Addressing Tenant Property Damage: A Landlord’s Guide

As a landlord, you know that renting out property is a way to make an investment and a way to generate an income. But, it also comes with its own set of risks, whether it be tenant issues, unexpected maintenance issues or, unfortunately, tenant property damage. Damage to your rental property—whether intentional or unintentional—is never something to take lightly. If you find yourself in a situation where that your tenant has damaged your property, you certainly want to take the appropriate action to make sure you are not taken advantage of or shortchanged. You need to know how to assess property damage, set expectations and enforce remedies. Let’s take a look at the landlord’s guide to property damage and tips for addressing tenant damage.

Assessing the Damage

The first step in addressing tenant property damage is assessing the damage. Make sure you take pictures of any damage prior to any tenant repairs. Measure the extent of the damage in terms of cost. Consider any wear and tear and how that stacks up against State and local laws governing tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities. You want to make sure that you can accurately quantify the amount of damage that has been caused.

Setting Expectations

After you’ve document and assessed the property damage, the next step is to set expectations for the tenant. This is the time to make sure the tenant is aware of what is expected when it comes to repairing the damage. Talk to the tenant about an appropriate timeline, and set a deadline for it to be completed in the lease. Make sure that the tenant understands that they are responsible for any costs associated with the damage too. Depending on the circumstance and the extent of the damage, you may want to have a written agreement outlining the expectations and responsibilities.

Enforcing Remedies

After you’ve gone through the process of assessing the damage and setting expectations for the tenant, the final step is to enforce remedies if the tenant doesn’t comply. You may choose to take a hard line approach, which could mean evicting the tenant if they have failed to complete repairs and/or pay for damage. In this case, make sure you follow the appropriate measures set out in your local laws.

Dealing with Insurance

Dealing with property damage can be made easier with the help of insurance coverage. Depending on the extent of the damage, looking into insurance may be the best approach to mitigating loss. Discuss with your tenant their own personal insurance policy to alleviate costs. Your tenant should also be aware that their policy may not cover all damage, particularly malicious damage or acts of vandalism.

What if Tenant Disagrees?

It is possible that you, as the landlord, and your tenant may disagree over the amount of damage that has been done. In many cases, it is possible to come to a reasonable agreement with come to a resolution. In the event of a dispute, you may have to take the necessary legal steps to protect your property. This could include filing a claim with a Small Claims court, which will ultimately be responsible for making a decision on the outcome.

Signing the Deposit Check

Once you have assessed the damage, set expectations and enforced remedies, the final step is to sign the deposit check. Depending on the agreement you’re reached with your tenant, you may want to offset some of the deposit for any damages that have occurred. Make sure that you sign the check only after the repairs have been completed and documented.

Tips and Tricks for Addressing Tenant Property Damage: A Landlord’s Guide

When it comes to addressing tenant property damage, certain steps should be taken to ensure that the process is done correctly. Here are some tips and tricks for addressing tenant damage:

  • Document the damage by taking pictures and assessing the cost.
  • Set expectations with your tenants and make sure they understand what is expected with repair costs.
  • Enforce remedies if the tenant does not abide by the expectations set out.
  • Check into insurance coverage so that both the tenant and the landlord can be well-covered in case of any future issues.
  • Be prepared to take legal action if necessary.
  • Sign the deposit check, and make sure to document the repairs prior to signing.


Addressing tenant property damage is a difficult process and requires landlords to take the appropriate steps to ensure that they are not taken advantage of. This landlord guide to property damage covers the key considerations that landlords should keep in mind when handling tenant property damage, including assessing the damage, setting expectations, enforcing remedies, checking into insurance and signing the deposit check. By following these tips, landlords can protect themselves and their property when it comes to tenant damage.

What recourse do I have as a landlord when a tenant damages property?

As a landlord, you should always look to the terms of the tenant’s lease agreement and then local landlord-tenant laws for guidance. Generally speaking, a landlord can be held financially responsible for any damage caused by a tenant on their property, even if it is accidental. Your recourse in this situation would likely involve collecting the cost of repairs from the tenant. Depending on the laws in your area, you may also be able to pursue a legal action to recover these costs and any other damages that were incurred. Furthermore, you may be able to terminate the tenant’s lease agreement, withhold security deposits, or sue for damages if the tenant continues to violate the lease or the terms of local law.

What is the process for recovering damages from a tenant?

1. Document the Damage: Take photos or videos of the damage done to your property and make sure to document any extra costs you have incurred, including lawyers’ fees, as a result of the tenant’s actions.

2. Negotiate with the Tenant: If possible, try to negotiate a settlement with your tenant. If the tenant cannot fully reimburse you, try to negotiate a payment schedule. If your tenant refuses to negotiate, you will need to move on to the next step.

3. File a Small Claims Suit: If your tenant still refuses to reimburse you, you can file a small claims suit. Generally, small claims courts do not require an attorney and the process is relatively uncomplicated. But you will need to have evidence of the damage and all the losses you suffered as a result of the tenant’s behavior.

4. Contact a Local Court: If the tenant still refuses to pay and small claims court cannot help you, contact local court for further assistance. The court will determine if there are legal grounds for pursuing the tenant for the damages.

5. Employ Collection Services: If everything else fails, you can always turn to collection services for help. Collection services generally work on a percentage basis and charge fees if the tenant does not pay. They will attempt to collect the money from the tenant on your behalf.

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