Got My Own Priorities

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m in a pickle. I made a commitment to take care of my sister’s
apartment while she was camping. But my husband and I just won a
fabulous weekend away at an exclusive gourmet food festival. It
includes everything from fancy dinners to a truffle hunt and visits to
local gourmet food processors. But her tenant just called to say there’s
water coming down from above and it is a plumbing emergency. The
only plumber I trust (learned the expensive painful hard way during
the last emergency, aaargggh) has the flu. My sister runs at the edge
of deficit financing (yes I know she shouldn’t be in the rental business
but she says it’s her “only shot at retirement and better than the stock
market!!”). She thinks I’m going to solve this cheap, but I think she
has to do things right, once and for all. I don’t want to ruin my fun and
I can’t afford to pay for her rental issues. What’s fair?

Got My Own Priorities
Dear Got My Own:

Emergencies happen, and owning real estate, rental or not, is only a
guarantee that you will end up supporting plumbers, electricians,
carpenters, roofers, etc. If Murphy’s Law still rules, and experience
suggests that it does, things will almost always go wrong in the worst
possible way, at the most inconvenient time, and will cost you more
than you prefer to spend, as well as involve discomfort and possibly
dislocation. In the short run, you are your sister’s keeper, and by
extension, the keeper of her property. But in the long run, the wallet
that will be dinged is hers.
Find the plumber who can stop the damage ASAP. Get a written
estimate/quote and try to stay below that, though the reality is that
until the water stops flowing you won’t really know what damage it has
caused. Text your sister ASAP and explain, asking her to check in as
soon as she gets the message. Being incommunicado simply means
she trusts your judgment. If she complains about cost or process, she
can find an alternate backup next time. Go on your weekend and have
fun, once you’ve turned it over to the plumber. And keep your cell
phone on for either or both to check in.