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5 tips to avoid damage disputes as a landlord

Being the owner of a rental property isn’t always easy. You may screen potential renters well, making sure their background check shows no signs of criminal activity. You may even conduct credit checks on potential renters, so you know they are responsible in handling their bills. Still, when it comes time for your renters to move, you may find property damage you weren’t expecting.

Landlords always should be prepared to face this situation. Protecting yourself from facing potential damage and damage disputes is part of your job. Here are five tips you’ll need to do that:

  1. Have a clear lease and security deposit agreement. These documents need to be specific, to detail what damage that is beyond normal wear and tear in a rental. These documents can include listing damage that will be the tenant’s responsibility to fix, such as
  • large stains or burns in the carpet or flooring
  • doors ripped off hinges
  • broken windows
  • chipped or broken enamel in the bathtub
  • chipped tile or flooring
  • a clogged toilet or drain because of improper use

Your lease and security deposit agreement also should state that the security deposit will go toward fixing any of this type of damage. A qualified real estate attorney also should periodically review your lease and security deposit agreements to make sure they are legally up to date and enforceable.

  1. Take photos before a tenant moves in and after a tenant moves out. It will take time to complete this, but it’s a great way to prevent a damage dispute. If you have photos of those broken windows you found, or large holes in the walls that needed repair, they will help prove that the tenant’s security deposit went toward fixing those items.
  2. Schedule a walk-through with a tenant before they move in or move out. If you want to go even a step further, you can schedule a walk-through with your tenant. When they are moving in, you may want to point out any normal wear and tear issues that already exist in the rental. Before they move out, you can see if there’s any damage you feel they need to fix and point that out.
  3. Save receipts or invoices from any work completed to fix damages. You never know exactly when a property damage dispute will arise. For each rental unit, you should document when you fix damages beyond wear and tear. You also may want information on when you did upgrade the carpet, appliances or paint, to show that you care for your property well.
  4. Carry comprehensive insurance. Accidents will happen on your property, and with proper insurance, you’ll better recoup the money you need to repair any larger damages.

With these tips, you’ll protect your investment and minimize the chances you will end up in court over a rental property damage dispute.

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