If Tenants Have Wrecked Your Property and You’re an Exhausted Landlord, You Can Sell Fast

by | Nov 17, 2016



I’ve heard more than a few tenant horror stories throughout my career in real estate. Often these stories involve petty disputes or tenants who just can’t manage to pay rent on time. At the extreme end of the spectrum, they involve heated arguments with landlords, threats, and even physical harm. But if there’s one horror story I hear (and see) more than most, it’s tenants ruining a property. From hoarders who stockpile every item they can find to scavengers who rip up hardwood and remove everything of value, including the kitchen sink—nightmare tenants can take a toll on a landlord. Dealing with the damage is a hassle and getting refunded the costs of repair can be virtually impossible.

If you’re the landlord of a Southern California property and have had tornado tenants tear through your property, you may be looking at thousands of dollars and damages—not to mention the emotional strain the stress can take on you. If you can’t bear the thought of being a landlord any longer, you have options, and selling the property fast for cash is one of them.

Steps to Take if a Tenant Wrecks Your Property

Under California law, tenants must take reasonable care of the property and pay for any damage that they or their guests cause. But it’s your duty to follow the letter of the law, compile the documentation, and take the necessary action to ensure your tenants compensate you in full. To do this, you must:

  • Document the damage: Inspect the property from top to bottom and record every instance of damage. If possible, do this with the tenant present. Take pictures and/or videos of everything, in case you need evidence later. Use your smartphone or another device that has a time and date stamp.
  • Contact the local police: If the damage is extensive, contact your local police department. This helps you get official paperwork to document the event. There may even be enough damage to lead to an arrest.
  • Gather bids for repairs: Get quotes from several different contractors. Remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best. In the best-case scenario, it won’t be you paying for it, anyway.
  • Send notice to tenants: You’re required by law to itemize the repairs that will take place and the cost for each. You’ll need to make clear that while you will pay the contractor for the repairs, you will be sending them a bill in line with California state law.

Remember that whatever happens, you need to ensure you have the law on your side every step of the way. Failure to do so can leave you footing the bill for the repairs.

What Happens if They Refuse to Pay?

Taking the above steps is all well and good assuming that the tenant coughs up to cover damages. But what happens if they refuse to pay? What are the next steps a landlord should take?

  • Evict the tenant. That’s if they haven’t left already. The last thing you want is for the tenant to cause more damage while they’re refusing to pay. Remember to follow the letter of the law when removing tenants from your property.
  • Deduct the repairs from their deposit. While the tenant’s security deposit is unlikely to cover all the repair costs, it can go some way to helping you keep yourself in the black.
  • Seek legal advice. This isn’t a necessity, as you can represent yourself if need be, but a specialist will be best placed to advise you on how to reclaim costs from tenants. A letter from a lawyer may be enough to force the tenant to own up and repay you.
  • Take the tenant to the small claims court. Ultimately, this may be your only recourse if the tenant refuses to pay for damages. The Superior Court of California provides a small claims advisor at no charge, so even if you don’t have a lawyer, you can still get representation.
  • Contact your insurance company. While making a claim will increase your premiums, it’s a small price to pay if it means getting compensation in full for the cost of the repairs.

Even after all of this, getting compensated for the cost of the repairs is far from certain. If you’ve had any experience with the small claims court before, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how unlikely you are to receive compensation in full. After all, if your tenant doesn’t have enough money, not even a judge can force them to pay, and getting money out of insurance companies can be its own unique challenge.

Get Rid of Your Property Fast

If the thought of navigating your way through the legal process seems daunting, you may be asking yourself: Why repair the property at all? Why not skip the repairs, sell the property, and reinvest in a house that’s ready to be rented out. Of course, the traditional housing market may not look too fondly on properties in disrepair. Thankfully, there is another option.

At Sell Your House Direct, we buy properties in every kind of condition you can imagine. If you want to sell, we’ll give you a fair offer within 24 hours of you getting in touch. If you accept, we’ll work to your timeline and complete it on a day chosen by you. When that day arrives, you simply hand over the keys to the property and we’ll transfer the cash into your bank account so you can go and purchase a new property the next day. If you wish to sell your property fast, you can find out more about our process here, or go ahead and pick up the phone to get the ball rolling.

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