Why we don’t maintain the Refrigrator, Washer and Dryer

When you rent a house in Austin, you get the house, and some basic appliances. Usually this includes built-in stuff such as the dishwasher and range (technically not a built-in, but treated as such), sometimes a built-in microwave. If one of these items breaks, the landlord pays to fix it.

What about a refrigerator, washer and dryer?

Washers and Dryers are not normally included with a rental house in Austin. Refrigerators are more commonly included, but still less than half of rental houses in Austin include a refrigerator. At the time of this writing, for example, there are 844 Active rental house listings in the Austin MLS. Of those, 356 are advertised as including a refrigerator. Many of those will stipulate that the refrigerator, washer or dryer is not maintained by the landlord. If you are renting a house in Austin, you should expect to bring your own refrigerator, washer and dryer unless they are provided for in the lease agreement.

If a refrigerator is included, who pays to maintain it?

It depends. For the properties we manage, we normally do not include maintenance of “left behind” or “orphaned” appliances. From a management standpoint, I’d rather let tenants bring their own appliances and maintain them. But we often inherit or end up with appliances being left in a property either by departing tenants or owners who no longer need or want them. When this happens, we could simply have them hauled off or sell them on Craigslist, or we can leave them in the property for the next tenant to use.

Often, a departing tenant who brought their own fridge will have bought a new home and the builder provided an appliance package. That tenant will call and say “we don’t need our fridge. It’s about 8 years old but works great, should we leave it there in case the next tenant wants to use it?” And I’ll say “yes, go ahead and leave it. If the next tenant doesn’t want it, I’ll get rid of it”.

So, as an incoming tenant, we’ll typically have three scenarios for appliances that are in the home.

1) No appliances. This one’s easy. When you view the home, you actually see that there is no refrigerator, washer or dryer. You’ll need to bring your own.

2) Non-maintained appliances. When you view the home, prior to leasing, you will see a refrigerator and/or washer/dryer in the home, but the MLS listing will either state that they are not included or that they are optional. These appliances are, in effect, waiting to be hauled away because of the aforementioned scenarios. But before we do haul them off, we ask the incoming tenant if you want us to leave them there for you to use and maintain yourself.

This might save you the $800-$2,000 you’d spend to buy used or new appliances yourself. The appliances being left in the home will most often work fine for the entire duration of your lease. But if one of them breaks, the repair is at your expense. Still, even an occasional repair is cheaper and less hassle than purchasing your own. And you don’t end up owning a fridge that you may not need when you buy a home or move again.

3) Fully maintained appliances. On some of our nicer homes, the owner has invested in higher end appliances and actually plans to return to the property to live again in a few years. In this case, the owner may want us to go ahead and maintain the appliances as part of the lease agreement. Also, some homes, like newer urban infill homes, have space only for a stack washer/dryer, which the owner provides and maintains because it’s not feasible for a tenant to buy custom appliances to fit smaller spaces just for one lease term.

Whatever the arrangement, it will be spelled out up front and in the actual lease agreement you sign. Make sure you understand and agree to the terms of your lease agreement before signing, no matter who you rent from, and make sure you know that just because a refigerator is in the home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the landlord has agreed to repair it if it breaks.

8 thoughts on “Why we don’t maintain the Refrigrator, Washer and Dryer”

  1. I just find this completely bizarre – as a tenant I can’t imagine that hauling around my own appliances would be remotely feasible, and as a landlord, I’d almost be more afraid of damage resulting from installation/deinstallation/moving than I would at maintaining them. (We maintain appliances in our rental condo now BTW – including W/D).

  2. Hi M1ek,

    Condos are more like apartments and it’s more common that maintained appliances are included. Same with duplexes, though most of those don’t include a washer/dryer.

    I’m not sure why you find it “completely bizarre” that most houses for rent don’t include appliances. It’s actually a logical concept.

