Can Landlords Sue for Damages Beyond the Security Deposit?

When a tenant leaves a unit, they may also leave a mess and a lot of damage. Even a general lack of maintenance can mean cleaning costs in the hundreds. We’ve listened to horror stories from landlords who have a seen a lot worse than that—Water damage, mold, vermin infestations—it can easily add up to thousands of dollars that you may not have on hand. In many cases, you can expect the tenant to dispute the move out charges letter if it absorbs most of the deposit.

Even if you have a reasonable security deposit, you may still find yourself on the hook for several times that in costs before the unit can be rented to someone else. You may be able to collect the difference from the tenant through a lawsuit, but it’s important that you go about it in the correct way. If you try to rush the process or seize funds you are not entitled too, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. Consider these steps before moving forward with a suit.

The Steps to Collecting Damages

Step One: Eviction

The tenant must be evicted before any proceedings to collect damages can be initiated. Unfortunately, this can be a long and expensive process on its own. It will be a lot easier if you have legally obtained evidence that the tenants are creating health hazards or causing damage to the property. If you can prove certain types of damages, you can have tenants evicted in as few as three days.

Step Two: Calculate the Damages

Once the tenant has been removed from the property, should immediately begin cataloging all the damage that has been done to the property. Make sure that you keep detailed notes of all the items that have been damaged, as well as the cost of any items that need to be replaced. If you want to begin preparing the property for new tenants before you launch your suit, make sure that you keep receipts for the costs of any repairs.

You can also calculate other fees before you withdraw them from the deposit, including any balances of unpaid rents, unpaid late fees and attorney’s fees.

Step Three: Return Additional Funds or Launch Litigation

Compare the damages that you’ve calculated to the value of the security deposit that you’re holding. You can subtract the net amount of the charges from the deposit. If there is anything left of the deposit, the law requires that you return the funds to the tenant within 30 days of them leaving the unit. If you are still owed money after the deposit has been exhausted, you can use that figure to pursue damages.

Get Help Collecting Additional Damages

We can assist you if you are planning to begin litigation against a former tenant for damages. We have helped many landlords suing for damages make successful claims. You can get started with a free landlord collection consultation, today.

Fill in the form below to get assistance now or call us at 732-280-4100