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>WHAT TO DO IF A TENANT
DESTROYS YOUR PROPERTY
What would you do if you discovered your property had been damaged by renters, through accident or ill will?
If you own a property, the odds suggest that you will have to handle a property damage claim over the lifetime of the rental unit. Learn what to do to protect yourself, your investment and your property from damage by tenants.
PREVENTING TENANT PROPERTY DAMAGE THROUGH EDUCATION
Tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear in the apartment, but they are responsible for damage that occurs on purpose or by accident.
You can protect yourself by inserting a clause in your lease that informs tenants of this fact. Renters who know they’ll be held liable if they accidentally cause water damage on the wood floor may be more likely to wipe up a spill in short order.
If you’re really concerned about property damage, you may invite renters to go on a move-in inspection with you. Draw their attention to existing areas of wear and tear. Clearly explain what constitutes “normal wear and tear” and what constitutes accidental damage. Outline your policy for property damage. If you have a policy of tenant eviction for destruction of property, such as vandalism, let tenants know. HANDLING PROPERTY DESTRUCTION INCIDENTS
What should you do if the tenant destroys your property, despite your best efforts at education and prevention? While you could go about evicting a tenant, you may wish to settle the issue, if possible. If the problem requires a skilled repairperson, refer the tenant to a handyman, plumber or other service person. Then, set a deadline for repair and inspect the work after. Your renter can hire someone to repair a damaged door or patch drywall and pay out-of-pocket for the work.
If the renter does not complete the work on time, you can either bill him or her, or let the renter know you will be deducting the repair amount from his or her security deposit.
Throughout the process, document any communication with the renter to protect your interests. Take pictures of damage, in case you need to pursue the matter in court.
If a renter damages property more than once, you may decide that eviction makes sense. Repeated property damage (even accidental) hinders trust between you and your renter.
In a worst-case scenario, a tenant could rack up more in property damage than you have in security deposit, leaving you liable for the difference unless you can collect in court. When the repairs for damaged property exceed the amount you’ve collected for the security deposit, you may be able to sue to reclaim the difference.
However, you’ll need to hire an attorney and spend time on the matter. If the difference is small, you may decide it’s best to pocket the loss and move on quickly.
Most problems can be avoided by setting clear expectations at the outset and using clear and professional landlord forms to communicate with renters. If you need an eviction letter, security deposit form or other landlord tenant paperwork, consider becoming an American Apartment Owners Association member. Perks of membership include access to a library of landlord forms that cover tenant eviction, leasing and much more.
7 QUESTIONS LANDLORDS CAN’T ASK RENTAL APPLICANTS
As a landlord, you want to find the perfect tenant, so that means carefully screening applicants and getting to know them as best you can. Part of the process of finding qualified tenants includes an interview or two where you ask the applicant about their background and interests.
For naturally friendly people, there are certain questions that many use to break the ice, get to know a person better and open up conversations that can be interesting and fun. However, some seemingly innocent questions can actually be against the law to ask in a landlord/applicant setting. While you may be familiar with the obvious no-no’s, like “Are you disabled?” or “What race are you?” there are more subtle forms of questioning that may seem innocent, but can actually get you into trouble.
Here are 7 innocent-sounding questions that landlords cannot ask rental applicants:
1. In what country were you born?
The Federal Fair Housing Laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against someone based on their national origin, race or color. In an interview, it’s wrong to ask an applicant questions like where they were born, where their parents were born, what an applicant’s native language is or where their spouse/significant other is from.
2. Do you have a service animal? While this question may seem innocent enough for landlords who simply want to know what to expect as far as animals on the property, it actually violates the law. Similar to asking whether someone is disabled, landlords cannot inquire about service animals, or even what tasks and duties the animal performs for the applicant. Applicants must provide you with documentation about any service animals and you will find out soon enough, so dont ask the question.
3. Your children are adorable, how many do you have and how old are they? This question is often used in casual conversations to get to know someone a little better, but in a landlord-tenant situation, it’s a big no-no. Discrimination against familial status is protected by Federal Fair Housing Laws, and asking about children, their ages and even what an expectant woman’s due date is can put landlords on shaky legal ground.
4. Do you have any arrests? Many landlords believe that an applicant’s entire history with the law is fair territory for questions. While a background check will reveal if an applicant has ever been convicted of something, landlords cannot ask if an applicant has been rrested. Many people are arrested and let go, or arrested and not convicted. Landlords should focus on convictions when making their decisions, not arrests.
5. Are you interested in the nearest church/temple/mosque? While this kind of questioning may seem more helpful than harmful, it’s actually a problem because it is related to religion. Besides the fact that you are assuming what an applicant’s religious beliefs are, it could be seen as an illegal screening technique by asking such a loaded question. Stay away from any line of questioning that brings in religion and you’ll be in the clear.
6. So, when’s the big day? When any couple–straight or gay, old or young–applies to rent a property, it may seem natural or even friendly to ask whether they are married or engaged. Questions about familial status are not allowed in the interview process for prospective tenants, and some states and municipalities have laws that specificallyprohibit questions about marital status. As a landlord, you can still screen both people and see if they qualify by your pre-set standards but their marital status should never be a factor in that decision or a part of that interview.
7. Will you be retiring soon? Asking about someone’s age during a rental application interview is another piece of information that is protected. Landlords cannot ask about a person’s age, whether they are quite young or seniors. There are a few exceptions to this rule, as for retirement or senior communities that comply with 55+ state and federal regulations, but in general, keep any questions and assumptions about age to yourself.
It takes practice to conduct an interview that meets your needs for screening the tenant, while steering clear of those topics that could land you right in the middle of a discrimination lawsuit. It’s a good idea to create a list of questions beforehand, keep the interview succinct and professional and trust your background screening service to pull up any significant issues for your attention”.