Walk Through Reveals Damage - How to collect for damages

5 Replies

I'm relatively new to being a landlord and need some advice. Here's the situation. The tenants have lived there for a year and have paid a security deposit. The tenants plan to renew and sign another year lease. 

I am scheduling a yearly walk through. When I do the walk-through, what do I do if I find damages to the property? 

Do I charge them for the damages at that moment and fix it? Or do I take money from their security deposit to fix it? I am nervous to take the money from the security deposit and not have them replenish the security deposit in the case that they damage more things in the next year and then I am left with a smaller security deposit that may not cover more damages the following year.

If I charge them for the damages at the moment that I see the damage, how long do they have to pay for the damages?

Also, when I do the walk through, is it best to do the walk through with them? Should I call out the damaged items during the walk through? Or should I follow up with a report (that would give me time to research if the damaged items can legally be charged for)?

And one last question...my tenants have a dog. They have given me a non-refundable pet deposit. I noticed that trim near the door is damaged. I am assuming that it is from the dog. Can the cost to fix this trim be covered under their main security deposit (not their pet deposit)? Is this damage that I should call out to them during the walk through, but wait to fix it until whenever they decide to permanently move out? If the dog did cause it, I'm sure it will happen again.

Thank you in advance for any helpful advice!

I prefer to do my walk-throughs with the tenants so that they can call out any issues they may have noticed - they live there and will be more familiar with any changes/problems - it helps me out.  Of course, I do not solely rely on the tenant and am not shy about a thorough inspection.  Usually a lot of what we find is regular wear-and-tear type stuff that we don't charge back, or often foundation related (our Texas soils move so much, the foundations shift and cause all manner of problems inside the house).  If we do find some damage that is tenant-caused, we certainly point it out and let them know we will have it repaired and will recharge them.  If there are charges back to the tenant, I would get the repairs made quickly and invoice them once complete - typically we make the terms "payable upon receipt".  Do not take it out of the security deposit - you reduce your leverage/security at lease end.  I would leave the trim as is until they move out and repair it at that time - the dog will just damage it again.  At least here in Texas I would plan to charge that back to the security deposit.

By the way, we are a husband-wife team, and both go to the walk-throughs.  My wife chats up the tenants while I am up on the roof, crawling around in the attic, and doing exterior inspections.  It is a great opportunity to keep up good relations and get some extra info on what is going on with the tenants.


@Jessica Vollendorf  If you find damages in a periodic inspection you should repair the damages right away and bill the tenant. 

One of the biggest problems I have in an apartment building I manage is damaged blinds from pets. I assume they're sticking their heads through them. Whenever we find damages to the blinds we replace them right away and bill the tenant. They usually include the repair costs with their next rent payment.

By the way, there is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit. Non-refundable charges for a pet are called fees, not deposits.

@Jessica Vollendorf I have worked in many cities across Texas and when I do I try and find a good established landlord in the area to get a six/twelve month lease from. The one thing that stood out for me was a few gave me a list to go over the property and find any problems on move in day. I found this to be a great thing. The last property I rented to live in was thirty years ago so I never even met the landlord. I just sent him my money.

Anyway, back to the new millennia, they came out and went over the issues with me and noted them. I would then tell them if it was an issue for me or not. BUT all issues were noted by the owner/landlord before move in. That way there was no problem at move out (for me anyway).  It was good for me and good for them.

If any issue was different from that original list (yes I have had some crews that got a little crazy off the clock) then it was on me. If not it was all good. I got charged the extras or not.

@Jessica Vollendorf when you do your walk through, always point out things and the n follow up with a written report and photos. May be good to include the photos prior to move in and Showing what was damaged. I don't renew the lease until these damages are paid for. 

Never, ever take money from a security deposit until they have completely moved out. The pet deposit is called a pet fee. A deposit is refundable and a fee is non refundable