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:
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!