What Can You do if a Tenant Damages a Landlord's Property?
The majority of tenants take good care of the properties they rent, but occasionally accidents do happen. You have a number of potential courses of action available when it does occur, and the right way forward depends on the tenancy agreement and the actions of the occupant. So what can you do if a tenant damages a landlord’s property?
What Tenants Should Do When They Cause Damage
A tenant should alert the landlord or lettings agency as soon as possible after any damage occurs. From there, you can inspect the issue and come to an agreement on how it should be rectified. If the damage falls under the definition of ‘wear and tear’, it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace and maintain the item. If it is anything more serious, it is usually up to the tenant to pay for repair.
The course of action after a tenant has caused damage is entirely up to you to decide. The landlord or lettings agent may arrange repair and then bill the tenant, or you might ask the tenant to make good the problem and pay for the work directly. It is advisable to have this settled in the tenancy agreement in advance so as not to cause disagreements when trying to rectify the damage. Having a solid tenancy agreement in place is vitally important for ensuring the letting process runs as smoothly as possible.
Executive Property Management Solutions can draw up your tenancy agreements, with experienced staff making sure you are fully prepared for eventualities such as damage caused by tenants.
In addition, you should ensure that you take a full and detailed inventory before letting the property in case a tenant damages an item and replaces it without your knowledge. This will be flagged up when the property is inspected and then you can decide whether to accept the substitution or to claim the money for the original item back from the tenant. We also look after this side of the tenancy process to provide you with peace of mind.
What is Defined as Wear and Tear?
Wear and tear refers to the natural degradation of items that are supplied with the property. This can range from the paintwork to the carpets to the kitchen appliances. The landlord is responsible for the upkeep of these items unless the tenant has damaged them through negligence.
It must be accepted that, over the course of a tenancy, these items will suffer minor scuffs and issues. Paint will flake and carpets will not look as vibrant as they did two years previously, for example. If the damage goes beyond that which is natural over the specific passage of time, the tenant is can be held responsible.
What Happens if the Tenant Refuses to Pay?
There are two main options when a tenant damages a landlord’s property and refuses to pay for it. Firstly you can deduct the sum from their security deposit. If you choose this option, it can only be as recompense for a financial loss, rather than as punishment for some other infringement against the terms of the tenancy agreement.
As such, the landlord or letting agent needs to keep receipts for all costs relating to the work and, of course, they need to match up with the sum withheld. The landlord must also return the rest of the deposit to the tenant once the tenancy ends, as long as all else is well with the property.
Alternatively, the landlord can take legal action against the tenant. This can prove costly and, in most cases, break down the relationship between tenant and landlord. Often it ends up with the landlord evicting the tenant so is definitely a last resort. If the amount owed is less than that value of the deposit, most landlords will seek to recover the cash in that manner. If it is of higher value, there may be no way to deal with the damage other than through the courts.
Once again, this shows the importance of having a watertight tenancy agreement where everyone knows where they stand and where the responsibility is easy to prove in a legal situation.
Help if a Tenant Damages a Landlord’s Property
Do you need help with a damage issue, or do you want to discuss how Executive Property Management Solutions can prepare you fully for such an eventuality? Contact us today on 0208 5757630 or fill in the form below.