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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
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    5

    Default Damage Claim for Cosmetic Damage to Air Conditioner Fins, Not Affecting Function

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Michigan

    We're finishing an 11-month lease as tenants in a four-bedroom home in Michigan. My son accidentally bent the fins to the external A/C unit in a few places. The landlord told us to pay to have them repaired, which we did. However, the fins still look bad, and the repairman says there is nothing more he can do to make them look good. The repairman also indicates the damage is purely cosmetic, and the A/C unit is working fine. Our landlord says we are responsible for purchasing a new A/C unit, because we are obligated to restore anything damaged back into its condition as of the start of the lease. In my opinion, replacing a fully-functioning unit for some minor cosmetic damage is completely unreasonable. Two questions: 1) What are my rights and obligations here as a tenant? 2) How would one go about estimating the proper compensation for damages of this sort? The A/C unit is probably 10-15 years old, and any loss in value we caused was far from equal to the cost of a brand new unit.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Posts
    1,010

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    You would owe for DAMAGES; since the unit is not damaged and runs well with the fins in their current condition (?correct?) and you have made the effort to improve the cosmetic look the idea that you are responsible for an entirely new unit is unreasonable.

    "Probably" means you really have no idea how old the unit is, do you.

    Gail

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
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    5

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Thanks, Gail. The unit does run well in its current condition. As far as the age of the unit, my conversation with the landlord indicated they hadn't replaced it before, and I know they've owned the property for several years. However, I don't know (and they may not know either) the exact age of the unit. Is there some sort of legal doctrine or precedence I can point to in order to help make my case here?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    17,129

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Quote Quoting rc_tenant
    View Post
    Thanks, Gail. The unit does run well in its current condition. As far as the age of the unit, my conversation with the landlord indicated they hadn't replaced it before, and I know they've owned the property for several years. However, I don't know (and they may not know either) the exact age of the unit. Is there some sort of legal doctrine or precedence I can point to in order to help make my case here?
    If the unit is still working properly you owe nothing. Hope you got the AC guy's results in writing.

    If you have to pay for replacing the unit (unlikely) you would only owe the depreciated value. The useful life of a home AC system can easily be 10 to 15 years. Your AC guy should be able to determine the manufacture date from the serial number and specs that appear on the data plate of the unit.

    Here's how it works. If you are moving out at the end of your lease decline to pay for the AC and see what happens. If the landlord withholds your deposit to pay for the AC you can bet he'll just keep the money without replacing the AC.

    Then you sue him in small claims court under the security deposit statute. Starts with 554.602:

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(q4z...ct-348-of-1972

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
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    5

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Thank you, adjusterjack. We are planning to meet tomorrow evening for our final walk through and the landlord couple are wanting to discuss this issue more then. So I'm trying to understand my rights as clearly as possible, and your input is helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    17,129

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Quote Quoting rc_tenant
    View Post
    Thank you, adjusterjack. We are planning to meet tomorrow evening for our final walk through and the landlord couple are wanting to discuss this issue more then. So I'm trying to understand my rights as clearly as possible, and your input is helpful.
    Here's something else that might help you.

    The Michigan Court of Appeals has this to say about damages:

    The rule of damages for property loss is as follows:

    "It is the settled law of this state that the measure of damages to real property, if permanently irreparable, is the difference between its market value before and after the damage. However, if the injury is reparable, and the expense of repairs is less than the market value, the measure of damage is the cost of the repairs."


    (Emphasis mine.)

    Bayley Products, Inc v American Plastic Products Co, 30 Mich App 590, 598; 186 NW2d 813 (1971), lv den 385 Mich 754 (1971); accord, O'Donnell v Oliver Iron Mining Co, 262 Mich 470, 477; 247 NW 720 (1933); Tillson v Consumers Power Co, 269 Mich 53, 65-66; 256 NW 801 (1934); Jackson County Road Comm'rs v O'Leary, 326 Mich 570, 576; 40 NW2d 729 (1950).

    This rule applies as well to damages for personal property injured through negligence.


    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_ca...en&as_sdt=4,23

    The decision goes on to discuss depreciation and other methods of determining market value but it's clear from the decision that market value is the equivalent of used value. That case has to do with buildings but the measure of damages doctrine is the same for fixtures and equipment.

    The used value of an AC system that might cost $2500 to replace is likely not more than 20%, maybe less if it's an older unit that's much less efficient than modern units.

    Since you can pretty much be sure that if you agree to pay anything he's not going to replace a working unit so ask him (in light of depreciation) if he is willing to replace the unit and give you the invoice and you will pay him 10% of the replacement cost. He'll probably back pedal so fast that you'll feel the breeze.

    Or you can just say no to anything he wants and you have the case law to back you up. Print out a couple of copies and highlight what I've quoted and hand him a copy.

    Bottom line: No court is going to give him an new AC on your dime.

    Come back to this thread and report the results of your conversation tomorrow.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Very helpful. Thanks so much! I'll try to remember to report on how things play out tomorrow, but we're moving first thing Saturday morning so I might be delayed!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    17,129

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Quote Quoting rc_tenant
    View Post
    Very helpful. Thanks so much! I'll try to remember to report on how things play out tomorrow, but we're moving first thing Saturday morning so I might be delayed!
    OK.

    Good luck tomorrow.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Quote Quoting rc_tenant
    View Post
    The A/C unit is probably 10-15 years old, and any loss in value we caused was far from equal to the cost of a brand new unit.
    You can probably figure out when the unit was manufactured from the model number and serial number. The model number will generally give you a range of years; the serial number will often pinpoint the exact year of manufacture. You can sometimes find information online, or you may have to contact the manufacturer. There's a chance that the plate with the model and serial number will actually specify a date of manufacture.

    As others have outlined, you don't owe for the replacement cost of the air conditioning unit. You at most would owe the depreciated value of the unit.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Compensation for A/C Unit Fins That Tenant Bent That Can't Be Repaired or Replace

    Thank you for the helpful direction, Mr. Knowitall. I'll see if I can find the serial number and model number on the unit.

    - - - Updated - - -

    A quick report on how things went down after the final walk through when we started discussing the A/C damage. The landlord started with the argument that we were responsible for replacing the A/C unit. I provided a copy of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that indicates damages should only be calculated in this case as market value before and after the irreparable damages occurred. What surprised me was that the landlord seemed to already be aware of what the law allowed in this case! So the documentation served not so much to inform the landlord about what he could ask for in damages as to show him that I was aware of what he could ask so that he could no longer exploit me for extra money. We ended up settling for $300, which I think was still plenty generous on my part, but a lot less than what he started out asking for!

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