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This scenario is based on a real life event but is a purely hypothetical question (because this isn't remotely worth going to court or even arguing over). The situation seems surprisingly complicated, so it made me curious what, if anything, the "legal" answer may be. Consider the following scenario:

  1. Tenant rents out a house which comes with a washer+dryer.
  2. Lease specifically stipulates that Tenant is welcome to use washer/dryer but that Owner is not responsible for fixing them if they break.
  3. Tenant moves in and discovers that the washing machine is, in fact, broken (it never worked even before Tenant moved in)
  4. Conveniently, Owner recently purchased the property and has a seller's warranty available, which will cover repairs on the appliances (including washer/dryer)
  5. In an attempt to be helpful, Owner calls the company that provides the warranty. The washer is declared dead and a new washing machine is provided by said company.
  6. The warranty requires a deductible for this replacement. Since Owner declared that they would not be responsible for fixing the washer/dryer, they refuse to pay the deductible for the visit. Tenant pays for the deductible on Owner's Warranty.
  7. If it matters, the deductible is less than the cost of the replacement washing machine.

In short, the owner stated they would not pay for repairs or replacement on washer/dryer. As stated in the lease, when the washer broke the owner did not pay anything for the new washing machine - the tenant did. However, the owner's warranty was still used to acquire the new washing machine. Therefore, who owns the washing machine?

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    I feel like downvoting for lack of effort. Paying to fix or repair something that belongs to a different person doesn't magically turn the transaction into a sale or a transfer of ownership. – Nij Mar 26 at 4:56
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    @Nij some things may be obvious to some, but the fact that the answer here isn't obvious to me isn't a sign that I gave it no thought, nor am I looking for an excuse to claim this as my own. Obviously if I had bought a new one it would have been mine. If the washing machine had been fixed it also would have clearly been the owners. In this case though I paid for the washing machines replacement, and I don't know how that changes the situation. – conman Mar 26 at 12:00
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    @Nij: It is highly contested whether a "lack of effort" should count against a question. See e.g. Introduce a “general reference” close reason. Also, in this specific case I find the question to be non-obvious even with some effort.# – sleske Mar 26 at 13:01
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    @WoJ I'm actually the tenant here. Owner arranged it but is out of state. Service guy showed up, did his thing, and to our surprise said, "Warranty company requires me to collect a $100 deductible at time of service". It was a surprise to us (and probably the owner too), but since the owner wasn't there to pay we went ahead and paid. Figured the best case scenario is we take $100 out of rent next month, and worst case scenario is we at least get a working washer for relatively cheap. So again, I'm not actually worried about the money - just curious about the situation – conman Mar 26 at 17:51
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    @Nij I'm clearly not the only person who felt uncertain about this situation, but if you feel like the answer here is obvious and therefore I should have known it with little effort, then you are obviously free to downvote my question for that reason (or any other reason for that matter). I still disagree that the answer here is obvious, but arguing about that would be even more silly than arguing about a washing machine. – conman Mar 26 at 20:34
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The house Owner owns the washing machine.

Paying the deductible on Owner's warranty has nothing to do with (changing of) the ownership of it.

Effectively, the tenant has incurred expenses just for arranging the replacement.

Lease specifically stipulates that Tenant is welcome to use washer/dryer but that Owner is not responsible for fixing them if they break.

Note that depending on the jurisdiction this term may be unenforceable: tenancy laws often stipulate that landlords have to keep things in working order at their expense (unless things break because tenants misuse/abuse them). In this case the tenant could claim the deductible he paid. But again, this would not affect the ownership of the washing machine in any way.

