Normal wear and tear, even the occasional mishap, is expected when you rent out your property. Rental agreements should be designed to account for these issues without undo fuss. Things get more complicated, however, when a tenant harms your property intentionally. Vandalism by a tenant is a distressing situation, though unfortunately far from rare.
Liability for Intentional Damage
The good news for landlords is that tenants are legally responsible for the damage they intentionally cause to your property. The bad news is that it may be difficult or impossible to collect the funds necessary to return your property to its previous condition. This is particularly true if the tenant committing the vandalism is in the process of being evicted for non-payment.
What Steps Should I Take?
As with almost any legal proceeding, the first step is to gather all the evidence you can about what is happening. Documenting the damage done, and all efforts to address the situation, is vital. When it comes time to repair the damage, obtain multiple quotes from contractors to support your claims against the tenant. Keep all correspondence with the tenant, along with the dates of your communications.
Consider Your Approach Carefully
A tenant who damages your property on purpose is a clear target for eviction. There are several drawbacks to this approach, however. Eviction is not instantaneous. It is, in fact, often a slow and painful process. If the tenant has resorted to trashing your property on purpose, an eviction notice is unlikely to improve his or her behavior.
Playing nice with someone who has put you in this terrible position is not easy. That said, if you can get the tenant to reconsider the situation, you can at least reduce further damage while you find a way out. To that end, some tenants can be bought out. Paying someone to get out of your rental property could save you further damage and expense.
A Civil Lawsuit
If there is hope of collecting and the damage done is severe, you may want to sue your tenant. A vandalizing tenant may be unwilling voluntarily pay the cost of repairs for your property. A court’s judgment can provide the leverage you need to force them to pay.
If the tenant is threatening or violent, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement. Managing a rental property can be stressful, but it shouldn’t involve the risk of physical assault. When a tenant is truly out of control, calling the police is a reasonable option.
Check Your Insurance Policy
In the end, your best chance of recouping what you’ve lost may come from insurance. When you discover the damage to your property, you need to file a claim with your insurance company. Dealing with insurance companies is rarely easy, but with the right assistance, you can collect the compensation owed to you under your policy.
An experienced attorney can help you find the right solution to the problem of a destructive tenant. The Fell Law Firm helps landlords in Texas deal with a wide range of legal matters, including disputes with tenants and problems dealing with insurance companies. Contact one of our attorneys to discuss your options.