    Steve

  3. Steve,

    The perspective, and tone, of your response is exactly why Property Management professionals are perceived as “Hey, I’ll do as little as possible — just pay me on time, be quiet, don’t ask me questions, don’t bother me, but I still retain all my rights to doing whatever I need to make things more convenient for me.”

    Granted renters can be difficult. Also understand that — often — Property Management professionals do not treat tenants as customers, rather as an inconvenient means to an end of producing revenue.

    You say “I’m not sure why you find it “completely bizarre” that most houses for rent don’t include appliances. It’s actually a logical concept.”

    Nice response. It is a logical concept, yet that doesn’t mean that it is reasonable.

    It is logical for *you* because it is the most convenient thing for *you* and/or the landlord. “Put appliance with the renter — if the appliance breaks the renter pays for them — yeah, lets do that because it is best for us — and they won’t bother me — yeah and the law allows it — awesome!”

    It is also equally as logical that any appliance left in a rental should either be removed by the landlord before rented again or if the appliance remains then the landlord should be responsible since the rental will have said appliance as a pre-existing feature of said rental.

    What happens if the appliance is broken when the tenant moves in? Is the tenant responsible for removing the appliance even though you rented it with said appliance?

    What amazes me is that — usually — Property Managers what to do as little as possible to ensure their revenue flow at the expense of the renter.

    Best of luck existing in your position of arrogance.

    — Jason

  4. Hi Jason,

    > What happens if the appliance is broken when the tenant moves in?

    We make sure any appliances provided are working prior to move-in. The next time you lease a house, you are free to consider only those homes fully equipped with fully maintained appliances, thus eliminating over 50% of your candidate properties. Most renters want more flexibility than that in their search, and they appreciate not having to go purchase a new or used refrigerator upon move-in.

    But I appreciate your comments and perspective.

    Steve

  5. Steve, it’s bizarre because I can’t imagine it being feasible for tenants to move their appliances around from place to place. It’s bad enough to do it when you buy a new house (another bizarre thing about Texas which is less common in other states – in most other states most appliances seem to convey; here, not so much).

  6. Hi M1ek,

    I actually think we’re making the same point from two different ends. It is precisely because most tenants don’t want to haul around their appliances that they get left behind so often when they move out, creating the scenario I outlined.

    On the flip side, we do also get a good number of families relocating to Austin who bring all their appliances. They are former home owners coming to Austin with plans to rent for just a year or two before buying, and already own expensive refrigerators and washer/dryers that they’ve brought along. In this case, if there is no fridge, they are happy. If there is one, they’ll typically use it as a 2nd fridge in the utility room or garage and put their good one in the house.

    It is some what of a damned if we do, damned if we don’t setup. Murphy’s Law. Homes that have appliance seem to attract tenants that also have their own. Homes without appliances attract tenants who need them. We never know in advance who our tenants will be or what they’ll have, so this is how we deal with it.

    Many tenants coming out of apartments and having no appliances are just so happy to be escaping the apartment life that they are happy either way. They also have to go buy a lawn mower and hoses, etc. The decision to rent a home brings with it additional responsibilities and expenses. It’s not like renting a condo or duplex.
    Steve

  7. Steve:

    I agree 100% with you.

    I’ve always had my own washer and dryer and after leasing a house back in ’01, I ended up with my own refrigerator as well. I moved them to each of the places I leased after that until I bought my own house a few years ago.

    In one of those, the apartment complex provided a refrigerator so my side by side ended up in the garage for sodas and overflow.

    In another, a used refriderator was left by the previous tenant in the townhouse I was leasing. I moved it to the garage as my side by side was much nice. Less than a year later the hand me down unit was dead and thankfully I was able to get the leasing agent to remove it.

    When leasing, I’d always rather have my own washer, dryer and refrigerator than to rely on a hand me down that I’ll have to replace or remove myself if it breaks down later.

  8. Texans and Austinites think that just because they say it, it’s acceptable, logical and reasonable. This may come as a shock to these clannish Texans, but the notion of tenants buying refrigerators is completely unheard of and ridiculous.

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