but your home is your product and a large investment, so you need to make sure it remains sound.
When your rental property needs a new roof, taking some time to be thoughtful about how you approach the work and communicate with your tenant can ensure your tenants remain satisfied customers who feel valued and respected. Let’s examine some things to consider when approaching roof replacement for your rental property.
Now or Later?
If a large storm badly damages your roof, repairs probably can’t wait without the risk of further damage and expense. A badly leaking roof is a habitability concern and is problematic for both you and the tenants. It needs to be addressed immediately.
However, if your roof is simply showing signs of aging and there are no significant issues, you may be able to select a more convenient time for the work. Consider whether it is best to do the work with tenants in place or whether you might be able to wait until the end of the lease period. Assuming the work can’t be postponed until the lease expires and the tenants vacate the property, here are some other considerations:
Communicate or Over-Communicate?
Keep in mind that it’s better your tenants hear from you a little too often than that they are surprised–and annoyed–when the roofing company shows up at 8am and starts banging around overhead.
Once you have selected a contractor and agreed on the basic scope of the roof work, notify your tenants of the upcoming project. Explain that the work is necessary and let them know you respect their space. Provide written notice, including dates, the scope of work, and any expectations of them during the process. That might include leaving open parking spaces, clearing yard decor, or accommodating a dumpster at the property.
If your lease or local laws require specific notification periods or have other limits, make sure you follow those and document everything.
Send out reminders a week, several days, and a day before the work starts. Ensure your tenants know how to contact you or your property manager if there is a problem once work begins.
Next Week or the Week After?
When possible, solicit your tenant’s opinion, particularly on the timing of the work. If they have guests in town for a week, that would be a bad time to have ongoing roof work. Work with them on the schedule to see if there are any days they want to avoid disruption. Showing them that you are attempting to accommodate them and make the process as unobtrusive as possible will buy you some goodwill. Hopefully, that will make your tenants more understanding and tolerant.
Stay, or Go?
Ask your roofing contractor whether it is feasible for the tenants to stay in the house or if they need to vacate during the work. You should also familiarize yourself with your local tenant laws in case there is a relevant regulation. If you need to provide temporary accommodations for your renters, work with them on location preferences and any special needs they might have. Again, this is an opportunity to show you are trying to work with them and minimize disruptions.
If the tenants are staying during the roof work, let them know what to expect. While some of the prep work will be your responsibility, there are things they can do to prepare for the roof replacement to make it easier on them.
Some landlords decide to offer to pay for a hotel even if the property is technically habitable during the work.
Insurance Funds or Your Funds?
Most rental property owners have what is known as a “landlord policy.” Check your insurance policy to see if it covers roof replacement. But don’t stop there. Some policies also cover necessary accommodations if the home is temporarily uninhabitable, which means they may pay for any essential hotel expenses for your tenants.
If you can wait on roof replacement until the tenants are out, your “loss of use” coverage may reimburse you for lost rent when your home is vacant for covered repairs.
Problems or Solutions?
No matter how respectful and accommodating you are, you may have complaints. Roof replacements can be loud, messy, and even smelly. Your best chance to address those issues is before work starts. Communicating what the tenants can expect will help manage expectations, and sharing suggestions from your roofing company on minimizing disruptions can make it easier. If they know to close their windows and perhaps seal off the attic, the dust accumulation will be minimized, for example.
You should also inform your roof service company if the tenants will remain in the home and ask them to do what they can to minimize disruption.
If your tenants are still unhappy, apologize again for the disruption and let them know you value them and respect their home. Consider offering to pay for a house cleaning service or providing a gift certificate for dinner. Those relatively small expenses can go a long way toward showing you are operating in good faith.
Tenants make roof replacement a slightly more complicated situation. Open lines of communication and clear expectations can help prevent frustrations. Your roofing company will do everything it can to minimize the disruption so your tenants can get back to enjoying your property, and you can relax knowing your roof is sound.