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Woodstove in rental house - who's responsible for cleaning?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by stek, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. stek

    stek New Member

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    We had a new Avalon Rainier insert installed in our rental house in December (the old stove was warped and unsafe to use). Well after two months of quiet happy tenants the first call has come: the stove is belching smoke when the door is opened to load, can we get it fixed?

    My guess is the wood our tenants are burning is less than optimal which has led to creosote buildup already. (Though we haven't been over to take a look yet.) My feeling is that the cleaning and maintenance of the flue should be the tenants' responsibility, we can't control what they burn and how they burn it so cleaning the flue is akin to taking out the garbage.

    The house has electric heat as well and is extremely well insulated so the woodstove is a bonus, not a necessity for heat.

    What are y'all's thoughts?

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  2. Shari

    Shari Minister of Fire

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    You probably won't like what I'm going to say - but here goes anyway: You just listed two reasons a 'tenant' would not be allowed to use a woodstove in any rental unit I owned.
  3. PNWBurner

    PNWBurner Member

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    Is sweeping the chimney like taking out the garbage or more like uncloging a sewer pipe? I'm assuming you as owner would be responsible for the later. What if something happened to the dishwasher and it didn't work properly any more? You'd be responsible for fixing that applicance so maybe the woodstove is also an appliance that you're responsible for? Food for thought.

    A woodstove in a rental sounds a little dangerous to me too, I hope your insurance is paid up! ;)
  4. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    we have a customer who has a Lopi 1250 in his rental. Tenants pay for the green firewood they try to burn in it: he pays for the 2-3 chimney cleanings a year they need because of that (at 125/per)... he also paid for some numb service calls: broken glass, baffle bricks falling out, etc. from when they try to jam too much wood in it. The stove was new 3 years ago... it is absolutely beat at this point. Tenants simply don't give a damn about your property.
  5. dougand3

    dougand3 Minister of Fire

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    I go with landlord responsibility...the sewer analogy is a good one. The landlord didn't burn wet wood but those aren't the landlord's um, uh waste products clogging sewer either. Especially if not spelled out in the rental agreement.
  6. WoodpileOCD

    WoodpileOCD Minister of Fire

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    Its your house, your investment and your liability. Who's going to pay if a chimney fire burns the house down?

    Surprising to me to even hear of a rental with a landlord provided woodstove.
  7. stek

    stek New Member

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    I've had woodstoves in rental homes in the past and never had a problem, but then we were careful to burn only good wood. I have friends that are renting a house with a fireplace that per the lease are only allowed to burn wood purchased in those bundles they sell at the grocery or hardware store. Our tenants have been good and responsible and I don't think they would abuse the stove knowingly, but I did set out some ground rules in writing for burning when the new stove was installed, essentially following the manual and not burning anything over 20% moisture content.

    PNW I am wrestling with that very question. If there were something wrong with the plumbing, then I would think a repair would be the responsibility of the landlord. If a tenant flushed a used diaper down the toilet and the toilet got clogged as a result, I think that's the fault of the tenant.

    I think damage or maintenance for 'normal wear and tear' (e.g sweeping the chimney once a year) would be the landlord's responsibility, and that's what we have done in the past. In this case the entire setup is new from the stove all the way to the chimney cap, and clogging the flue with creosote after two months (if that's what is actually happening) means you're doing it wrong.

    Our homeowner's insurance has no problem with the stove as part of the rental property, though I am going to work on some serious rewording of the lease that spells this out for the future.
  8. Exmasonite

    Exmasonite Feeling the Heat

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    Only other thing to consider:

    Provide the wood and work the cost into the rent. Provide 2-3 good SEASONED cords of wood (or whatever you think they need/go through). I'd also include an annual sweep fee in the rent, too.

    We have 2 rentals and we pay the annual furnace inspection/emergency coverage + provide 4-5 furnace filters. We also pay for the trash receptacle. We take all that into consideration in setting the monthly rental price. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (also makes for blissful, carefree sleeping).

    Good luck!
  9. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I understand why you don't want to pay for the cleaning, but it seems to me you would want to be responsible for the chimney. It is your house and your loss if it burns down.
  10. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    I once had to move out of a house I heated with an insert due to a job transfer. At the time, the local real estate market was nonexistent, so I turned the place into a rental. It was managed for me by a trusted management company who was already handling an investment rental for me. If I recall correctly, they forbade the use of the insert by the tenants. Anyway, I never had any reported tenant/insert problems while it was a rental.
  11. shawneyboy

    shawneyboy New Member

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    I would assume unless specifically in the lease agreement (which I would not do) it would be the owners responsibility. Me personally, unless I knew the person renting prior to the rental agreement, and I knew that they knew what they were doing, I would not allow a renter to burn in a property I owned.
  12. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    + 1
  13. stek

    stek New Member

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    Very interesting. Of course if you leave it up to most tenants they are likely to never clean it, even if it's required in the lease. Arrrrg.

    While it is our property and our loss if it burns down, I have to say I'm surprised you all are saying the tenant isn't responsible when we provided clear instructions on how the stove was to be used, including a copy of the manual.

