Getting Your Tenant To Pay for Damage Done
September 1, 2010
When you discover damage, such as a broken window, hole in the wall or door, garbage piled up or crayon marks on the wall, send the tenant a note. In the note, remind them of their responsibilities and suggest how they can solve the problem.
If the damage is too much for the tenant to fix on his or her own, do it yourself or have it done and send the tenant a bill. In the bill specify when it must be paid and remind them that any damage can be deducted from their security deposit. If the tenant cannot pay it all at once, make them call you to arrange a payment schedule.
If none of that works, you have the final option of terminating the tenancy for cause. The procedures vary from state to state, but it usually gives them 10 to 14 days to correct the problem or 30 days to move. Should the security deposit be inadequate to cover the cost of their damage, you would have to obtain a judgment for the rest.
If you have done your job right at the beginning, though, the tenant will want to work out a solution with you. Doing your job right means that you have made it clear at the beginning of the tenancy that you want them for a tenant, that problems are solvable, and that they can talk to you. The important thing to remember is that tenants are responsible for any damage in excess of normal wear and tear. Make that fact clear from the beginning, possibly even going over what normal wear and tear is.
If you expect good results you are likely to get them.