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Managing Tenant Damages in Your Rental: A Guide for Landlords

Updated: Mar 19

Damages to your rental property can be frustrating, but they’re a reality for many landlords. Even if you’ve screened your tenants thoroughly and made regular inspections, you can still have one who ruins your property. While residents have their rights, property managers have theirs, too. Therefore, it’s important to understand your rights as a landlord and the steps to take to get your property back to normal.

1. Understand Your Legal Rights

Before dealing with tenant damages, you must understand your legal rights as a landlord. In Florida, state laws outline the landlord and tenant’s responsibilities regarding rental property damages.

The law states you must notify the tenant of the damages and duties in writing. You can give them seven days to correct the issue or you have the option to evict them, and they must leave the property within seven days if the damage was intentional. Knowing the laws can help you communicate and act fairly when managing tenant damages. However, it’s always good to consult legal counsel to ensure you’re fully informed and compliant.

2. Identify and Document Damages

The next step is to gather all the evidence you need to manage the repairs effectively. Start by thoroughly inspecting the property as soon as you learn about the possible damages. Some states require you to provide a reasonable notice of 24 hours before entering the premises. However, the state of Florida defines “reasonable” as 12 hours before entry, and between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

During the inspection, look for any changes since the resident moved in. It’s important to compare the current state of the property with the condition it was in before tenancy, using any move-in inspection report or photos as a reference.

Take clear, detailed photos or videos of all damages. This will be crucial for documentation during a dispute or deducting from the security deposit for repairs. You should also write a detailed report noting each issue’s location, type and severity. This report should include dates and relevant details that could affect the repair process.

Lastly, you should keep all communication records about the damages with your tenant in writing. This can include emails, texts or written notices. Documenting these will be important for maintaining a clear record of your response and actions taken.

3. Determine If the Insurance Covers Damages

After documenting tenant damages, check if your insurance policy covers it. Different policies offer varying levels of coverage, so it’s important to understand the specifics. Typically, landlord insurance covers damages caused by unexpected events like fires, flooding and storms. However, it may not cover damages resulting from tenant negligence or intentional destruction.

To determine if your policy applies, review its details or contact your insurance provider with documented evidence of damages. If covered, your insurance company will walk you through the claims process.

4. Get an Estimate of Repair Costs

Gathering accurate repair estimates is essential for budgeting and discussing with your tenant. It also sets a clear expectation for the repair process and helps manage the property effectively.

Depending on whether your insurance will cover the damage, you may need to choose less costly solutions to fix the damage. For example, broken shower doors may need to be switched out for a frameless shower as this costs 10%-15% less than framed showers. Additionally, broken windows may not be able to be replaced with energy efficient solutions.

After you’ve identified the repairs necessary, you’ll determine the costs by doing the following:

  • List the repairs: Keep an organized list of all the damages that must be repaired.

  • Contact professionals: For accurate cost estimates, contact a few general contractors. Getting multiple quotes is wise to ensure you receive a fair price for the repairs.

  • Review quotes: Once you receive quotes, review them carefully. Each quote should detail the costs for materials and labor, along with the timeline for completing the work. These details help you understand the overall cost and make an informed decision.

  • DIY (do-it-yourself): For minor damages, consider if DIY repairs are feasible and cost-effective. Yet, always weigh this against the quality and durability of professional work.

5. Address Tenant With Responsibilities and Agreements

Now that you’ve prepared your legal documentation and estimates, it’s time to discuss responsibilities and agreements with the tenant. Begin by sending them a detailed written notice outlining the damages and referencing specific lease agreement sections with their duties. Next, you’ll want to schedule a discussion with the tenant. Keep in mind that clear and respectful communication is key.

Present them with the evidence of damages and the estimated repair costs to ensure transparency. Keep the conversation straightforward so you can explore resolution options together. Staying focused will help find a fair and practical solution for both parties. It’s also important to document this conversation and any agreements made, as it will prevent future disputes.

6. Repair the Damages

When repairing damages, landlords have two main options — professional or DIY repairs. For complex or extensive damages, hiring professionals is advisable to ensure the work meets building standards and is completed efficiently. For smaller repairs, you could opt for DIY repairs to save on labor costs if you have the right skills. Whichever option you choose, the repairs should be done promptly to prevent further damage to the property.

Recovering the repair costs will depend on the nature of the damages and the lease agreement terms. If the damage is beyond normal wear and caused by the tenant’s negligence, you can request payment directly from them or deduct it from the security deposit.

It’s imperative that you have everything in writing and acknowledged by both parties. This will help the situation moving forward and set a precedent for handling future incidents.

7. Follow Up and Take Preventive Measures

Upon completion of the repairs, a crucial final step is an inspection with the tenant to ensure the repairs meet expectations in the property. This is also an opportunity to discuss the incident with the tenant and reinforce the importance of taking care of the property. During your post-repair inspection, documentation is also important for your records.

To prevent this from happening again, consider taking steps including:

  • Performing routine maintenance checks

  • Providing tenants with property care guidelines

  • Updating the lease agreement to more specific maintenance

  • Highlighting what constitutes normal wear and tear versus damage

Manage Tenant Damages Effectively

Managing tenant damages can be a stressful time, but there are various steps you can take to remedy the situation. Ensure you acquire legal help so you can be prepared moving forward.

Additionally, you must always approach the situation professionally and fairly. Keeping the relationship positive between you and your tenant can lead to better care of your property and fewer issues in the long run.


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