Are you dealing with major property damage to your Austin rental property? Property damage is every landlord’s worst nightmare. Nobody wants to deal with angry tenants who smash windows, burn the carpet, and destroy the walls.
Unfortunately, angry tenants can cause extreme damage that can hit your wallet hard. Not only will you be paying for the damage, but your rental unit will be vacant until you fix everything.
Whether damage is intentional or not, you have to deal with the aftermath. You’re looking at a whole lot of time, money, and energy just to return your property to normal. It’s no easy feat to clean a rental unit, let alone make extensive repairs.
Dealing with major damage is frustrating, upsetting, and stressful. However, you don’t have to lose your mind in the process. If you take the following steps, one at a time, you won’t be so overwhelmed.
Call the police, if necessary
Depending on the damage, you might need to call the police. If your property is completely trashed, or you see signs that a crime has been committed, call the police right away. They might be able to track down your tenant if they haven’t gone too far.
File a police report
When property damage is severe, you have the right to file a police report against your former tenant. However, don’t file a police report over wear and tear, or small damages like a hole in the wall or a broken door, or you’ll waste the court’s time. Make sure the damage is severe enough to warrant a report.
When filing your police report, be prepared for your former tenant to possibly be arrested. If the police arrest them, you can expect to testify against them in court. You can also choose to file a lawsuit against your former tenant in small claims court if the damages don’t exceed $5,000.
Either way, be prepared for your tenant to be angry enough to get revenge. If they know where you live, keep an eye out for their car and keep your doors locked at all times. You may even want to install a security camera for extra protection.
Take extensive photos
Documenting the damage is critical. Document every inch of the damage whenever possible. Take overlapping photos and videos from every possible angle. Don’t leave anything out. If you need to move items to take photos of more damage, make sure you photograph the entire process.
Photos will help you establish the severity of the damage and will become evidence in court, should you choose to pursue that avenue.
Make sure to get close-up shots of the following areas if damaged:
- The basement
- The rafters
- Holes in the drywall, especially if they’re small (some tenants shoot pellet guns at walls)
- The inside of closets
- Baseboards and trim
- Broken door knobs, hinges, etc.
- Chipped cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom
Stay calm and don’t get reactive
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with astronomical damage, but it can happen. The first glimpse of this kind of severe damage can be shocking. If you start feeling reactive after discovering severe damage, avoid contacting your tenant until you’ve gained control over the situation.
You have every reason to be upset when your Austin property gets damaged, but reacting won’t do any good. If you go after your tenant verbally or physically, you’ll only make the situation worse. Do whatever it takes to stay calm and manage the situation first. You can deal with your tenant later.
Create a plan to manage and repair the damage
No matter how massive the damage is, you need a plan for repairing your home. The greater the damage, the more overwhelming this can feel. However, there are professional companies you can call to help with assessing the damage and calling out the right professionals.
Deduct the cost of repairs from your tenant’s security deposit
Don’t hesitate to use your tenant’s security deposit to cover the cost of repairs. Seasoned landlords won’t bat an eye at this, but newer landlords might wonder if they really should use the deposit.
Always use a tenant’s security deposit to repair the damage they’ve caused. If they need the cash, they should have thought about that before causing damage.
Consider increasing the amount of your security deposit
How much damage did your tenant cause? Are you able to cover the repairs with their deposit? If not, consider increasing your security deposit for your future tenants. Texas doesn’t place a limit on how much you can collect for a security deposit, so you can increase it as you see fit.
Although there’s no limit to the amount of money you can charge for a security deposit, make sure your deposit is reasonable. If a tenant sues you in the future, they might be able to convince a judge that your deposit was unreasonable.
Consider requiring a non-refundable cleaning fee in the future
In Austin, you can collect a non-refundable cleaning fee from your tenants along with your refundable security deposit. These two fees need to be separate since the security deposit must be fully refundable. A non-refundable cleaning fee, on the other hand, doesn’t get returned to the tenant when they move out.
Technically, you can deduct the cost of cleaning from the security deposit, but only if your tenant doesn’t clean the unit before moving out. Even then, some tenants might argue that the unit wasn’t clean when they moved in and might demand you refund their full deposit. It’s not worth getting into arguments with tenants over such a small amount of money.
When you collect a separate cleaning fee, it won’t matter if the tenant cleans the unit before moving out. You’ll have the money to clean the unit regardless.
A cleaning fee can’t be used to cover the cost of damages, but it will reduce your overall expenses when turning over a unit. If you’ve had multiple tenants leave your property in less than great condition, it makes sense to collect a cleaning fee upfront. Just be sure your cleaning fee is clearly outlined in your lease and vetted by your attorney.
Work with an Austin property management company
Dealing with property damage can be difficult, but working with a property manager makes it easier. At Green Residential, we help Austin landlords manage all aspects of their rental properties, including tenant screening, rent collection, evictions, repairs, and maintenance. We also deal with property damage.
With Green Residential on your side, you won’t have to bear the burden of documenting damage or calling out for repairs. We’ll make being a landlord a stress-free experience.
For more information about how we can make your life easier, contact us today!