Documenting Damage

A security deposit helps put your mind at ease when it comes to tenant damage, but when it comes time to collect, things can get sticky.  If you have ever watched Judge Judy, you have probably seen a landlord and tenant doing battle over whether or not the tenant should be charged for damage to the rental unit.  This is why the preparation you do at the beginning of the tenancy is so vital:

  • Take pictures.  It’s the most important thing you can do.  Start at one end of the unit and work your way through.  Take pictures of everything.  One of the benefits of digital photography is that you can snap as many photos as you want and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.
  • Look at the pictures before filing them away and ignoring them.  If the pictures are too dark to be able to see detail, you need to try again.
  • Do a detailed walkthrough with the tenant.  As a followup to the pictures, fill out a walkthrough form that documents any and all condition issues.  Have the tenant sign and date the form.  Don’t forget to give them a week after moving in to amend the form if they discover anything that was overlooked.

By taking these steps at the beginning of the tenancy, it makes the security deposit refund process more straightforward and less stressful.  It can seem tedious when you are doing it, but if you end up with a tenant disputing a charge, you will be glad you put in the extra work up front.



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