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How do you prove a tenant caused damage to your unit?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2021 | Real Estate

One of the biggest risks landlords take when renting out a property is the potential for their tenants to cause serious damage to the unit. Landlords often don’t know about the condition of their property or the behavior of a tenant until they regain possession of the unit at the end of a lease.

Walking into a previously well-maintained unit to find cigarette burns, pet stains or holes punched in the wall is a disheartening experience. How can you hold your tenant responsible for the damage they caused to your property?

You need to inventory and document the damage carefully

You can only make claims for actual damage, not standard wear and tear to the unit. While doing your walk-through after the tenant has left the unit, it will be important to complete an inventory noting all of the damage.

You may need to take photographs of certain issues in addition to making a written note about them. You can then compare these records to previous images of the apartment and the inventory of the unit’s condition before the tenant took possession.

Each tenant should fill out an inventory you provided at the signing of the lease with a written report about any preexisting damage during the early days of the lease. Any damage that is not on their inventory is something for which you could potentially hold your tenants accountable.

Take pictures

Landlords should take pictures of the unit: Before the tenant moves in, during an inspection, after the tenant moves out, and after any property damage repair work takes place. These pictures will serve as tangible proof of any damage and/or repairs claimed by the landlord. Landlords should also periodically inspect their units to catch any tenant damage that happens prior to the move-out inspection.

How do you recoup your costs?

Whether you do some of the work yourself or you need to hire a professional crew, there will be a lot of time and money invested in getting the unit back into rentable condition. Keeping invoices for all the professionals you pay and supplies you purchase is important. So to keeping a record of all the hours you or your staff members must commit to repairing the unit.

When you determine the total cost of repairs, you must provide itemized details to the former tenant, in writing, as well as notice of your intent to keep the appropriate amount from their security deposit. If they fight back against you or if their security deposit doesn’t cover your costs, your documentation will help you if when you take the case to court.

Hart Kienle Pentecost has over 40 years representing landlords in a variety of landlord-tenant disputes, including property damage. Contact one of our attorneys today to see how we can help.