Liability for power tool costs

Jon asks:
(updated on Monday, August 17th 2015)

We brought a two-storey property with tenants already in place. This property has a balcony which has a railing system that complies with the building code at the time that it was erected. Time has passed and it no longer complies with the current building code. My wife and I said that we would bring the railing up to the latest building code as the tenants have young children and safety is the main concern. The tenants have asked us to pay 50% of the monthly power bill as the contractors used the power to install the new rails. Can they do this?

Our Experts Answer:

I think you’ll find the power tool usage will be negligible in the big scheme of things. I am aware of a tenant who asked the landlord to install a separate electricity check meter to account for the cost of a shared sewage pump. The property owner duly had the meter installed, and the subsequently recorded annual cost of the pump was about $15. I suspect that will be about the cost of the power tool usage in renovation of your balcony. If you make an offer that sounds reasonable, I’m sure it will be acceptable. However, a demand for a large chunk of the tenants’ power account, at a time when they are undoubtedly using oven, heaters and water heating, is an unreasonable request.

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