They may only be tenants, but they are still responsible for basic maintenance. If they neglect these duties, you have the right to charge them for the damage. But what, exactly, is the best way to determine the reasonable amount to charge? What forms of damage can be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit? What do you need to do in case your tenant causes damage to your rental unit?
Dealing with damage can be a challenge, even more so if you haven’t enlisted the services of a property management firm. Laws are ever-evolving, and certain rules and regulations apply to your property in particular. If you aren’t careful, you might end up in legal trouble. Keep reading to make sure you know the steps you need to take to lawfully charge your tenant for damage.
Keep the Property Low-Maintenance
Although your tenants are responsible for maintenance, you should not set your standards too high. They have lives, so they won’t be able to attend to everything every single day. With that said, they’ll inevitably leave the rental with wear and tear when they move out. What you can do is to make sure that the unit is low-maintenance – that way, they can actually take care of it. This will lower the risk of wear and tear, as well as make your home easier to maintain.
- Do not paint the walls with colors that make marks more visible.
- Do not choose flooring where scratches, stains, etc. can show up clearly.
- Don’t purchase cheap things – instead, buy long-lasting products.
Inspect the Property
It is crucial to inspect the entire property prior to the move-in date. You won’t be able to charge your tenant for the damage if there’s nothing to compare its condition to. Partner with a property management company to conduct a move-in inspection and to document every aspect of the property. This involves securing photos, videos, and more as evidence. Without this move-in inspection, you won’t be able to prove that everything was in good condition from the time that the tenant moved in.
Provide your tenant with a copy of the move-in inspection via the tenant portal. You don’t have to, but this will make them feel more comfortable, knowing that you practice transparency in property management.
Differentiate Wear and Tear From Damage
It’s important to note that wear and tear is not the same thing as damage. Wear and tear is inevitable, and the cost to restore the unit can’t be covered by your tenant. Examples of wear and tear are tiny scratches on the wall, worn-out carpets, and faded walls on the exterior. On the other hand, the damage is due to your tenant’s neglect to take care of the unit. Hence, the costs to repair the property can be taken from their security deposit.
How to Charge Tenants For Rental Property Damage
Even though your tenant has paid a security deposit, you can’t use the amount to cover the cost of repairs if they don’t agree to the deduction. They need to give you the go signal, otherwise, you will get in legal trouble. This is because they need to be given the opportunity to challenge what you’re charging them for. If they think you’re being unreasonable, you can ask the courts to decide.
In general, you need to consider certain factors to determine if it can be considered as damage, or if it’s only wear and tear. For instance, was the item that was damaged brand-new, or has it been in the property for ages? What could have caused the item to get damaged in the first place?
If it does fall under the classification of “damage”, you then need to get estimates from multiple contractors. You can’t count on guesswork to determine how much it’ll take to repair the damage. You can also partner with a property management agent to get an estimate of the costs for repairs.
Make sure your tenant has a breakdown of the repairs. Again, you need to get your tenant’s go signal before you deduct the amount from their security deposit. Keep in mind that your tenant may also offer to pay for repairs out of pocket or to personally repair the property if they’re DIY-ers.
How Much to Charge Tenants For Damage
As a rule of thumb, you should charge your tenant a reasonable amount that’s proportionate to the damage. That’s why it’s important to secure the estimates of two or more contractors. This should remove any doubts your tenant may have.
If the item can’t be repaired, you can replace it. Make sure that it’s a like-for-like replacement – in short, the amount to be collected has to be the same as its current value. For example, if a bed that’s been in the rental for ages is damaged, you can’t ask your tenant to pay for an expensive replacement.
Charging Tenants For Professional Cleaning
If you’re wondering whether you can charge your tenants for professional cleaning services, the answer is yes, but again, it has to be reasonable. In general, your tenants need to return the property to its original condition. If they fail to do this, you have the right to deduct the cleaning costs from their security deposit.
Be careful, though. You’re only allowed to deduct cleaning costs if the dirt is so excessive. If the property is clean enough (or if it’s obvious that the tenants cleaned it to the best of their ability), you won’t be able to withhold their security deposit.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with damage can be complicated, especially if you’re a new landlord. If you need a hand in charging your tenants for damage, get in touch with the experts at Luxury Property Care. We’ll guide you every step of the way, and ensure that you follow the relevant laws that involve security deposit deductions. Having been in the industry for decades, we know what it takes to deal with tenants properly, and to mitigate the damage that they may cause to your property.