As a landlord, tenants who fail to pay rent can affect your bottom line. Yet, those who show disregard to your property may cause the most headaches. These tenants might make changes to your unit that violate the terms of their lease. Or, their actions could destroy surfaces, fixtures and appliances in the unit. If you’re dealing with a tenant who’s damaged your property, it’s crucial to understand your options.
What qualifies as damage?
When evaluating damage, it’s crucial to understand how it differs from normal wear and tear. Small stains, scratches, dust and even warped windows qualify as expected wear to a unit. These are often the byproduct of normal use, rather than any recklessness on your tenant’s part. Damages pertain to abnormal wear, and include:
- Marks or stains on walls
- Burns or stains on carpet
- Painting without permission
- Broken windows or screens
- Broken appliances
- Excessive mold
What action can you take?
If you find a tenant’s unit damaged after they’ve moved out, you can deduct the total repair cost from their security deposit. If this amount exceeds the security deposit, make sure you document any additional expenses, so you can bill your tenant for them. They may refuse to pay, though, in which case you will need to pursue a claim against them for further damages. If you discover the damage while the tenant is living in the unit, you must provide them a Notice to Cure. This document gives them 10 days to correct the violation of their lease. You cannot pursue further action against the tenant if they take corrective action. But if they do not, you will want to file a Notice of Termination, which gives your tenant 30 days to vacate the premises. If they fail to do so, you must file an eviction lawsuit to begin the proceedings for their removal.
When you’re having trouble with a tenant damaging your property, it’s crucial to act swiftly. Moving fast can help prevent major losses and will allow you to hold your tenant accountable. An attorney who understands landlord-tenant disputes can help you take the steps to do so.