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mowens's avatar

Moral question - What is the right thing to do here?

Asked by mowens (8264 points ) December 10th, 2013

Alright – so I have a bit of a pickle that I would like everyone’s advice on.
Myself and my friend, Call him C, are renting a condo form a friend of mine. Let’s call the land lord, Friend J.
Rent is cheap, and everything is hunky dory. Upon moving in, I told Friend J and Friend C that I would probably buy the place in a year. After moving in, I decided it is a little bit on the sketchy side of town, and would prefer to just rent it, instead of own. I haven’t gotten around to tell friend J that I won’t buy it yet.

Today, our furnace breaks. 600 dollar bill. Friend C, is freaking out that friend J will kick us out. Personally, I don’t care if he does… I just want to do right by everyone. So my first inclination is to offer to pay for the entire furnace bill, then after doing so say… oh, by the way I don’t want to buy the place, but I will most likely live here for 5 or so years. Is this reasonable? Does that seem fair to everyone?
What would you do?

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31 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Didn’t read the question, don’t think it would change my answer anyway.

Only you can determine if something is the right thing to do. Like my brother told my mother once, “I do have scruples, they are not the same ones as you have, but I have them.”

mowens's avatar

True. I guess my question should really ask “Would you consider this a fair deal?”

KNOWITALL's avatar

If you are renting, it is not yours so you are under no moral or financial obligation to fix, replace or do anything to the place whatsoever.

You made a quick quip to your friend off the bat, you didn’t sign anything, so you can’t be held responsible for everything, it would be very unfair of Friend J to even put that emotional responsibility on you as well.

If you feel like you mislead your friends, then it is strictly up to you how much responsiblity you want to accept, but I would pay no more than half, and even that is tantamount to admitting your off the cuff quip about buying it actually was to be taken literally.

marinelife's avatar

You have no obligation to pay for the furnace.

You are free to change your mind and do not owe J anything except the truth. Thanks, but I’ve decided this is not the place for me to buy. I do still plan to be your renter for a few years though.

Cupcake's avatar

I think offering to pay for the furnace sends mixed messages. You are not the owner and do not intend on being the owner. Even if you did intend to purchase the house, you are not under contract nor obligation to fix the furnace.

As a (former) landlord myself, please pass on the broken furnace information to your landlord pronto. I would try to keep the two conversations separate, unless the owner presses you to pay for it yourself.

glacial's avatar

If I understand you correctly, you’re not asking whether you’re legally obliged to pay for anything, you just want to know what is likely to happen to your dwelling, given all the variables in play.

Morally, the correct thing to do is to let J make an informed decision – so, tell him that you won’t buy the building, and that you’re willing to pay up to the $600 to make sure your dwelling continues to be on offer to you at the rate you’re paying. If he chooses to stop renting out the apartment, your lease agreement will still be binding until its end date.

What are your other options, really? Fix the furnace yourself, and pretend it never happened? Or pay him for the furnace bill and tell him you’re still planning to buy? Or let him pay for the furnace under the assumption that you’re still planning to buy? You must be leaning towards one of these choices if you’re asking this question.

dougiedawg's avatar

Since you are only renting and have no written agreement about purchasing the property, the landlord should incur the cost. He would have to fix it anyway, regardless of your change in plans, right?
It is still his property and you should only offer to contribute as a friend but let your intentions not to buy be known at the same time.

mowens's avatar

All good points. I guess I should also say that I am not worried about legal concerns, I am worried about going back on my word. I have in my life very rarely gone back on something I said I would do… and I feel guilty for that.

J is someone I have known my entire life, and I know that no matter what I do we will still be friends… but I stand by my friends. If he needs the money I will give it to him. If he doesn’t… I will feel guilty for saying one thing and doing another… that is what matters to me more than the money… honesty. Have I been honest? It feels like I haven’t. :(

livelaughlove21's avatar

You may have said you were going to eventually buy it, but you haven’t. That means you’re still renting and it’s J’s responsibility to replace the furnace. Why would J kick you and C out because of this? And why would you offer to pay any of it? How have you gone back on your word?

mowens's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Well, C is kind of a worry wort. I dont think that J will kick us out… he just takes everything out of proportion. As to J, I would pay for it because i feel bad! i guess your right, seems silly.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@mowens Indeed it does. There’s no reason for you to feel bad or pay for the furnace.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Heck you paying taxes & roof leaks too? Your guilt is to J’s advantage at the closing so make it a loan at most.

Adagio's avatar

If it is really playing on your mind I would speak to J and get everything out in the open, that way everyone is clear about the situation, see how everything pans out.

DWW25921's avatar

I think you have a solid plan! What could possibly go wrong?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@DWW He could set a pecedent & J could sue him based on a verbal contract breach.

DWW25921's avatar

@KNOWITALL Bah! Than there’s that… reality bites

KNOWITALL's avatar

@DWW The OP seems nice but nice guys get taken advantage of all the time. Loan in writing removes liability.

