Dear PoPville – Should My Landlord Pay For Hotel or offer other Compensation During Renovations?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoPville:

Due to an ongoing rodent problem in my apartment (in a converted rowhouse in Logan), my landlord is proposing to completely redo our kitchen. This will supposedly seal all the cracks and holes where the mice and rats are getting into the house, and give me a new kitchen to boot. The landlord is also repairing or replacing the roof, which leaks and has caused water damage in the walls. All told, he estimates that there will be about two weeks of work outside and two to three weeks of work inside the house.

The landlord is currently asking for our thoughts on moving forward with the project, including scheduling. Obviously I want to deal with the rodent problem, and a full reno of the kitchen seems like the best way to accomplish this. However, I’m not looking forward to losing my kitchen for several weeks, nor the possibility of having to move out of the apartment. My question to the commentariat is: what should I ask the landlord for in compensation, if anything? I think that if we have to move into a hotel room for any period of time, he should cover that cost. Should we also ask for a rent abatement for the time that the kitchen is unusable? If our rent is close to $2000 a month, how much should we ask for?


61 Comment

  • ah

    Isn’t rent abatement *and* a hotel double dipping?

    Many people deal with renovations by just sucking it up. Move a microwave into another room, and keep the old refrigerator for the same purpose. Ask for a small discount on rent for inconvenience and to cover more prepared foods. And put in a penalty clause so if the work isnt done w/in 2-3 weeks you get more.

    • Yes, it’s double dipping. I’d strongly recommend going into these negotiations with sensitivity. As a landlord who was once in this position, here’s the agreement I came to with my renter:

      Her daily rent (in your case, $67) was her responsibility. I made up the difference to put her up in a hotel that was not the Ritz, but also not a slum that was out of her way. Once the apartment was livable (clean, safe, and all utilities working), she was expected to move back in and continue paying rent.

      We worked together, kept eachother’s interests in mind, and continued to have a great relationship after the construction. Just play fair.

  • Probably not. Although the rodent problem is bad, it is too common in DC and he has tried to fix it. He doesn’t need to re-do the kitchen but since you are getting a benefit you weren’t promised I wouldn’t complain. If you have to be kicked out for a few weeks. I would ask him to refund pro-rated rent, but not hotel. If it was a leak, etc, maybe, but generally thats why you buy renters insurance. As for the loss of use of the kitchen, I don’t think you should ask for anything. If this was a big apartment building, they wouldn’t offer anything.

    • no, the fact that rodents are “too common” in DC does nothing to change the fact that they’re a code violation, as are leaks. If the tenant were leaving food around all the time, that would be one thing, but if there are big holes where rodents are getting in, or problems with a leaking roof, that’s the landlord’s fault and he needs to fix it.

  • Let’s see — new kitchen + new appliances + no rent increase and you want to ask your landlord for compensation? I think not! I lived with a whole house renovation for nearly 4 months. This will be nothing!

  • I dunno guys, I think they deserve some compensation. Reasonable enjoyment clause and all that…

    Also doubt these poor people knew the extent of the rodent infestation when they moved in. It’s common OUTSIDE ones home, not inside.

    Personally I’d tell him you are getting a cat and he can redo the kitchen when your lease is up. It can’t be THAT much of a dump if you are paying $2,000 a month for it.

    If you’re allergic to cats, you are living in the wrong city. SORRY!

    • “If you’re allergic to cats, you are living in the wrong city. SORRY!”

      In what city should we with cat allergies live? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while.

  • Are you going to have to be there to deal with contractors, let them in, etc.? Or will they be gone by the time you get home and you’re basically just inconvenienced by the lack of kitchen? If the latter, I’d divide your rent by how many rooms you have in your place and ask for the kitchen’s share of rent back for the time they are there.

  • Here you have what sounds like a decent landlord who is trying to make expensive improvements to the property for both your benefits and your thoughts are, how can I get him to break off some loot for me? Sigh.

    I would say rent abatement is all you are entitled to in this case. Others may disagree.

  • He should be forced to do a complete kitchen renovation for you! Oh, wait… you’re already getting that.

    You sound like you’re asking for free cherries and toppings and sprinkles and chocolate on top of your free ice cream.

