There’s nothing more discouraging than realizing that the investment home you’ve put your time, sweat, and energy into is bearing the brunt of a tenant’s property abuse. The value of a well-written lease agreement suddenly becomes invaluable when faced with assessing property damage and deciding the fate of your tenant and your property. Thanks to that lease agreement, there are actions you can immediately take.

Take Action

There are actions you can take right away to gain clarity on the situation and put a response plan into place.

Give Notice

While your tenant has a right to privacy, as the landlord, you have the right to inspect the property with sufficient warning. Landlords in Oregon must provide at least 24 hours’ notice before entering an inhabited property. You must also indicate the time and who, the landlord or a property management representative, will be entering. A maintenance inspection can be done once every quarter and can be written into the lease agreement.

Conduct an inspection

  • Pull out your “before pictures” and review the documentation you completed during the move-in inspection regarding the property’s condition. You should have signatures on this paperwork from both the landlord and the tenant. Proper paperwork leaves no wiggle room for questions about the existence or extent of property damage.
  • Take photographs of the property’s current condition. Make sure your pictures document the extent of the property abuse and can be easily compared to your “before” pictures.
  • Determine if the damage is something simple like a hole in the wall, a toilet that needs replacing, or something more severe.

Know the Law

Tenants are responsible for the damage they inflict on a property and should be informed of that when they sign the lease agreement and pay the security deposit. Anything beyond normal wear and tear or the natural deterioration of the property is the legal responsibility of the tenant.

Determine if There is a Lease Violation

If there has been a lease agreement violation, you still have options for handling the situation.

  • Talk with your tenant. If your tenant has generally been responsible and the damage is accidental, talk with your tenant and negotiate a deal. You may be able to work out a payment plan after getting a quote for the repairs. As always, be sure to document your agreement.
  • Live with it. Sometimes you have to weigh the costs of hiring a lawyer, paying court fees, and making repairs against the amount of damage. If pursuing legal action is more expensive, you may just want to live with the situation.
  • Don’t forget your cash for keys option. Maybe the damage is extensive enough that you want the tenant out, but you can’t afford the cost of eviction. The cash for keys option may be the perfect solution.
  • Eviction. Perhaps the tenant is aggressive or unresponsive as you attempt to resolve the situation. Maybe this is another complaint in a long list of violations. Even though eviction is costly and time-consuming, sometimes it’s the only option available. A lawyer can use your documentation of tenant interactions and property damage records to help you determine if you have a good case to present to the court.

Move Forward

You’ll need to wait until your tenant has vacated the property to begin repairs unless you’ve made other arrangements with them. However, you can expedite the process by taking a few crucial steps in the meantime.

Take Pictures

You may be able to get a jump start on this if the pictures you took during the damage inspection are detailed enough to hand over to a contractor. If not, you’ll need to take more.

Get Estimates

Document the estimates for the repair and include receipts in your record keeping.

Complete the Repairs

Whether you’re doing the repairs yourself or using an outside contractor, you’ll need to complete the work in a timely manner. In Oregon, you have 30 days to complete the repairs to legally deduct costs from the security deposit.

Bill the Tenant

If the repair costs exceed the security deposit amount, you are legally allowed to bill your former tenant for the additional amount. There are a couple of responses you could receive.

Your tenant responds and pays: Congratulations! You have successfully resolved a property abuse situation. Now it’s time to find a new and responsible tenant for your property.

Your tenant doesn’t respond: If you do not get a response you’ll need to decide if it’s worth your time and energy to follow up. Each option will cost you fees and time, so assessing the benefit of investing further effort into recouping your expenses is wise.

  • Pursue collections: Time is critical. Experts recommend allowing 14 days for the tenant to respond to your notice that they will be sent to collections if payment is not received. Your former tenant has already proven to be unresponsive, so giving them extra time probably won’t help them come up with the money. If your tenant does not respond you may choose to file a lawsuit.
  • File a lawsuit: Lawsuits are a bigger investment for you. It’s wise to consult an attorney to see if a lawsuit is even feasible. The rule of thumb is if the tenant makes less than $30,000 send them to collections and don’t bother with the lawsuit to try and collect the remaining expenses.
  • File an insurance claim: Property insurance is there to help you cover these unexpected costs. Review your policy to see the requirements and if this situation makes sense for a claim.

Partner With the Experts

Dealing with property abuse can be a real emotional blow. But, partnering with experts can help you shoulder the burden of wading through the details, lessen your stress levels, and increase the value of your properties. Call or text Darla Andrew today at 503.515.3170 to learn more about how we provide the support you need to confidently enjoy the rental process.