What’s Property Damage?

What’s Damage?

Messy junk in  junkyard.I’ve been asked by my clients who act as their own property manager, what is considered damage after Tenant moves out? The laws in every state differ, so I am not addressing CA laws specifically.

 When a tenant moves into a dwelling, there’s a Move-In Checklist that is given to them. I allow 7 days, giving the tenant some time to settle in. I explain this is simply a “statement of condition”, not a “request for repairs”. BIG difference.

 If the owner would like to take photos, that’s fine. But unless you have a commercial grade camera with zoom lens, dirt on the carpet or wear and tear on the floor is not going to be visible. My advice: get the place in great shape, maximizing your ability to attract quality tenants and insuring your property value stays high.

 Wear and tear: this is something you can’t expect your tenant to pay for. If you have a 10 year old carpet and tenant leaves a small stain that is barely visible, forget it. If the carpet was brand new and  the cat urinated on it, you can have them pay for the entire carpet replacement. If you have screens that were torn by cat (and I have yet to see any catAngry cat not participate in this creative past time)or blinds that were bent by a curious child, then that is damage. They need to pay for replacement, but I’d be very lenient with the cost, since kids and cats act like….well, kids and cats. I delineate between “malicious” damage and accidental or “wear and tear” damage.

 Carpet cleaning is a sticking point since my personal feeling is if the carpets were cleaned before move-in, than tenant’s dirt is on the carpet, and they need to pay to remove it. This is a gray area, since it’s believed to be “wear and tear” but I always deduct for this.

Handsome man painting wall.Repainting is just a fact of life when you own property, but do you expect a freshly painted unit to be filthy after a 6 month lease? Absolutely not, and that is not normal “wear and tear”. After 2 years, I sometimes only wash walls with TSP and touch-up scuffs, but that’s after a really good tenant.

 Lightbulbs: Yes, this has been an issue, since I have properties with recessed lighting and bulbs can cost $6.00/each. Should tenant replace burned out bulbs after move out? Absolutely, or they get the cost deducted from their security deposit.

Being fair is the name of the game….there are just some things that as owners, we have to write off as business expenses. And inappropriate security deposit deductions will many times land you in court.

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