    You’re lucky the landlord is going to such an extreme to fix a rodent problem. He could’ve just called an exterminator over and over again, thereby inconveniencing you even more, while exposing you to rat poison and dead rats.

    Instead, in exchange for a relatively short inconvenience (and yes, I have been through a kitchen reno and gone 3.5 weeks without kitchen access) you get a brand new kitchen and the rodent problem fixed to boot.

    A small reduction in rent *might* be an appropriate thing to ask for, but he’s not forcing you to move out, so hotel is way over the top.

    As ah says, “suck it up”.

  • Let me guess…you don’t have renters insurance?

    Considering it only costs a couple hundred bucks a year and covers things like “loss of use” and putting you up in alternative accomodations, its well worth it.

    And no, you can’t have both. Ask for either rent abatement, or help with hotel costs. Asking for both is greedy and he isn’t required to technically give it to you.

    Get renters insurance.

    • Yeah, renters insurance is the way to go. Renters need to realize that in the event of any disaster to the apt, english basement or house you are renting, whether it be leaking pipes, fire, sewer backups etc, the owner or landlords insurance does NOT cover the tenant or his/her belongings, nor are they required to.

      This is why every standard lease (that I’ve ever seen) has the requirement for tenants to buy their own renters insurnace. You need to protect yourselves folks, because no one else has to.

    • You know, it didn’t even occur to me to have renter’s insurance cover the cost of the hotel I had to stay in when my heat went out and the landlord took his sweet time getting it fixed.

  • 1. Either your landlord should give you prorated rent for the time you are unable to live in the house (or the time you are unable to have a kitchen) or he should keep your rent and provide you with a place to live (hotel, etc.) But not both.

    As for the following person: “Here you have what sounds like a decent landlord who is trying to make expensive improvements to the property for both your benefits and your thoughts are, how can I get him to break off some loot for me? Sigh.”

    Really? What you have here is a landlord currently renting a property in serious disrepair with a rodent infestation problem. They may be a nice person, but they signed an agreement with the tenants to provide them with a place to live that’s habitable. If it’s not habitable, they shouldn’t be getting income renting it out. You really think your landlord should just be able to toss you out for three weeks with no place to live, keep your rent, but say “hey, it’s ok, you’ll have a nicer kitchen in the end!” Kinda displays how f-ed up the rental market in this city is.

    • ah

      What if the landlord’s response is “okay, I’ll just keep having the exterminators come and repair the kitchen after you move out”?

      If the OP is cool with that outcome, then he should press the issue. But a new kitchen with no rent increase with a couple of weeks of inconvenience doesn’t seem like a horrible deal that’s better than alternatives.

    • I think “ah,” the first poster, is on the right track. Being resonable and not greedy normally works better.

      If you have a good landlord and set up, work with them. I went four weeks without a stove and bought a short mini-bar/frig to compensate for no regular refrigerator when we bought our place.

      It’s not that difficult with so many food options close by. I would however get an agreement should the project run over.

      What lies behind the cabinets in the old kitchen is anyone’s guess and that could cause long delays before the kitchen is usable again.

      Follow POP’s lead today – be nice.

  • When my landlord had to do a major renovation–replacing the floor under the only bath/shower in this case–my landlord offered rent abatement. It may have even been the entire months rent, can’t recall now. I didn’t ask for more than this as I was able to shower at my gym. But if you’re getting a new kitchen without a rent increase, you’re very lucky. I wouldn’t expect anything more than an abatement. You shouldn’t dare risk your what sounds like a good relationship with your landlord by sounding greedy.

  • Sounds like a generous landlord to me. I had a similar problem, and it took months for my landlord to pursue a half-hearted, ultimately ineffective solution. If your landlord is offering to replace the entire kitchen, I’d take the renovation and run. Or perhaps contact me and we could trade living situations? Sounds like a good deal to me.

  • Oh jeez, don’t listen to all these people saying to shut up and just be grateful. Don’t be a jerk to your landlord about it, but you have rights as a tenant. First is to not have leaks in your roof or rodents in your kitchen. If the landlord cares about HIS property he’ll make the fixes that best fix the property both short term and long term, which could be redoing the kitchen. Yes you get a new kitchen to use, but he gets a new kitchen to increase the value of his home/possibly rent.

