What's Property Damage?

By
Real Estate Agent with Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA
https://activerain.com/droplet/4mdB

 

What's Damage?

I've been asked by my clients who act as their own property manager, what is considered damage after Tenant moves out? The laws in every state differ, so I am not addressing CA laws specifically.

 

 

 

When a tenant moves into a dwelling, there's a Move-In Checklist that is given to them. I allow 7 days, giving the tenant some time to settle in. I explain this is simply a "statement of condition", not a "request for repairs". BIG difference.

 

If the owner would like to take photos, that's fine. But unless you have a commercial grade camera with zoom lens, dirt on the carpet or wear and tear on the floor is not going to be visible. My advice: get the place in great shape, maximizing your ability to attract quality tenants and insuring your property value stays high.

 

Wear and tear: this is something you can't expect your tenant to pay for. If you have a 10 year old carpet and tenant leaves a small stain that is barely visible, forget it. If the carpet was brand new and  the cat urinated on it, you can have them pay for the entire carpet replacement. If you have screens that were torn by cat (and I have yet to see any cat not participate in this creative past time)or blinds that were bent by a curious child, then that is damage. They need to pay for replacement, but I'd be very lenient with the cost, since kids and cats act like....well, kids and cats. I delineate between “malicious” damage and accidental or “wear and tear” damage.

 

Carpet cleaning is a sticking point since my personal feeling is if the carpets were cleaned before move-in, than tenant's dirt is on the carpet, and they need to pay to remove it. This is a gray area, since it's believed to be “wear and tear” but I always deduct for this.

 

Repainting is just a fact of life when you own property, but do you expect a freshly painted unit to be filthy after a 6 month lease? Absolutely not, and that is not normal “wear and tear”. After 2 years, I sometimes only wash walls with TSP and touch-up scuffs, but that's after a really good tenant.

 

Lightbulbs: Yes, this has been an issue, since I have properties with recessed lighting and bulbs can cost $6.00/each. Should tenant replace burned out bulbs after move out? Absolutely, or they get the cost deducted from their security deposit.

 

Being fair is the name of the game....there are just some things that as owners, we have to write off as business expenses. And inappropriate security deposit deductions will many times land you in court.

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INVESTMENT SPECIALIST

Hogue and Belong Realty-Bankers Hill

San Diego, CA

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move out damages
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Rainmaker
829,208
Bruce Walter
Keller Williams Realty Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana - West Lafayette, IN

Deborah, how do you handle a tenant who smokes when the lease strictly said NO smoking?

Sep 09, 2013 06:24 AM #1
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA

Bruce- Smoking inside a non-smoking home, where it is stipulated in the lease--- is egregious, rude and negligent. I personally would deduct for full repainting, and shampooing of carpets.

Sep 09, 2013 06:38 AM #2
Rainmaker
1,269,407
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA
LandlordWhisperer

DIRT is NEVER NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR is my MANTRA - I have my check-out procedure in my resident handbook that accompanies my lease...they know from the beginning what they need to do to get their deposit back

 

Sep 09, 2013 07:07 AM #3
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA

Wallace-

I agree that dirty carpets is not wear & tear, but the state of CA thinks that Landlords need to pay for carpet cleaning in many instances...as stated in my blog post, a grey area.

Sep 09, 2013 08:24 AM #4
Rainer
426,637
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Mobile Notary Colorado Springs, CO Notary Training

Some laws use the word "reasonable".  Landlords must make reasonable accomodations for persons with disabilities.  Landlords cannot deduct damages for reasonable wear and tear.  Landlords must use reasonable care to prevent harm or injury to renters.

The courts don't care what you think is reasonable.  The judge will decide what he/she thinks is reasonable.

Sep 27, 2013 01:21 PM #5
Rainer
5,048
Denise Ripley
Glenside, PA

I had an owner today who wanted to charge a moving tenant for damage caused by smoking/nicotine.  I told him he would not be able to do so as he allowed smoking.  He was surpised that he could not ask for damages.  To protect him from this again we changed him to a "non smoking" apartment.  It's amazing to me how few landlords are willing to take on a smoker.  

