Landlords have to take on a bit of risk whenever they rent a property out to a new tenant. Real estate has a lot of value, and the person who lives in a place can cause a lot of damage. Smoking inside, having pets without permission or hanging up a lot of art could do significant damage to the inside of a rental property.
Tenants may also do things that cause widespread and expensive damage, like illegally growing marijuana in the closet, resulting in mold growth. When the landlord regains control of the property and discovers damage, what options do they have for covering the costs of repairs?
Security deposits protect against damage
The possibility of a tenant damaging a property is one of the reasons that landlords charge security deposits. By requiring a financial deposit from the tenant, the landlord incentivizes them to maintain the property and advise them quickly when there are repairs necessary.
The threat of losing a security deposit can be enough to make tenants prioritize cleaning and maintaining the unit as well as possible so that they can get that money back. Sadly, there are those who will not care if they cause damage to a landlord’s property. Some might even cause damage intentionally when they realize that they won’t get their security deposit back because of a hole they burned in the carpet or punched in the drywall.
How do landlords claim the security deposit?
Landlords have to provide a written estimate of the cost of repairs to a tenant once they leave the property. This often depends on what issues the tenant reported in their initial inventory of the property’s condition. However, provided that they do so and that they can show that the damage occurred when the tenant was in the unit, they can retain the cost of repairs from the security deposit.
What happens when the security deposit isn’t enough?
Under New York law, landlords can only charge one month’s rent as a security deposit. A tenant could cause thousands of dollars more damage than what they paid in rent every month if they ruin the carpet, break windowpanes or damage the appliances.
Given the limitations of the security deposit law, landlords facing catastrophic levels of damage may have no choice but to take their tenants to court with a civil claim for the cost of the damage to the unit. When the security deposit is not enough to cover repairs, the courts may order the former tenant to repay the landlord for the damages they caused.