    I looked into a similar issue in the event out landlord ever tried to relocate us for renovations. I was told if at any time the repairs force us to relocate, he needs to give us I believe 120 days notice, relocation fees, and allow us to move back in when it’s all done. Of course when that happens he could charge you whatever price he’d like to if you’re not in a contractual agreement and he doesn’t qualify for rent control (your apartment has to be built before a certain year and the landlord needs to own 5 or more rentable units in the District to qualify for rent control).

    Call the DoHCD for more specifics about your rights in DC, their number is 202-442-9505

  • You’re paying $2000 a month? And there is a rodent infestation?! And leaks through the roof?!? You’ve been paying good money to this scumbag landlord long enough. Frankly, he should be reimbursing you for all the months that you had to deal with rats and mice causing a threat to your health and invading your space, as well as replace any furniture, clothes, possesions that may have been drenched in the waterfall coming from your celing. Fixing the kitchen and the roof is his responsibility and you shouldn’t have to deal with living through a renovation that should have been done long before you moved in. I say the months of back rent, the cost of living elsewhere during the renovation (no way should you hae to live in the same place that is being renovated!), plus an amount to compensate you for having to put up with this stuff plus a penalty so that this slumlord never tries this stuff again, should be the MINIMUM of what you are entitled to. If I was the landload, first, I would never have let this happen, and, second, I would pay for you to leave in another house or apartment in the city for the next 2-3 years as recompense.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I’m just leaving the comment above as another example of a comment that will be deleted in the future. Saying:

      “You’ve been paying good money to this scumbag landlord long enough.”

      Is not acceptable.

      • Really? I don’t think this is over the top. It’s not directed at the OP or any other person who has joined the discussion–to put it simply, it is not a personal attack on anyone here.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          I’m afraid I disagree. It’s poisonous. Nothing in the above note would lead one to conclude it was a “scumbag landlord”. I suspect that commenter may have been a troll but even if the language is not used towards the OP it was still inappropriate in this instance. And I’m trying to make the commenting section more civil. Call someone, whoever that is, a scumbag – does not add to civility.

          I know not everyone will agree with me. It was a tough decision and I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes but I think it will make commenting better.

          • Is all language that is even the slight bit negative no longer going to be allowed regardless of whether it is directed at anyone actually posting or commenting on this blog (for example the “scumbag landlord” referenced above)? I am curious as to where you will be drawing the line as to what language is acceptable/not acceptable. I am just looking for clarity as to what the new civility-in-commenting rules will be because while I do think that many people have been degendrating into personal attacks, I think too much censorship will negatively inhibit discussion.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            It is something that will develop over time. I hope it will be obvious to most people. Yeah, it’s a bit of gamble. But I’m no longer gonna permit constant snark and incivility. I’ve pushed this decision off for a really long time. But yesterday somebody told me that they couldn’t even read the comments on an air conditioning question – and I realized something had to be done.

          • Really? The one about how much to put the unit on the roof? I thought that one was fairly tame, no insults and such… unless I’m thinking of the wrong one. I haven’t been around for a few days, so I may have missed the one you’re talking about.

          • I appreciate your efforts and applaud you for regaining control of “your” blog.

            Most often is informative and entertaining. I think cleaning up the non-sense, hate, and just plain gross remarks will go a long way to increasing and retaining your readership as well as enlighten us all, just a little bit more.

            Bring back civilized adult conversation levels and I will be happy to rejoin the “commentariat,” as I am sure others who have strayed will too.

          • Pop, I completely agree and I think you’re doing the right thing.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            I’ll be having a major refresh of the site done in September. At that time I’ll make sure the commenting policy is better explained.

    • “If I was the landload, first, I would never have let this happen, and, second, I would pay for you to leave in another house or apartment in the city for the next 2-3 years as recompense”
      I think this is the most ridiculous comment here. Your reality is so far out there from everyone else’s. Roofs suddenly leak, and mice could start coming to a house when attracted by new food source (in this case a working kitchen) for the first time, so why do you assume that the landlord had these issues prior to the current tenant? Also, the OP didn’t say the problem started as soon as they walked into the unit, so your assessment and over the top reckless advice is horrible. Shows how entitled you feel. I hope I never have to rent a place to someone like you.

