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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    5

    Default How to Determine if a Landlord's Repair Charges Are Fair

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

    Please help. I know nothing about home maintenance and would appreciate some advise here.

    We have sliding mirrored closet doors in our bedroom. Last year the mirror on one door cracked when it went off the rails and fell. Maintenance staff took the door away and we did not bother replacing it.

    I always assumed the doors were made of wood. Last week I decided to replace the closet door and telephoned my landlord for a cost estimate. He claims my closet doors are actually custom made aluminum doors and the cost to replace just the cracked mirror is $500 ! He further claims that we cannot go with Home Depot or Lowe's but with a smaller vendor that he contracts with to replace the cracked mirror.

    When I checked online I found that aluminum doors are indeed more expensive. However, prices online include the cost of the closet door and not just the mirror ! He also would not give me a valid coherent response as to why we cannot get it replaced by Home Depot or Lowe's but have to go with his particular contractor ?

    Finally, he claims it is my responsibility to replace the mirror fully. Although this was not wilful damage on my part I did not contest this. However I don't want him to get brand new closet doors on my dime. Is there anything I can do legally to ensure that the costs he's charging me are legit and fair and that he's being truthful in his claims that Home Depot or Lowe's are not able to replace the "custom fit closet doors" ?

    Please help. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
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    2,745

    Default Re: How to Determine is Repair Charges Are Fair

    I'm not sure there's a legal issue here. The way to ensure that a price is "fair" is to engage in comparison shopping.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    4,301

    Default Re: How to Determine is Repair Charges Are Fair

    Did you cause the door to fall off the rail or was it a failure of the door/rail?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    5

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    Quote Quoting PayrolGuy
    View Post
    Did you cause the door to fall off the rail or was it a failure of the door/rail?
    I always had trouble moving the door - it would frequently get stuck on the rails and made it difficult to access the entire closet. Incidentally, my son now says that the mirror never cracked but fell off the frame intact when the closet door slipped off the rails and fell on the thick carpet. He has a better memory than I do.

    My whole issue really is if the landlord has the right to demand that we can only go through their "approved vendor" even if the prices are much higher, than say from Home Depot or Lowe's ? The landlord does not want me to get quotes from multiple contractors and I wonder if they have the legal right to insist on this because they are passing down the cost to me ?

    In any case should I legally only have to go through this pricey contractor ? This is a corporate landlord and I am dealing with the property manager btw. How can I fight this ?

    Quote Quoting ClosetDoor
    View Post
    I always had trouble moving the door - it would frequently get stuck on the rails and made it difficult to access the entire closet. Incidentally, my son now says that the mirror never cracked but fell off the frame intact when the closet door slipped off the rails and fell on the thick carpet. He has a better memory than I do.

    My whole issue really is if the landlord has the right to demand that we can only go through their "approved vendor" even if the prices are much higher, than say from Home Depot or Lowe's ? The landlord does not want me to get quotes from multiple contractors and I wonder if they have the legal right to insist on this because they are passing down the cost to me ?

    In any case should I legally only have to go through this pricey contractor ? This is a corporate landlord and I am dealing with the property manager btw. How can I fight this ?
    Any help ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    Home Depot and Lowes are not contractors. They are hardware stores. They also don't sell every hardware or home related product, so we would have no way of knowing if they sell the door at issue or replacement parts. However, if you are being charged a price for a door that is markedly higher than the price for the exact same door through Lowes or Home Depot, then you have a basis to argue that the landlord's charge for that door is unreasonable.

    It is not clear if you are being asked to pay the cost of repairing the broken door, if you are being told that the door cannot be repaired and must be replaced, or if you are being asked to replace a door because the landlord's employees cannot figure out where they put it (or they discarded it) after removing it from your unit even though it could have been repaired. Please clarify.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    5

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post

    It is not clear if you are being asked to pay the cost of repairing the broken door, if you are being told that the door cannot be repaired and must be replaced, or if you are being asked to replace a door because the landlord's employees cannot figure out where they put it (or they discarded it) after removing it from your unit even though it could have been repaired. Please clarify.
    Hello,

    The thing is that I am not sure what I am being charged for. I did not get an itemized invoice although the emailed quote said that the $500 includes the cost of "material", labor and all taxes.

