Security deposit disputes can be quite common, especially if there’s a lack of communication and expectations are not discussed ahead of the tenancy and the move-out process.
Today, we’re talking about how landlords can avoid security deposit disputes with their tenants and how a property management company can help with documentation and distinguishing damage from wear and tear.
Treat every move-in process like you are going to end up in court.
In that head space, you are documenting everything as if it’s going to be presented to a judge. Photographs are always the biggest benefit you can offer when it comes to move-in inspections. You want to thoroughly document how the property looked before move-in so you can compare it to how things look at move-out. Open cabinets and drawers and take pictures showing that everything was thoroughly cleaned prior to the tenant taking possession. Really note every little thing. If it does not say it was cleaned on the move-in inspection report, then how do we really know it was?
Document everything no matter how big or small.
Wear and Tear and Life Expectancy
Property managers are good at taking into consideration the life expectancy of the household items that are worn down during a tenancy. If there is a hole in the door that the tenant caused but the hole is on an original door from when the home was built in 1950, the price of that door is probably $20 minus depreciation. When it comes to carpets, if the tenant was there for three years and had a pet that ruined the carpet, you technically can only charge them for the time remaining with the carpet since the life expectancy for the actual carpet is really only seven years.
Owners need to be aware of what they can actually charge the tenant for versus what is considered wear and tear. Fairness is important, and you have to know what you’re responsible for as a landlord and what tenants can reasonably be charged for after moving out of a property.
Re-Evaluate any Tenant Dispute
If the tenant is disputing some of the charges against them, you do need to re-evaluate. You should never just automatically assume you are right and try to nickel and dime the tenant. Always re-look at things and decide if the life expectancy of the items you are charging the tenant for has passed or if there is room to negotiate.
At the end of the day, our owners decide what should be charged, but as property managers we work hard to educate our owners. You need to know whether a dispute is really worth the $100 you’re arguing over.
Strong Lease Agreements are Critical
It is also important to have a really good rental agreement in place. This will tell you what you can charge the tenant for throughout the tenancy. Just yesterday, we had to refund a tenant a full deposit because there was no move-in inspection report from a previous management company. We couldn’t charge them for anything because nothing was documented upon move-in.
Conduct an interior inspection from time to time, especially if you have a tenant that has been in place for five years. Things may have gone wrong, and documenting them on an annual basis gives you a timeline to refer to so you know when things broke or needed repairs. It’s easier to distinguish wear from damage. Having accurate records of when things were repaired and replaced can always help when a dispute is present in regards to the security deposit.
If you have any questions or need some help with a security deposit, please contact the property managers at Sacramento Delta Property Management.
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