DWW25921's avatar

@KNOWITALL Ok fine. We’ll do it your way. @mowens Your plan is fine just make sure it’s in writing and all parties involved know what is going on. No surprises.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dw Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer just avid legal reader. Morally & legally J has all responsibilty until sale is final

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

One thing at a time, I think. Deal with the furnace situation. Wait some time, tell land lord friend you won’t be buying place.

bea2345's avatar

If I understand you correctly, @mowens, you are somewhat anxious about your understanding with Friend J. You should have a frank conversation with him, and make sure that he understands your intentions. As for the furnace, that is a separate issue.

Seaofclouds's avatar

You have two separate issues and are trying to combine them. If you keep them separate, it will be easier for all of you.

Tell your landlord J that the furnace broke. See what he says and go from there in regards to getting it fixed.

Then, next time you are out with your friend J, let him know that you’ve been thinking about your future and that buying the current place isn’t in your plans anymore.

hearkat's avatar

I am in a rent-to-own lease, and until we purchase the house, the landlord is responsible for the furnace or any other appliances. If you haven’t signed any lease, it is still the landlord’s property and his furnace to fix (unless you or your roommate are somehow responsible for it breaking) – whether or not you intend to buy the place is moot.

gailcalled's avatar

Mentioning that you would probably buy the place in a year is simply thinking out loud and is totally separate from the furnace issue, which is the landlord’s responsibility.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

So, does J know about the furnace or not?????? If not, where do you get this $600. estimate? Are you guessing? Word of friend Z? The most common furnace problem is a $12 to $20 fix. If you tell J, maybe he has a repair person he trusts who can be sure. You may be stressing about a repair which might actually cost less than chinese delivery for two.
Either way, J needs to know. The responsibility is J’s. A comment does not a binding contract make. From what you say, you made a comment, not a promise. Show some individual strength, and let someone else take responsibility for their own thing.
I will add that before you talk buy to anyone again, you keep such things in mind. Disclosure is not always what it should be. Perhaps J was hoping to dump off this responsibility before something major turns belly up. I would recommend that you see a couple of movies. They are fiction, but illustrate things to consider buying a home, especially from a friend. Baby Boom, and Are We Done Yet? See those. Sometimes the romance of owning property is slaughtered by the reality of condition issues.
Not knowing J, or you, I’m just pointing out what sometimes happens among supposed friends.
Buyers beware; FULL DISCLOSURE.

deni's avatar

You have no obligation to buy the place…just cause you mentioned that you might, or even probably would buy it, doesn’t mean you have to. Obviously that is a long, tedious process and there is no way Friend J assumed that you were 100% buying the place! If he did, that’s silly. As far as the furnace, do you guys have a lease? Is it covered in there? If so, question answered. But I suppose if that was the case you wouldn’t be asking the question. If the guy that owns it doesn’t or won’t pay for it to be fixed, then you 2 that live there split the cost, I guess….He should at least chip in, because it’s his place, not really your fault the furnace broke, and honestly that gives you the short end of the stick. I’d be upset if i were you, and he tried to get me to pay for his broken furnace, despite the fact that you were living there. In most leases, things like this are covered by the owner.

YARNLADY's avatar

I never heard of a rentor paying for major repairs unless it was required in the lease. The fact that you do not plan on buying in the future, despite your earlier comment, has nothing to do with that.

rojo's avatar

This is sticky. If it were a straightforward rental I would say that you had no moral obligation to pay anything on the furnace (Shit happens) but since this sounds like it is a little of a sweetheart deal with the rent being a mere pittance then I would say you could offer to spit the cost of the repairs between the two of you and the landlord and assuage any moral guilt you may be feeling. That way you get heat and the landlord has a working unit that the next tenant will have the benefit of using.

ucme's avatar

You had little more than an unofficial verbal agreement to purchase the property a year down the line & you changed your mind, which is entirely your prerogative.
The furnace bill is therefore not your responsibility, as you’re not the owner. Neither should you have any concern in informing the land lord, who is after all a friend, about your change of heart, your only crime is that you seem eager to please & not, in your eyes at least, let anyone down, which isn’t a bad trait to have now is it?

jca's avatar

To me, you agreed to nothing in reference to buying the place. According to what you wrote, you said you would “probably” buy it. That’s not the same as saying “I will buy it.” Regardless, you signed nothing. You are a renter. Renters have no obligation toward paying for repairs. Sometimes renters will pay for things like maintenance, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. A furnace is a necessity. The homeowner has an obligation to provide you, the renter, with certain necessities, such as plumbing, etc.

You could pay for the entire furnace, as you suggested, and the homeowner could still kick you out the next month. Why would you want to put yourself in that position?

poisonedantidote's avatar

First of all, I think J, the owner, should pay the bill for the broken furnace. I pay rent, and part of my rent is that if anything gets broken, the owner fixes it.

As for the deal being fair on the owner, I think it is more than fair.

I get the feeling you left some information out, because there does not seem to be any problem here. A guy has a house to rent, and you want it for 5 years, he should be happy I expect. Specially if you are the kind of tennant that pays their own wear and tear on the house.

Sure, selling a house is nice, but so is collecting money for nothing for 5 years and still keeping the house at the end of it.

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