    When I checked online I saw that a brand new mirrored aluminum closet door costs $500. When I asked the leasing agent about this and if they were actually charging me for a new door, she claimed ignorance and her exact words were "it could just be this vendor". I have this in email from her.

    As I am not handy I don't know how easy or difficult it is to stick a mirror to the door. I believe I shouldn't be held responsible to pay this because I did not intentionally damage the door. It went off the rails and fell off, and the mirror fell out. When maintenance came around I didn't ask for the door to be reinstallled as the closet was so much easier to access without the door.

    My son says that the mirror never cracked so they shouldn't charge us for even the mirror. In any case EVEN if the mirror fell off the door when the door went off the rails while being moved and did get cracked, isn't this due to faulty equipment and not intentional property damage ?

    Please help me.

    Do they have the legal right to demand that I use their pricey "preferred vendor" ? Should I even have to pay for this ? Could you help me please and let me know what to tell them / how to approach this ?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    98,846

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    If you want more information from the landlord, ask for more information. If they won't give you more information and you feel that it is worth the investment of your time and money, you can sue for the return of any money withheld in small claims court, where they will have to explain their charges. We cannot promise that you would prevail in the lawsuit, but you would find out about how the $500 figure was reached.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    Mr Know It All,

    Maintenance has confirmed that they have the door and it's "the mirror" that is costing this much. I also emailed the glass contractor for a detailed quote to replace the broken glass - he's charging around $3 per square ft of annealed and $6 for the tempered glass IF we go with him and additional mark up if we just buy the glass from him. He now wants us to pay the estimate charges if we don't use him to install the glass ! I was never given an option to call around for estimates on the phone - should we ask the landlord to share these "estimate" costs ? Please advise.

    The material cost for annealed glass appears to be half the cost of the material cost for tempered glass. So should the cost for installation for both options be the same ? The window only had annealed glass when it was broken and I don't want them to get an upgrade on my dime. I think he may come back claiming that it is "harder" to install the annealed glass than tempered glass ! BTW, my lease does not require me to use a landlord's specified contractor.

    Please advise.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    18,340

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    The reality of landlord-tenant relationships is when the tenant breaks something the landlord fixes it and hands the tenant the bill. It's the landlord's property, the landlord calls the shots. The tenant has no say in the repairs or replacement at all. Period. I don't know why this landlord has allowed your involvement thus far, he was foolish to do so.

    At any rate, you don't have the right to get your own estimates, you don't have the right to choose the source for materials, you don't have the right to engage contractors of your choice. You do, however, have the obligation to stand aside and let the landlord do what he has to and pay the bill. And, by the way, none of that has to appear in your lease.

    If you want to argue that tenant didn't cause the damage I call your attention to:

    I always had trouble moving the door - it would frequently get stuck on the rails and made it difficult to access the entire closet.
    Did you report that condition to the landlord, in writing, when it was happening? That's what you should have done and gotten it on record that there was something wrong with the door. Once the door falls off the presumption is that you did, or failed to do, something that resulted in the damage and without prior documentation, you have no proof that it wasn't your fault.

    As for the cost of the work, my property claims adjusting experience tells me that $500 (give or take) is not unreasonable.

    The lesson here is this: Pay attention to what's happening where you live and photograph and report minor issues to the landlord in writing as soon as they are discovered. Then it's the landlord's choice on what to do about it. If he does nothing and the issue becomes major, your documentation protects you from a big repair bill.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    5

    Default Re: How to Determine if Repair Charges Are Fair

    I am not declining to pay, I just don't want them to get an upgrade on my dime. Isn't there anything I can do since this contractor can't give me a logical reasonable explanation for why installing a regular glass should cost the same as installing tempered glass when his own quote cites a material charge of twice as much for tempered glass as for annealed glass ?

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