Owning an income property is an exciting opportunity but just like everything else, things don’t always go as planned. Some years you might have amazing tenants that pay their rent on time and abide by the terms outlined in their lease, but other times you might have a tenant that never pays rent on time, is hard to communicate with, and may even cause damage to your property.
As a property owner and landlord, having a disgruntled tenant can be trying. Damage to your investment property and dealing with evicting the tenant can be a hassle and not to mention, cost a lot of money. To help navigate these repercussions, here are a few steps to take if you experience damage to your property by a tenant.
How to Handle Tenant Damage
When we say tenant damage, we don’t mean damage from normal wear and tear (i.e. worn carpeting, holes from hanging pictures, etc.). Tenant damage becomes a problem when it goes above and beyond the usual everyday wear and tear that might even be intentional. From smashed windows to holes in the flooring and excessive trash left behind, the list of intentional tenant damage goes on and on.
If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps to properly handle the situation:
1. Assess the Damage
Before doing anything, you will need to carefully and accurately asses the extent of the damage and document it. Photos need to be date stamped and if it’s possible, take a video of the damage as well. If the size of damage isn’t clear, consider placing a ruler or small object (such as a quarter) next to it in the photograph to give the damage a sense of scale. This documentation will be valuable when submitting any damage to insurance or fighting the case in front of a judge.
Tip: Always take photos of the unit before new tenants move in to document the original condition of the unit
Once you have your photos, obtain quotes from contractors for the repairs that will be needed to help justify any costs requested from the tenant or how much to take from the security deposit once the lease ends.
2. Know the Law
Before accusing a tenant of intentional damage to the rental, keep in mind that the damage could have been caused several different ways, including it being completely accidental. Different states and even cities have different laws regarding rental damage. These laws will specify who is responsible for what, the steps landlords have to take to collect for the damages, and what damage is the tenants’ responsibility. In most cases, the tenant will be responsible for paying for any intentional or accidental damage made by them or their guests.
3. Taking Action
Once you’ve documented the damaged and familiarized yourself with your state/city law, it’s time to take action. All attempts to inform the tenant of their responsibilities will need to be documented.
4. Talk to the Tenant
When speaking with the tenant, be sure to have a copy of the signed lease handy in case they push back on what was in their lease. If the tenant accepts the responsibility for the damage, document the plan of action that will be taken to resolve the issue. If the tenant is uncooperative, you will need to move on to more drastic measures.
5. File for Eviction
If the tenant is still living in the rental and has broken the terms of the lease or poses a threat to the property, evicting them as soon as possible is ideal. The eviction process can be slow and complicated but is a necessary step for removing an uncooperative tenant. When informing the tenant, stay calm and professional and make sure to document every step you take.
What To Do if the Tenant Has Already Left or Isn’t Responding
- Apply the security deposit. Once the tenant has moved out, deduct the cost of damages from the security deposit that you collected when the tenant first moved in.
- Consider taking legal action. If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit and the tenant refuses to pay the remaining balance, you will either have to pay for the repairs out of your own pocket or consider legal action. At this stage, it is wise to enlist the help of an attorney.
- File an insurance claim. This tends to be the preferred course of action for many property owners and typically, your insurance policy will include damage made by tenants.
To help prevent damages and improve the quality of tenants in your rental, give Lamacchia Property Management a call today at (855) 213-3410. Our team will not only protect your property but will also do the hard tenant work for you!