    I guess no good deed goes unpunished.
  14. PNWBurner

    PNWBurner Member

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    Hmmm... so when they eventually give notice and leave are you going to keep the cleaning deposit to pay for a chimney sweeping? Are they responsible to replace the filters on the furnace? I keep thinking it's basically your responsibility but if they're abusing it that's a different story...

    Leaving all that aside for the moment I'd be surprised if four months of burning has clogged the chimney THAT badly unless they're really burning wet garbage in there. Are you sure the backpuffing isn't from some installation error?
  15. lydiatwin

    lydiatwin New Member

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    I too have a rental with a wood stove. The lease says they are required to have the chimney professionally cleaned once a year and provide me the receipt. The unit has baseboard electric, which is very costly to run. In fact, it has been rare that a tenant ever gets the chimney cleaned. Maybe if they stay multiple years. The current tenant never bought any wood and is now complaining about the cost of the electric heat. We've never had other repairs - well the last tenant trashed the flagstone hearth by chopping wood on it!! You should've seen the carpet too. Sheesh.

    I'm starting to reconsider the wisdom of a wood stove there and am considering switchiing to a propane heater. Then they just need to set the thermostat and keep the tank full.
  16. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    C'mon hunting season!
    Yep, its landlords unless its in the lease. Me personally, I would stuff insulation in the chimney and would have listed the stove as off limits to the tenants... Few renters give a darn about where they live. Why do you think they have to practically rehab places when they move out. Would you need to paint your whole house every year? If they flip a rental they usually do...
  17. stek

    stek New Member

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    In the past we've done the chimney between tenants and not charged that against the deposit as it's 'reasonable wear and tear'. The electric heat is baseboard, so requires no maintenance, especially as we just replaced all the baseboard heaters two years ago. We're not slumlords and are happy to keep up the house. I just have a hard time paying for abuse of a brand new stove.

    I doubt it was an installation error as the stove worked great (per the tenants) for the first month and was installed by a well respected pro. It's actually only been in use for two months. Maybe it isn't a creosote problem at all, and the stove vendor has offered to go out and look things over but we'll be on the hook for a service call if it's not their fault.

    Thanks for your input Lydia, it's helpful to hear from someone in the same situation.
  18. sixman

    sixman Feeling the Heat

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    Sounds like it might just be a clogged cap. Easy fix if it is.
  19. offroadaudio

    offroadaudio New Member

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    Sorry, but I agree 100% my rentals will never have a woodstove.
  20. afptl

    afptl Member

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    I'd check out the chimney cap to make sure it's not clogged. I would also have a "chat" with the tenants. How they have been using the stove, etc. If they would like to continue the use of the wood burning stove, then it has to be operated in a correct manner. You could always have the chimney sweep do it and talk to him.

    IF I was renting, I would love to have a wood stove to keep warm with. Kinda depends on the tenants. There are responsible people and irresponsible people. Depends on which one is renting it! My in-laws rented to my brother, and he made so many improvements that the house was much nicer when he left than when he got there.
  21. krex1010

    krex1010 Minister of Fire

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    If you want tenants to be responsible for sweeping the chimney the you should have that spelled out in the lease agreement. If not then as the landlord if you are letting your tenants burn, then I think you have to bit the bullet and take care of cleaning yourself.
  22. stek

    stek New Member

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    So do you think sweeping the chimney every two months is 'normal wear and tear'?

    If you had a tenant insisting that you replace the furnace filter every month would that be normal?

    Just curious if this is a case of 'you've opened yourself up to it, so bend over' or if everyone thinks having to sweep every two months is expected if the tenant is living up to their end of the bargain and burning as the manual recommends.

    Again, I'm happy to sweep once a year as I think that's what's warranted as normal expected maintenance.
  23. 48rob

    48rob Feeling the Heat

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    You might want to research what happens to "landlords" who fail to properly maintain heating systems in rental property.
    When a tennant experiences "bodily harm" or worse "death" the jury will hang you.
    No matter that the tennant caused the event that killed them, you are still "the landlord".

    And as "Everyone knows" landlords are rich, and can easily afford to pay out million dollar settlements.

    Were it my rental, the stove would be removed, and detailed records and reciepts of yearly furnace and co detector inspections would be guarded like gold.

    Rob
  24. krex1010

    krex1010 Minister of Fire

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    I don't know how well you know the tenants, and I have no idea what kind of people they are. I used to take care of a rental property my parents had and in my experience i would never assume that they know what they are doing or really care much about your property. If it were me, I would definitely have some language in the rental contract regarding safely operating the stove and i would either factor the cleaning costs into the rent or have a separate charge for cleaning. Not sure how much they burn but I would account for about 2 or 3 cleanings a season. Ultimately it's your property and nobody values it as much as you do, so I would do whatever you can to prevent any problems.
  25. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    C'mon hunting season!
    I think you will be grabbing your ankles. Unless you provide the wood (which makes no sense) then it will be whatever they find. Like I said before, I would put insulation in the pipe and mark it off limits. Not needed to maintain temps and they will sure as heck burn wet stuff or worse overfire it and cause damage to the stove or your place... Tough spot to be in. Good luck!

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