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    This is not the first time I lived in a house with this clause in the lease. A more ridiculous one I saw once (and did not move into) was a house that had a detached barn/garage that was "allowed for use" but not covered under the lease. That was a deal breaker for me because it was big and took up a ton of space on the property, but I figured it would be useless. If I stored stuff in it and it burned down, would my renter's insurance cover the loss? If my kids were playing in it and the roof collapsed to neglect, could the owner refuse liability? – conman Mar 26 at 12:06
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    So perhaps the way to look at it is that I paid to have it fixed, but fixing it just happened to require replacement? That seems plausible.... – conman Mar 26 at 13:17
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    @sleske I'd prefer to see that as a separate answer. Answers in addition are fine here. – Greendrake Mar 26 at 13:55
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    Similarly, the tenant could insist that the owner pays because provision of an initially-working washing machine was part of the tenancy agreement, and the tenant would not have taken the tenancy if they had known there wasn't a working washing machine. As you say though, this does not affect ownership. – Graham Mar 26 at 14:35
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    @Graham That's also how I saw it. IANAL, but it seems like this arrangement was agreed to under false pretenses. The washer did not "break" and require fixing by the tenant—it was never in working order, so might as well have not come with a washer included at all. Agreeing to return a borrowed friend's truck in good condition doesn't hold you accountable for repairs if the truck is already totaled. – maxathousand Mar 26 at 15:11
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As an addition to Greendrake's answer:

A lot will depend on the exact nature of the agreements, both the original lease agreement, and any agreement around the repair of the washing machine.

As written in Greendrake's answer, there is no ground to believe the tenant can claim ownership of the washing machine. The machine was replaced under a guarantee that was extended to the owner of the original machine, so the replacment is theirs, too.

However, the tenant may be able to claim a (partial) refund of the money they paid for the repairs:

  • They could claim that they paid the money believing that the owner would refund them. If they could show communication implying this (such as the owner writing "Go ahead, use the guarantee, that's what it is for"), that would help.
  • They could claim that they acted in the best interest of the owner, believing they would have paid if they could (because $100 for a machine is a great deal). In law this is referred to as negotiorum gestio - essentially the tenant is sponaneously acting in the best interest of the owner, since the owner is not available. Again, the tenant would need to show that it was in the owner's interest to pay.

If the case should go to arbitration or court, the tenant could make the above arguments, and the court would need to weigh them. The court might then decide that the owner needs to reimburse the deductible. The reimbursement might only be partial, because even if the payment was in the owner's interest, it was also in the tenant's interest. That would depend on how the court weighs the competing interests in play.

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  • Couldn't the tenant claim that the owner has indicated to him/her that they've "given up" on the washer, hence the non-payment - and thus it is as though the tenant got a replacement washer? – einpoklum Mar 27 at 10:03
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    @einpoklum: You can claim anything - but I don't see how that gives the tenant ownership of the replacement. Even if the owner gave up the original machine (I think "abandonment" would be the legal term), that does not mean they gave up on the warranty, which is in question here. – sleske Mar 27 at 10:28
  • Yes, I meant claiming abandonment. It could be claimed that the owner abandoned the machine - warranty and all - by refusing to pay for its replacement when it was broken. – einpoklum Mar 27 at 10:34
  • That's the point - I don't think an abandonment of the physical machine could in any way be used to claim abandonment of the warranty. Why would it? But that would be for a court to decide, I think. – sleske Mar 27 at 11:18
  • The tenant is not claiming "ownership of warranty", but rather claiming "ownership of washing machine". – einpoklum Mar 27 at 11:51
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Please read before down-voting for not answering the question.

Whilst the Landlord may not be responsible or repairs to the washing machine during the lease, they are very likely responsible for it being in a serviceable condition at the commencement of the lease. Whilst it is also possible that the machine just happened to fail during the first use by the tenant this first use could be considered due diligence or an acceptance test. New items can fail, this is why there is a warranty.

The washing machine is owned by the landlord. The landlord is responsible for good working order at the beginning of the lease unless also excluded. The landlord is also responsible for the deductible as the warranty is their problem.

It is possible that this is an example of bailment. IANAL, and certainly not in the US. Laws vary from state to state in any case and can date back to Tudor times or further.

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