  • Hey all. Landlord here.

    These responses are really helpful. Thanks for weighing in. Though, until reading this post, I had no idea the tenants were unhappy with the proposed renovation — I thought they had wanted it! It’s sort of odd to read about their concerns in the first instance on the blog.

    In any event, after the tenants told me about some rodent issues, we examined options. One was to do a minor repair, the other was a more extensive renovation. With the bigger renovation, I had been considering putting in a brand new kitchen (which would have included updating an older kitchen with brand new stainless appliances, cabinets, and granite countertops). I’m happy to let the tenants choose between options, though. If they want a smaller fix that takes only a day or so, that is absolutely fine by me (it would save me a huge amount of money at that!).

    • Hehehe…busted!~

      When will people realize they aren’t the only ones who use the blogosphere. Whatever good will / leverage the tenants had with this landlord just went out the window. If I was the landlord, I’d now tell the tenant what they can go do with themselves.

      I’d venture a guess like the posters above that renters insurnace is a condition of the lease, which the tenant signed. If they don’t have it (which is clear), then they are in violation of the lease that they signed and have been, and can be easily evicted, which is exactly what I would do if I were them.

    • Tenant just got served. LL is in the right, regardless of what the outrageously tenant-friendly laws in DC have to say about the matter.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Look all the OP asked was:

        “what should I ask the landlord for in compensation, if anything?”

        That is hardly an inappropriate thing to ask. It’s a situation they’ve never been in before. If I was in the same situation, I’d ask people’s opinions as well.

        Not everything is written with bile and vitriol. It was a genuine question – let’s all be cool.

        • Exactly what I just said!

        • You left out half the question. It is clear the OP was asking our opinion on the double dipping :

          “My question to the commentariat is: what should I ask the landlord for in compensation, if anything? I think that if we have to move into a hotel room for any period of time, he should cover that cost.

          Should we ALSO ask for a rent abatement for the time that the kitchen is unusable?”

          Perhaps you know the OP and the question was simply poorly written, but as it is written, it is clear they aren’t simply asking to be made whole, but to get something extra out of the deal as well.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            I do not know the OP. If I did I would say “full disclosure”.

            But this just goes to show that we can interpret the same question in different ways. We can come to different conclusions. I still don’t think the OP was trying to screw anyone over. They were simply in a new situation and sought advice. That’s how I read the question.

          • Not necessarily. It’s like when you go on a work trip and the employer pays for your per diems as well as lodging expenses. Theoretically, you’re being forced to spend more than you normally would on meals if you don’t have access to a kitchen.

          • +1. I think it’s this perceived sense of entitlement that people are reacting to.

            Personally, I really get tired of people who want to ‘get paid’ for something that is not an injustice, but just an unfortunate situation.

          • Maybe I read this differently, but I thought the OP was asking for a hybrid arrangement, not a double dip. During the shorter period that the house is unlivable and a hotel stay is required, they were looking for compensation for that. During the longer period when the house was less comfortable because work was being done, some break on the rent. I see both of those as reasonable things to consider.

        • Original Poster here – Thanks, PoP, for the backup. I certainly didn’t mean to complain about the reno or the landlord, who is great – and I’ll be talking to him directly soon! I am just not sure what standard operating procedure is here, and wanted to know if anyone had any experience with this. Because our landlord is great, we didn’t want to ask for anything that was ridiculous or unreasonable and sour our relationship with him. Thanks to those of you who shared your thoughts on this.

          • OP, at the time I’m reading this string, no one has yet suggested it, so here’s my advice in this and all rental issues: read your lease first. The whole point of the lease is that you have agreed in advance in a legally enforceable document (hopefully) how the burden will be spread in the event that you have to be displaced from the apartment to correct a problem. Almost certainly he has to cure the rodent and roof issues; equally almost certainly he’s not obligated to put in a new kitchen.

            Sounds like both you and the landlord are reasonable people. Good luck finding a solution.

        • Agree. I thought it was a well thought-out question by the OP. Didn’t sound greedy, just seeking a second – or perhaps by this point 40th opinion.

          While it’s probably embarrassing for the OP to have his landlord read this post – I would be – I don’t think it’s anything for either of them to get worked up about.

