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As a property manager, your main goal is to keep your tenants and your property safe. While normal wear and tear like stained carpets or scratched floors should be expected, there are some situations that make a landlord’s worst nightmare come true — a tenant causes significant damage to your property. When that happens, what do you do? Here are a few steps you can take to keep a bad situation from getting worse. 

Document everything. 

Before your tenant moves in, take photos that show the condition of the home or apartment. This is especially important if you’re managing an older property where minor scrapes, nicks and dings might exist from years of previous inhabitants. This photographic evidence will protect you and your tenant if there is a dispute about less significant damages. As an extra precaution, you can send the photos to an unbiased third party (such as an attorney) as further proof of the property condition at specific dates and times. 

If you do find yourself dealing with major damage, take extensive photos of every issue you find. This will be useful in situations where insurance may cover the damages, or if legal problems arise. You can also use these photos to help get a basic cost estimate from a contractor or repair person. 

Get repair estimates as soon as possible. 

You’ll want to address the damage quickly, especially if it could cause harm to other tenants or units in the same building. Be sure to keep meticulous records of receipts and financial transactions, and take extensive before and after photos of the repair process. Work with a contractor with a well-established reputation to avoid any claims of overcharging or personal bias (this will protect both you and your tenant). Completing the repairs quickly will also allow you to rent the property to a new tenant and help mitigate financial losses on your end. 

Understand your state’s laws.

Almost every lease agreement includes a security deposit to cover the cost of potential repairs. While you have the right to refuse to refund the deposit, most states will require you to provide an itemized list of costs in order to justify the refusal. If the cost of the damages far outweigh the security deposit, you need to understand your rights as a landlord to pursue legal action against your destructive tenant. In these situations, having proper documentation of the issues will prove to be crucial. Depending on your state’s laws, you may even have a limited window of time to inform your tenant of the additional costs and seek legal repercussions. 

No property manager wants to find themselves dealing with extensive (and expensive) repairs. Running a background check on your potential tenants will protect you from leasing to anyone with a history of causing property damage. Our comprehensive tenant screening checks could help save you thousands of dollars, and let you rest easy knowing your property is in good hands. Give us a call today!