When Your Tenant Causes Property Damage

The day that a tenant vacates the property can be the day that you discover your perfect tenant wasn’t so perfect after all. They may have looked perfect on their rental application, paid the rent on time, and taken care of other responsibilities. But when it comes time for them to vacate, you just may discover that the property is no longer in the condition it was when they moved in.

Typically, you would make this discovery when doing the final walk-through with the tenant. At that point, it needs to be addressed. It doesn’t have to be confrontational – you don’t need to assume that damage was caused with ill will. But here are some steps that you can take.

When Discovering Property Damage from a Tenant

The law defines property damage as anything beyond normal wear and tear that was not present when the tenant took possession. As you do your inspection with the tenant, ensure that you do the following:

  1. Be thorough – compare what you see to the notes or photos that you took before the tenant moved in. You need to ensure that you do this walk-through accurately. Go into all areas of the home and do not allow the tenant to distract you.
  2. Document the damage – you can point out the damage to the tenant. Then, even if they are in agreement about it, you need documentation. Take thorough notes, or take photos of anything in poor condition.
  3. Have the tenant sign a report – use a formal document that outlines the condition of the property during the walk-through. Request that the tenant read and sign it once complete.
  4. Do the repair calculations – determine what the repairs will cost and deduct that amount from the tenant’s security deposit when you return it.

The steps above protect you should the tenant try to dispute the damage, or if you need to collect payment because the security deposit won’t cover the costs entirely. No matter how nice someone may seem, you have to look after your own interests – and as a landlord, that means ensuring that you turn a profit on your properties and get what’s owed to you!

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