          For the record I think some sort of compensation/abatement/reimbursement to the tenant is the right call here. What amount depends on a lot of factors already discussed here.

    • They way I read it, they are happy about the proposed rennovation and your willingness to work with them, but are unsure whether it would be out of line to ask for some sort of reimbursement.

      I can see where they’re coming from– my roommate and I had to get a hotel for a few nights when our furnace died during the coldest part of the year. It was a fairly large, unexpected expense.

    • I agree with what Anon said. The way I read the OP’s letter was that they’re interested in having the rodent problem taken care of and trust your judgment on the best way to do that. But if the best way is a full renovation that would cause them some expense and inconvenience, I can see how they’d like to know if it would be reasonable to be compensated in any way to offset that.

      It sounds like a smaller shorter-term fix for the rodent problem might work best for everyone, and maybe a larger kitchen renovation would be better to wait to do in between tenants.

  • Our landlord re-did our kitchen in a Mt. Pleasant group home (6 people). It took one week and he gave us each $12/day for food assuming we’d just be missing dinner. We set up the old refrigerator and microwave in the living room and it worked out ok. Seems like your landlord is being pretty reasonable and I’m guessing if you take the same approach it’ll all work out.

  • Well…that’s that!

  • It’s funny how much people seem to be reading into the OP’s letter to PoP. I don’t think they sound greedy or like they have/want a contentious relationship with their LL at all. Seems like they just wanted advice as to what would be reasonable in this situation.

    • Indeed. And I can see why they wanted t ovet it through the PoP community first. The landlord sounds like a cool guy and they probably don’t want to ruin their relationship by asking for something possibly unreasonable.

    • Fair enough. And what we’re hearing (from some) is that it IS unreasonable to ask for a break in rent AND hotel expenses.

      • And I would agree that’d be unreasonable to get both at the same time, but the way I interpreted it, I thought that the OP anticipated there being 2 stages, one where they wouldn’t be able to stay at their place at all, and one where just the kitchen was unusable.

        Anyway, who knows. I do think the LL and tenant both seem reasonable and I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out.

  • It wouldn’t be PoP without the regular serfs versus lords comment threads.

  • I am a landlord and I see absolutely nothing wrong with the question. Actually, I think these tenants are fairly thoughtful in trying to figure out the right way to deal with the situation.

    The landlord seems like a very reasonable person- too- and I am sure he/she is getting some info out of the post.

    I only wish that my tenants would ask the advice of others before doing some of the things they do.

  • How does installing a new kitchen or making repairs fix a ‘rodent’ problem?

    In my experience the rodents need to be baited and killed and/or remove the food source. Rodents can chew through many types of wood and drywall and most certainly can chew through new kitchen cabinets.

    Please reply.

    • if the rodents are getting in from outside, then patching holes in bricks might be necessary. If you’re going to pull out the appliances and counters/cabinets to do so, you might as well replace them if they’re close to needing that anyway.

      agreed that any rodents already in the house will still need to be removed.

  • One of my former landladies renovated our kitchen a few years ago and we got a discount on rent (I don’t remember how much, maybe 25%?) and the one night where one of her contractors messed up our electricity and it was shut off overnight she offered to pay for us to stay in a hotel (we opted to stay in the house). So I think a discount on rent during the renovation is in order, but realize that the landlord will be entitled to increase your rent accordingly when your lease is up to reflect the brand-new kitchen. In my experience the lack of kitchen wasn’t that bad, we had the refrigerator moved into the living room and a microwave and toaster oven set up to heat food. My one warning is to make sure that whatever contractor your landlord uses knows what they are doing with regards to how to handle lead paint and dust during a renovation. Renovations are a major cause of acute lead poisoning in children (outside of peeling, poorly maintained paint) and any house built before lead paint was banned has lead paint on the walls. (My landlady’s contractor was some random guy whe knew and he started a day early than we were told and he threw all of our things from the kitchen into a pile which was covered by a disgusting amount of dust by the time we got home b/c the first thing he did was knock down a wall.) Good luck! (btw, I applaud PoP’s efforts to make these comments sections less hateful! I’ve stopped looking at most comment sections b/c they’ve gotten so ridiculously mean)

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