Tenant Damages Rental Property. Now What?

If you’re a landlord, you’ve got plenty of company. According to a report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, three-quarters of all rental properties in the U.S. are owned by individual investors. That’s about 17 million properties. And there’s a good chance most of those individuals became landlords for the same reason; A desire to build a more stable financial future. And especially a more secure retirement somewhere down the road. But when a tenant damages rental property, they put this goal at risk.

The problem is, your tenants likely don’t care about your financial and retirement goals like you do. In fact, a quick internet search of ‘tenant opinions of landlords’ shows there’s a good chance your tenants think you’re already rich (maybe greedy and heartless too). Plenty of renters — even renters with good credit histories and stable employment (you know, the renters who “look good” on paper) can still harbor misconceptions and even outright resentment toward a property owner. Often, those poor attitudes translate into even poorer care of your property. Often, this results in inadvertent or intentional damage that can wind up costing you a lot of money to repair.

Landlord Rights When a Tenant Damages Rental Property

It’s pretty much every landlord’s worst nightmare — a hostile, angry tenant who destroys the property. Often times tenants like this figure they have nothing to lose, and they wind up “getting revenge” on their landlord by causing thousands of dollars in damage to the property. From smashing windows and tearing up the carpet to punching holes in walls and even ripping out cabinets or appliances, an angry tenant can cause significant damage. When a tenant damages rental property, your bank account can take a serious hit. Plus, this can delay your ability to re-rent the property.

Unfortunately, most landlords wind up with at least one bad tenant during the course of their career. When a tenant damages rental property, you have rights as a landlord. And that means you need to know what to do when a tenant damages your property. 

What To Do If a Tenant Damages Rental Property

Before you buy your first property, you should study the landlord-tenant laws that pertain to your property. These laws aren’t just about protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords. They’re also designed to spell out landlord rights when a tenant destroys your property. If you haven’t studied these laws before, you should certainly do it now. Better still, hire an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant issues with an emphasis on the landlord’s rights. Landlord-tenant law changes on a regular basis and it can be hard to keep up. Hiring an attorney ensures your rights are completely protected and it can also help you avoid missteps in pursuing a damage claim.

Evictions

There’s no reason to keep an angry, destructive tenant in your property.  Getting them out should certainly be your priority. But that’s where landlord-tenant laws come into play. You can’t just kick out a tenant. You have to evict them. And to do that, you need to follow some very specific procedures which can vary depending on where your property is located. Eviction is oftentimes a complicated and slow process, so it’s important to make sure it’s your best option before you get started. Also be aware that telling a violent or spiteful tenant you are evicting them could result in further damage to your property. You need to be absolutely sure to handle the situation as calmly and respectfully as possible.

Given the complexities of the eviction process (and the potential for unpleasant confrontations with the tenant), you’ll probably want to work with an attorney to make sure the process goes smoothly. Just be aware your attorney fees can add up pretty quickly. In fact, according to a survey from credit-reporting agency Transunion, eviction-related expenses (that includes filing fees and other legal fees) average about $3,500, but in some cases, they can be much more. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of repairs, which can be substantially more.

Tenant Abandons Property

Often when a tenant has destroyed rental property, they’ll leave— quickly. And sometimes they can be very difficult to track down. First, document everything with photos and video. Take pictures of any structural damage, garbage or debris left behind or other issues, like where your appliances used to be. Next, review the damage with your insurance carrier to see what your policy will and won’t cover. Tracking down your tenant or trying to recover damages are steps that typically benefit from attorney guidance.

Security Deposits

In most cases when a rental property is damaged, you have the right to keep all or part of the security deposit to offset the repair costs. But again, security deposits are heavily regulated by the landlord-tenant laws in your location. You’ll need to make sure you follow the laws every step of the way and document all your repair costs so you can prove the use of the security deposit to make repairs is legitimate.

Suing for Damages

If the costs of the repairs exceed the amount of your security deposit, you’ll almost certainly need to file a lawsuit in civil court to attempt to recoup your losses. After all, there’s virtually no chance your tenant will give you the money to repair the damage they’ve intentionally caused. And even if your lawsuit is successful, if your tenant doesn’t have any money, you won’t be able to collect on your claim, which means you’ll still be left covering all your costs out of pocket.

Of course, you’re going to have to pay for those repairs yourself anyway, at least initially, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to find a new tenant for your property. And that means you’ll have a lot of carrying costs on an empty property. All in all, a lot of hassles. But there is one other option.

Sell Your Property — for Cash

When you bought your property, you probably envisioned hanging onto it for a long time. That’s because you thought of it as an asset. But when a tenant has destroyed your rental property, all you’re looking at is a liability. Think about it. Every day your place sits vacant, you’re losing money. Even if the property doesn’t have a mortgage, there are taxes and insurance costs to account for, as well as utilities and the complete repair costs from tenant-induced damages. Empty properties are magnets for vandalism, and they’re not very popular with neighbors either.

Often, the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective solution is to sell your property so you can offload all those hassles and expenses to focus on enjoying your life again.

At HomeGo, we help rental property owners turn their problems around by offering full-cash deals for their properties. Plus, we can offer fast closings, so you can get the cash you need to replenish your savings. There’s no need to bear the burden of damaged rental property for one more day. HomeGo is ready to help.

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