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Property Damaged By Tenants – What Should You Do?

Sadly, it is not unusual for tenants facing eviction to take ‘revenge’ (or to recoup what they see as their losses) by damaging your property or stealing things like appliances. Obviously this is not a situation in which any landlord wishes to find themselves. Tenant-inflicted damage (especially if wilful and malicious) can cost thousands of dollars to set right – not only in the actual repair costs, but in lost rent while the repairs are taking place. Such things can put a struggling landlord into serious financial straits. However, there may be ways in which you can get some of your money back, and there may be ways to turn this nasty situation around. Here are the steps you should take if your property has been damaged by a tenant:

Record Everything

It is more than worth photographing or videoing the property in detail, making meticulous records of all damages. Ideally, you will have photographed the state of the property before the commencement of the tenancy (and will thus be able to compare ‘before’ and ‘after’) – but don’t worry if you haven’t. It is still useful to have a photographic and/or video record of the damage, and will help greatly with any ensuing investigation or court proceedings.

Tell The Police

It’s not often that the police make any actual arrests in the case of tenants damaging properties – but they may still issue you with a police report number, which is very much needed if you’re going to sue your tenants or claim the damage against your insurance. If your tenants have stolen appliances or anything else of yours that is valuable, the police may decide that they have grounds to make an arrest, in which case you can decide whether or not to press charges. Should it transpire that criminal activity has been occurring on the property, and if there is evidence of this, it is more likely that the police will take action against the tenants than if they’ve simply caused damage. Drug dealing or preparation within the property is a common reason for police to arrest former tenants on the landlord’s information – but you need to be able to present evidence of this to the police before they will take any serious action. However, even if the police don’t make any arrests, it’s still helpful from an insurance point of view to have informed them, and potentially to have had them assess the damage.

Contact Your Insurers

Depending on what kind of cover you have for your property, you may well find that your insurers are able to cover much of the cost of repairs. Getting reimbursed for rent lost while repairs are occurring is trickier, but not impossible depending upon your insurer and the status of the case. Your insurer is likely to want to see your photos of the damage, plus any police reports on the case. Most insurers who deal specifically with landlords will be sympathetic to you. However, you may have a battle on your hands in some cases, so it’s wise to be as organized, thorough, and meticulous as you can when presenting your case to the insurers.

Be Sensible With The Security Deposit

Whatever your tenants have done to your property, you still have to abide by the law when it comes to the security deposit your tenant left behind. If you use any or all of the deposit to pay for damages, you must present an itemized receipt to them for having done so. The precise ins and outs of landlord/tenant law varies from state to state, so it’s wise to familiarize yourself with your duties and responsibilities in this area. No matter how angry you are at the state of your property, withholding the security deposit or failing to fulfil your legal obligations will not help matters at all!

Decide Whether Or Not To Sue

On occasion, the best way to get justice and to recoup your losses is to take your former tenants to court. Sometimes, however, the costs of doing this exceed the costs of repairing your property. You may decide that the principle of getting justice is worth the extra costs, or you may decide to cut your losses and work on getting your property back into a reasonable condition. This is entirely up to you. The small claims court, however, is available for situations like this!

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Landlord Duty to Deliver Possession

“English” Rule

The covenant to deliver possession is enforceable against the landlord when a third party wrongfully remains in possession at the time the tenant is entitled to possession. The landlord’s obligation is to ensure actual possession, not a mere right of possession.

This is the long-established rule in England and is followed by a number of American jurisdictions.[1]

“American” Rule

The landlord need only convey the right of possession, not actual possession – unless there is an express lease covenant to the contrary.  This rule was developed historically in US jurisdictions but has been largely modified or abandoned, particularly as to residential tenancies.

Many states have adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.[2]  The Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in its current form has provisions expressly creating a duty to deliver actual possession.

Although statutes in many states are based on this model act, the model and the various statutes in jurisdictions that adopted it evolve separately and differ more and more over time. The Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act does not have these provisions.


[1] American Law of Landlord and Tenant, Robert S. Schoshinski.

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Advice For New Landlords

by Eve Pearce

With housing prices remaining relatively low, some are looking to rent out their existing property when moving on rather than selling at a price lower than the purchase while others are using this time of more affordable housing to buy an investment property as a provision for the future. Whatever the reason, becoming a landlord is not risk free and so it is important that you do your research and take the proper precautions to protect your investment and hopefully see a good return.

A Good Rental?

First things first, find out whether your property or prospective property will make a viable rental. This involves calculating total outgoings such as mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance and repairs and agent fees and researching typical rental prices in the same neighbourhood. Speaking to local real estate and letting agents and looking at online property rental websites is essential to finding the right rental price for your property. This is important not only for calculating the yield on your investment to check for financial viability, but also for setting an appropriate price that will attract tenants when you come to advertise. Whether or not a property will make for a good rental is not only about how the figures stack up. It is vital to consider the local market, the competition, and identify the type of tenants that are likely to be interested in your property so that you can make sure you tailor your rental accordingly. For example families will generally require a bath whereas young professionals are often fine with just a shower room. By understanding your market you can ensure that your property caters for the needs of prospective tenants and, in areas of ample competition, stands out from the crowd.

