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Question DetailsAsked on 1/8/2015

Can a plumber charge a fee to evaluate a plumbing problem? If so, how do you obtain multiple bids and no fees?

My property manager called their plumber because my own inspection revealed a leak under the master bathroom toilet visible just inside the crawlspace. They offered me a quote which I considered to be high. I asked for a second quote from a second plumber. My manager claimed they were trying to arrange for the second plumber to offer their own quote, but they said the tenant was never available. After a month of waiting for a quote, I called everyone to find out what was happening. The second plumber said he'd been trying to get in but couldn't match times with the tenant. The tenant said the plumber never called him back. Meanwhile my 30 days for the first plumber's original estimate ran out and they charged me $100 for their original visit. I feel my property manager is at fault here because they should have simply let the second plumber into the property over a month ago at HIS convenience. I thought contractors didn't charge fees until they did the work on a property.

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1 Answer

Voted Best Answer

Free estimates are usually for remodeling type jobs. When you have an issue, like a leak, it's more of a demand service call, get there quickly with a repair guy that can evaluate and quote the repair.

I'd think the tennet might be the issue, for the delay.


Answered 5 years ago by BayAreaAC


Sounds like BayAreaAC hit it on the mark, as usual.

Unless you specifically say you are looking only for a bid on a job when you call, a repair type contractor (plumber, electrician, HVAC, etc) will come expecting to do the repair, so will charge the minimum service charge regardless of whether you go ahead with the repair - typically $75-150 except in a few very high cost urban areas, so the $100 you are talking about is on the mark. And for a small job (less than say at least a full days work, or about $500-1000) most do not give free bids - they prefer to just come and do the job - which in this case might be a quick patch if needed, then full fix within a couple of days.

Sounds like a miscommunication with the tenant on getting in to do the evaluation/repair. Unfortunately, it also sounds like you have a problem (which might be due to state or local privacy laws) by not having a clause in the rental/lease agreement that allows the property manager to enable access for maintenance and repairs. That would have eliminated the need to coordinate with the tenant at all other than giving notice of intended entry to assess/fix the problem (and finding out preferred access hours like morning or afternoon), plus then leaving a note that they opened the apartment for the plumber on such and such a day andif he is coming back or not to do more work. If there was no such issue, then sounds like the property manager is at fault, as you said, because he could have arranged directly with the plumber to get him in.

I would say if you decide to go with the first plumber, who evidently allows 30 days for a person to decide to go ahead with the work or he charges the visit fee (which is unusually liberal, in my experience), if you talk to the plumbing company manager/owner and explain you had problems with your manger/tenant on coordinating the repair, he may grant you part or all of that $100 towards the repair - but then again, maybe not. Otherwise, continue on with a second estimate (which will cost you another $100 range again unless the work is done there and then) with your manager providing access.

I would say this sounds like a lot of hassle for what is probably a $250 or less job - maybe $400 range if you have sewer pipe needing a toilet flange and maybe pipe section replaced. This is a SMALL repair for a rental place, the type that comes around a time or two per year for a normal rental.

Not to stick my nose into your business here, but I think you may also have a problem with your management contract with the manager or with your rentall contract - because nominal repairs like this the management firm/manager usually handles on their own without even calling the owner for approval. Typically with maybe a $250-1000 limit (depending on number of units and length of time you have been dealing with them to develop confidence in their judgement) without your pre-approval, and these days you could just ask that they provide a cell photo or few eMailed to you of the problem/repair and a copy of the invoice so you know how much is going to be coming through in their monthly fee/reimbursement statement (or more commonly, deducted from the month's rent receipts). In fact, for this sort of repair, that would usually be taken out of the general opeating fund account by the manager - though I realize if this is a single unit holding you probably do not have that set up.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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