Broken sink – Wear and tear or else?

Last Updated on 2023-04-07 by Tom

A fellow landlord asked the following question in a Facebook group: “Sink crack – If a tenant drops something and cracks the sink significantly, we can charge that back to them, right? We do have it in our lease that if they are responsible for it, it’s at their cost…”

There are many answers from the fellow landlords. Interestingly enough, the typical and majority answers to this question are something like the following:

If you dropped and chipped you sink would you pay for it ? Tennant issue or damage deposit…”

“That is not wear and tear. There’s not even a gray line here. If the tenant dropped a rock on the gas pedal and it went through the front wall would that be wear and tear? Preposterous example but absolutely relevant.”

“You need to ask yourself if it’s wear and tear; which I think you already know that answer….”

It is clear that the majority of landlords feel the cost of repairing/replacing the cracked sink should be charged back to the tenants simply because it is not, well, wear and tear. Even the only comment that seemed to hint at a different direction took the angle of the cost not being significant: “I bought a sink for $25 through Marketplace when I smashed my sink. Let’s not overthink too much…”

The overall consensus from the group is clear: this is likely regarded as not wear and tear and should be charged back to the tenants.

With years of handling situations like this in the Culfidant community, I feel the answer is yes and no, or depends. Here is why and how.

From the landlord’s perspective, many tend to draw the quick conclusion of “not wear and tear,” and the reason is simple and obvious: who will have a sink crack under normal circumstances? Well, the proper answer actually lies in the word “normal” exactly. It is worthwhile to take a step back and think a bit deeper on what normal really means.

To me, normal covers three things in this sink crack incident – 1) how long this sink was there before the tenant moved in? 2) How long has the tenant lived there before this happened? 3) Is this a normal tenant or not? Let’s examine the three aspects one by one next.

01). How long has this sink been there before the tenant moved in? Is it a rather good condition one or has it been there for years with many wear and tear on it, even hairline cracks to start with? These factors are important as it provides a reasonable base for what is called the continuing “wear and tear” since the tenant moved in.

02). How long has the tenant lived there before this happened? It would paint a very different picture in one’s mind between the case of a few months versus the case of a few years. This is closely connected to the following:

03). Is this a normal tenant? There are three types of tenants –

type one: A+ tenants who take care of the rentals as if they are their own homes. And A+ here is not just referring to how good they are, it also implies the rarity – they are not that easy to come by and they, like any great relationships, need nurturing and caring environments to last and thrive;

type two are the ones who I call “professional tenants” who are not only carrying the entitlement mentality to the extreme, they are likely deliberately taking advantages of every possible opportunity to strike a win-lose result. They are not many, but not uncommon either.

The type three tenants are the majority of what I call normal ones; they are affected by the stereotype landlord-tenant dynamic to varying degrees depending on their experiences. it is not realistic to expect that everyone of type 3 will treat your homes as their own from the get-go. However, you can improve this by simply applying what is called “decency and firm principle”. This means you treat the relationship with decency and care, yet be firm on where the boundaries lie.

With the above in mind, let’s look at the question again. We simply don’t know any of the above in order for us to make a clear-cut yes or no. Instead of blindly concluding a yes or no, I would like to share the guidelines/principles we use in our community, as follows:

01). First, we will have a clear picture of the basics – what is the condition of the sink prior to the crack?

02). What type of tenants are we dealing with?

Type 2? Then it is irrelevant whether to charge them or not. The right question one should ask is, how soon can you get them out? And what can you learn from this experience?

Type 3? Then I will evaluate the possibility of a healthy long-term relationship that can be grown out of this current set-up. If the answer is likely, I will get things fixed, issue the invoice to them with the comment “waived for this one-time only” to show willingness to overlook this small mistake and a good gesture to move forward on good terms. If unlikely, then it is better to end this sooner rather than getting worse.

If the tenants are type one, then I will have it fixed, and the cost waived with no questions asked, knowing that this is very unlikely to recur again for a long time to come.

In the end, it all depends on what the actual situation is – as long as we have the simple principle of “decency to share and care” in our hearts, it is quite straightforward to figure out and resolve.

– Oringal reference – click here