One of the top questions we get from people who have never been a Landlord is, “What if a Tenant Destroys My House?”
It’s a certainly understandable question. Most people, who are new to our industry, have probably only heard the horror stories out there. Yes, Tenants can do a lot of damage to properties, but I can assure you, from our own experience, that it’s not common.
And while there are no guarantees, there are some steps you can take to help ensure your Tenant doesn’t destroy your property.
Steps to Take to Avoid Disaster
- Proper Screening – Above everything else, placing a highly qualified, well-screened Tenant is the number one way to ensure your property is taken care of. Past performance is the best indicator of future performance, so if you do a good job of screening, the chances that your Tenant will destroy your house should be minimal.
- Collect a Deposit – Never rent a home without collecting a deposit. Even very careful Tenants can do inadvertent damage, so you need to have a security deposit in case the Tenant does damages above normal wear & tear.
- Property Visits – Finally, visiting the property is obviously a good way to ensure your Tenants are maintaining the property. I would never suggest renewing a Lease, for example, without making a site visit. In addition, tell your Vendors to notify you of any concerns or lease violations that may be occurring. Using Vendors is a great way to keep tabs on the property without having to physical visit it.
So, again, while there are no guarantees, taking a few precautions, should give you a very good chance of having a successful Tenancy.
How to React if Money is Owed
Now, if a Tenant does leave the property in bad shape, and there is not enough deposit on file to cover all the damages, there are certain steps you can take to help recover the money due to you.
- Document the Move-In. It’s important that you have a document, signed by both you and the Tenant, that captures the condition of the home at move-in.
- Document the Move-Out. In addition, you must document, via photos, the damage that was done at move-out.
- Serve your 45-day letter. In Indiana, you must send the Tenant a 45-day letter if you keep any part of the deposit for physical damages. The letter must explain why, specifically, you kept the deposit. In that letter, if money is owed to you, you should also request payment within a certain time frame.
- File a Claim. If the Tenant fails to respond to you, and you feel like the money owed to use is worth pursuing, the next step is to file a claim against the Tenant. I strongly suggest hiring an attorney to do this. At the hearing, the photo evidence will be very important.
- Hire a Collection Company. Once you have a judgment, you may then need to hire a collection company to begin collecting the money. This can be done via a wage garnishment, or the Tenant may agree to begin making payments.
Again, while it's not overly common for Tenants to destroy your home, there are certain things you can do both proactively to help ensure a successful tenancy and then steps you can take on the back-end of things if you need to collect money.
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.