Let Your Mortgage Company Know

If you are thinking about renting a property which you previously purchased with a residential mortgage, it is important that you inform your lender of your intention to let. Some lenders might force you to change your mortgage to a buy-to-let which often requires a lower loan to value and charges a higher interest rate, so be sure find out where your lender stands when you are assessing the suitability of renting out your property.

Work Out Tax Implications

As with any income, money earned from rental of real estate is subject to federal taxation. It is therefore important that you understand the tax implications of becoming a landlord. When you start to receive an income from your property – regardless of whether you make a profit – you will need to declare this income on your tax return. However, there are a number of deductibles (for example repairs to the property) that can offset some of the income you make so it is important that you get into good record keeping habits from the start.

Get Rock Solid Contracts

Regardless of who you are letting your property to, a solid rental contract is vital. Even when you are renting your property to family or friends this is essential, and it is unfortunately often these situations that go wrong and so it is important that you are protected by a sound lease agreement or rental contract. It is worth seeking the advice of a real estate lawyer or attorney to have a contract drawn up to ensure it contains all of the proper provisions. Often new landlords are tempted to find a contract or template online or try drawing up an agreement themselves to save money, but this will be a false economy if your contract turns out not to be watertight if you have problems with your rental.

Vet Your Tenants

Although you will never really know how a prospective tenant will turn out until they are living in your property (or more often until they move out), but it is nonetheless vital to make the appropriate checks into their character and background before you hand over your keys. If you are using a rental agent to obtain tenants and manage your property, they will undertake such checks. However if you are choosing to self-manage, then conducting a credit check and obtaining references from employers and previous landlords is necessary. Another test not to be underestimated is simply meeting prospective tenants face to face. If their checks and references look good but you just have a strange feeling about them, trust your instincts.

Protect Your Property

As a landlord it is important to have the proper insurance in place to protect your real estate and any contents which you own by taking out appropriate landlords insurance. When moving out of and renting your own home, it is important to switch to landlords insurance rather than rely upon your existing policy as in the event of an incident for which you need to make a claim, you could find that your insurer refuses to pay out on the basis that you had leased the property without their knowledge. In addition to covering the property itself and any fixtures and fittings you have provided, it is possible to take out cover against loss of rental income or your liability as a landlord to ensure you are covered in any situation. Another way of protecting your property is by installing adequate smoke alarms and this is in fact a legal requirement in most states.

Know The Law

Another important aspect of becoming a landlord is being aware of all of the laws that protect you as a landlord, such as eviction procedures, and those which you are obliged to adhere to for the protection of your tenants. Understanding your legal requirements as a landlord is crucial to ensuring you don’t find yourself in a litigious situation and understanding your rights as a landlord before you lease your real estate to your first tenants will give you the confidence to act swiftly and appropriately should any difficult situation, such as non-payment of rent, arise.

 

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Ive been Evicted, and had a car Repoed?

well, im 24 years old currently live in NY. back in 2006 i moved to florida bought a car and rented an apartment. well i lost my job, and got evicted in june of 2007. subsequently i moved back to NY and drove the car i purchased back to ny with me. i moved back in with my parents, and during the whole process i fell behind on my car payments and my car was repoed in april 2008.

currently i am paying 50$ a month on my eviction payments. the total due is over 6000 dollars. i know its a small payment but thats all i can afford. im a full time student and will graduate from comm college i may, and plan on enrolling in a 4year school in the fall. i have not heard anything from the finance company of the car. they do have my address and my phone # but still havnt heard a word. is it possible that they will not try to collect the debt? just brush it under the rug? i still owe over 5000 dollars on it…

2006-2008 was a very rough period for me, but im getting my life back together. these 2 years has destroyed my credit.

should i even pay off this eviction? is it even worth it? it will be off my credit report in 7 years right then there will never be a trace of it correct? should i just wait it out a few years? and is it possible that the car place has just squashed my debt?

advice plz.. thanks!

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and it continues….please help with this landlord/tenant issue?

more drama….i’m annoyed that i even have to ask these questions, but i’ve been scouring the internet and i’m having a problem trying to gather this information….basically my aunt (the landlord) is trying to evict some tenants as quickly as possible..
they’re in jail and we would like to get them out on “abandonment of premises” we live in florida and I am trying to find out the process for the abandonment of premises or would it be easier to just file an eviction?
if you have experience, or info please help. thanks

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need legal advice about paying rent in forclosing home?