Nov 18, 2013 10:03 AM #6
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA
Denise....You're correct that if he allowed smoking, damages may not be allowed by a court. In California there is a clause that can be checked in the Lease stating that smoking is forbidden inside units. It can really cause a lot of damage as carpets, walls etc absorb the smell and it would be near impossible to rent.
Nov 19, 2013 03:31 AM #7
Rainer
5,048
Denise Ripley
Glenside, PA

During a recent CE class on Property management the instructor, Mike Perry, indicated that there is a list that some managers use with prices indicated on things that could prevent a tenant from receiving their security deposit back.  One example was "dirty oven/range" $75...does anyone have a list that they already use that you are willing to share?  

Nov 19, 2013 09:31 PM #8
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA
Denise, I would highly recommend not doing this. The assumption is that tenants will leave the unit clean. Putting a price on say, an oven for $75 just sets up a situation where the tenant thinks, oh gee, I'm too busy to do the oven, I'll just let them deduct $75. Well. What's the problem? In San Diego I would be hard pressed to have a 1 BR unit cleaned thoroughly for under $300...& I mean inside oven, cabinets and all the windows. It has taken one of my cleaners 4 hours once to do an oven (which in my opinion, had never been cleaned by tenant.) if the unit is left clean, and oven is dirty, you won't find anyone to come in and just do the oven....they'll charge a minimum. I may allude to certain things, like smoking inside unit may force landlord to repaint & shampoo carpets, but putting a $$ value can only invite more problems.
Nov 20, 2013 12:36 AM #9
Rainer
5,048
Denise Ripley
Glenside, PA

That makes sense...

We have never given this list but we have given a checklist that has them report the condition when they moved in.  

Nov 20, 2013 03:10 AM #10
Rainmaker
729,919
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

Property Management is a very necessary part of real estate investing. I'm glad there are people who do it and do it well.

Jul 23, 2014 01:11 AM #11
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA

Wayne, it's considered to be the toughest part of investing..whether or not you self  manage or hire management. It's very hard to find QUALITY prop managers. Unless owners are charged exorbitant  repair rates, the PM company makes very little  on monthly fees. Yes, there are good PM companies, but few and far between, and mostly for larger complexes. If you have a SFR, beware!! 

Jul 23, 2014 01:19 AM #12
Ambassador
2,095,765
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

We are hoping to sell our ONLY rental property this fall. We've discoverd the landlord biz is not for us. I'm tired of the weekend calls - clogged toilet, or garbage disposal - seriously. Not our bad, but we still felt compelled to help her fix it - single mom.  

Aug 19, 2014 02:33 AM #13
Rainmaker
190,966
DEBORAH STONE
Balboa Real Estate San Diego, CA - San Diego, CA
Debbe Janes, I do hear you on management...it's the worst part of being an investor.-- it's more difficult to manage 1 property than it is to manage 10--- seriously. I own and manage 10+ for 20+ years & I can count on the fingers of one hand where I was disturbed during the weekend for anything. Now, underlying this is that you need to keep your properties in tip top shape & choose "creme de la creme" tenants.Lots of secrets how to do that. :) Clogged toilet? That's not my problem if the tenant has thrown their kids diaper down it. Disposal clogged? Get the beer can tabs out of it. I have a clause in my lease that states drains are cleaned out upon move-in,& subsequent clogging is not landlords responsibility. If they still need a plumber, I have all my handymen & tenants on text..so if I'm out of town, no problem. I also have toilets and disposal in MY home & years go by without any issues...wonder why that is. It all boils down to "systems" which as a Multi property manager, you have systems in place that you would not with one property. It's really pretty simple now, but it has taken years and lots of grey hair to get it running this smoothly.
Aug 19, 2014 02:46 AM #14
Ambassador
4,889,963
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

We try to be lenient when possible, but that does not stop the damages from adding up quickly sometimes.

Mar 16, 2016 02:21 PM #15
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Rainmaker
190,966

DEBORAH STONE

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