Bardell Real Estate Logo

How Much Can a Landlord Charge for Damages?

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Blog, Homeowners, News, Property Management, Real Estate News, Renters | 0 comments

How Much Can a Landlord Charge for Damages?

If you want your rental business to thrive, it’s crucial to find tenants who will take good care of your property throughout their lease. Unfortunately, there may be times when you come across parts of your rental that are in worse condition than when your tenant first moved in.

That’s why it’s vital to understand how much you can charge tenants for any damages they cause. We’ve got you covered with all the essential information on charging tenants for damage to your rental property. So, let’s dive in and make sure you’re in the know!

What Is the Most a Landlord Can Charge for Property Damage?

The amount landlords can charge tenants for property damage varies from state to state, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag. But here’s the deal: in your state, the amount should be reasonable and clearly spelled out in the lease agreement.

Usually, landlords dip into the security deposit to cover repair costs, but if you decide not to do that, you might be able to slap tenants with some property damage-related fees. Either way, you gotta know your local landlord-tenant laws about security deposits and find out if you’re allowed to charge those extra fees.

Oh, and don’t forget to back up the amount you’re deducting from the security deposit. Just whip up a security deposit return letter, where you break down the deductions and give a solid explanation for each one. It’s all about making things crystal clear, my friend.

Property Damage vs. Normal Wear and Tear

Once you’ve got all your findings properly documented, it’s time to distinguish between property damage and normal wear and tear. Property damage refers to any harm caused to the unit due to tenant neglect or abuse.

Let’s break it down with a few examples of property damage:

  1. Unauthorized alterations like new paint or wallpaper.
  2. Those pesky large holes in the walls.
  3. Scratches on the kitchen counters.
  4. Appliances that have been damaged due to misuse.
  5. Scratches or urine stains left behind by furry friends.

On the other hand, normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration that occurs in a rental unit over time. Here are a few examples of what falls under normal wear and tear:

  1. Faded paint, as it happens over time.
  2. Wallpaper that has come a bit loose.
  3. Wear patterns on carpets from regular foot traffic.
  4. Dents on walls caused by door handles.
  5. Cracked light switch plates that come with normal use.

To ensure you’re on the right track, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local landlord-tenant laws, especially those that outline the differences between property damage and normal wear and tear. This will help you avoid mistakenly charging tenants for ordinary wear and tear situations.

How to Determine Damage Costs

Another crucial aspect to consider is determining the appropriate amount to charge for property damage. While you want to ensure the cost is fair, creating a standardized list of repair costs can be quite tricky. Here are a few factors to take into account when deciding how much to charge for damages:

  1. Age of the item: The repair cost for a brand new item may be higher compared to something that has been in the property for several years.
  2. Original cost: Understanding the initial purchase price of an item can provide insight into the estimated repair costs.
  3. Repair or replacement: In some cases, the damage may be severe enough to require complete replacement rather than repair. Consider the possibility of irreparable damage when determining the charges.
  4. Time and expertise required: While minor repairs may be manageable, certain tasks may demand a significant amount of time or the assistance of a professional contractor.

When it comes to presenting charges for damages, you have a couple of options. Some landlords prefer to disclose the charges at the end of the tenant’s stay, providing a final breakdown of costs. On the other hand, others opt to provide a tenant charge list at the beginning of the tenancy. This list outlines different types of damage along with estimated repair costs. By having tenants sign this list, they are made aware of their responsibilities, reducing the likelihood of disputes arising. However, keep in mind that unexpected repair costs can arise, which may pose a challenge if they exceed the initial estimates.

Ultimately, it’s your call on when to present the charges to the tenant, based on what works best for you and your rental business.

How to Inform Tenants of Property Damage

Let’s face it, discussing the withholding of a portion or the entire security deposit with your tenant can be an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain clear communication and keep them informed throughout the entire process. As a landlord, you can achieve this by following these steps before, during, and after the tenancy:

  1. Before Move-In To cover all your bases, make sure your lease agreement includes all the necessary information. This helps set clear expectations for both you and the tenant, reducing the chances of surprises. Research the local laws and ordinances, and include clauses in the lease agreement regarding:
  • Security deposits
  • Rental property walk-throughs
  • Differentiating normal wear and tear from property damage
  • Tenant responsibilities for maintenance

If you’re struggling with writing the lease, you can access lawyer-reviewed lease agreement templates through an Avail account. These templates not only meet state disclosure requirements but also allow you to customize them with specific clauses and rules for your rental property.

  1. During the Tenancy Throughout the tenant’s stay, make sure you stay on top of regular maintenance tasks you’ve agreed to handle. Ignoring maintenance requests can make it difficult to charge tenants for any resulting damage. Addressing these requests promptly also helps you determine whether the issue is related to normal wear and tear or actual property damage.

If you want to streamline the process of managing maintenance requests and keep a record of repairs and associated costs, Avail offers a maintenance tracking feature. It allows tenants to submit requests online, share photos, and communicate with landlords through the app. You can also document how and when the issue was resolved, as well as assign an expense amount to each ticket for future reference.

  1. Moving Out During the move-out phase, conduct a thorough inspection with your tenant to identify any unexpected damages. This is an opportune time to make note of any issues for which you may need to withhold funds from the security deposit.

Once you’ve identified the damages, it’s a good practice to provide the tenant with a list of deductions along with the refunded portion of the security deposit. This helps ensure transparency and clarity regarding any withheld funds.

Looking for rental services in Orlando – we can help.

We work with our Owners and tenants as individuals and never under estimate what it takes to keep you happy with your choice of Management Company.

By doing our due diligence with our clients, tenants, and vendors we create a service that exceeds expectations and generates positive referrals. Click HERE to learn more and how one of our property management professionals can help you!

Ready to make a Move?

Bardell Real Estate are the experts in helping you with your selling, buying or renting needs near Orlando, Florida. Make your Disney area experience a forever memorable one. Call us now to speak to a real estate agent.