Do i have to pay rent in a home i rent that is in the forclosure process. is there a florida website that i can ccheck a statute. i am month to month and have made agreement(w/landlord) to pay less but now being told i am not obligated to pay at all. What is the legality of this. Can she go and file for eviction even tho the home is mid process of forclosure? yes i know i need to move but if she isnt paying why should i pay. should i contact the bank and tell them i am paying her so they can collect from her or use this as a barganin chip to get rent even lower. i agreed to pay 1000 of the 1500 i am suposed to but now thinking about offering 500. i know i cant live for free and dont intend to but why not take advantage of the situation. they have been keeping my money since feb. and not paying the mtg. also the “”NOTE cannot be found(they filed to re-establish lost note) and the partner is MIA since December of last year. should i assume this will make the process even longer

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Landlord won’t allow me to use my last months rent deposit towards last months rent! Is this legal?

I live in Marion County Florida. When I rented my home in July of 2010 I signed a1 year lease. I gave the landlord (real estate property manager) First and last month’s rent ($1350 each) plus one month Security Deposit ($1350) plus a $250 non refundable pet deposit. I just notified them that we will not be renewing our lease and he told me I can not use my last months rent (that I gave when I signed the lease) to pay July’s rent. That they hold the last months rent until after we move out. I have to pay July’s rent and after inspection of the home I would receive both last months rent and deposit back (if everything checked out ok). This doesnt seem right to me. We just bought a home and don’t want to have to pay two rent/mortgage payments in July. He said if I don’t pay July’s rent he will process an eviction on July 3rd! Is this legal? Thank you.

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Former roomate processed small claims court on me for cause of eviction?

Beginning of August, I moved in with a girl who was a friend of a friend. She had gotten an apartment with her boyfriend but they broke up so he moved out. She needed someone to move in and help her pay rent so i came to the rescue. I was getting paid under the table so I did not have paychecks stubs to prove my income etc. We then both agreeed that I did not have to sign the lease as long as I paid rent on time which I did. It is now May, we got evicted in February.

Noise complaints caused the eviction. First noise complaints was because of a party, which we BOTH threw. Second noise complaint was because of a party again, which her friends had when neither of us was home She gave her friends an extra spare key to the apartment. Third noise complaint was when we got evicted. I don’t know what the complaint was for because she did not show me the eviction paper nor the noise complaint.

She claimed that I was the reason why we got evicted because she was in Florida for a week and when she came back, we got the notice. I don’t have a key to the mailbox and the date of the notice was while we was gone. I am furious that she is blaming it on me because while I was at work and she was in Florida, my neighbor texted me and told me to quiet down. I told him I wasnt even at home?…so who is at my house!??? I got home and her friends had a bunch of people over drinking and such. She wrote me a letter saying I had to be out in 3 days and had to pay $1300 which includes the eviction fee, security deposit, etc.

I refused to pay because it was not my fault, and my name was not on the lease so I am not responsible to pay her fees. 2 months later, I received a paper saying that she is bringing me to a small claims court and is suing me for $2,000 for [actions of defendants caused eviction, damaged property, and theft of personal items] After I moved out, I was nice enough to give her $250 for the last couple days I stayed there and for the damage property which was a hole in the door in my room. I wrote her a check so I have proof that I paid her.

What are the chances of me winning this case? I did not sign any papers. I gave her cash for the rent on time and also for the utilities.. I did not steal anything of hers and I paid for what I damaged already. What should I be prepared for in this small claims court? I’ve never been to court before. My court date is tomorrow. Does she have a chance of winning?

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How do I get friends turned squatters out of my rented house?

My boyfriend who reside in Broward County Florida allowed two people whom he thought were friends to move in while he was out of town working. They agreed to pay him rent but have not paid anything to the tune of 3100.00. They also sold his boat and kept the money while he was gone. When he came back he asked them to pay or move. They did neither and refuse to leave saying “I ain’t going nowhere and it will take you 3 months to get us out!” Great friends huh? He had to go to work out of state but had his landlord serve them with a 3 day eviction notice. That was last week and they are still there. The landlord had the power taken out of his name and it was supposed to be shut off but was not. The power company said they will shut off in two weeks. The landlord thinks that my boyfriend will have to do the eviction process beyond the three day notice. Is this true? How the *?#! do we get these “SQUATTERS” out? Help!

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About to get evicted with 5 month old baby…..?

My and my fiancee are going through a hard time, our car was repossessed, he lost his job, and i have yet to find work since having a baby girl 5 months ago. we are 2 months behind on our rent and just received the eviction papers a week ago. i mailed off a letter to the plaintiff attorney stating the reasons why i think we shouldn’t be forced to move but i have a feeling it doesn’t really matter and that i will be receiving a 24 hr notice any day now. is there any way to slow down the eviction process and buy some time. and any advice to me about where we are supposed to go…we live in broward county florida and i contacted EVERY rental assistance agencies churches and all and no one has funds. even the homeless shelters have waiting lists. what am i supposed to do?? please someone offer me some kind of advice. and no mean answers please. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.