Wear and tear vs tenant damage

35 Replies

Fiver-year SFR tenants moved out. Refused showings, which made me suspect they had something to hide (addressed in a previous post.)

Property managers now want to charge me $1886 to repaint the interior of the 764 sq foot house with one coat of paint. The house was professionally painted with a high-quality antique white paint before these tenants moved in. Now however, the walls have white wall patch all over from the tenants attempting to patch holes that they made. 

The property managers said they wouldn’t charge the tenants for this because they said the house would need to be repainted anyway. HOWEVER, upon reviewing the photos, I noticed the tenants also - without approval - painted much of the house various colors (blue, orange, etc).

The property managers seem to ignore the fact that the tenant had broken the lease by refusing showings, and now that they had painted the property without permission. The tenants had asked to paint and were informed in writing they could not. 

The property managers also want to charge $1200 to lightly sand and apply two coats of poly to the about 250 sq ft of hardwood floors. The floors have black stains on them as well as water stains. They had been freshly restored/refinished with no stains before the tenants moved in.  

I get there is maintenance that needs to be done when a tenant moves out; but it seems like this property manager cares little for what the tenant actually did?!? 

Or would you just let it go In the name of “normal maintenance”? Thanks! 

This is not "normal" wear and tear. Charge them.

@Amie D. , I don't know how your property manager deal works, do they do the work in house or get bids?  Either way I would suggest getting some bids on the place, at least 3.  I would also look around for other property managers.  You don't necessarily need to change, but maybe find out how other companies handle this kind of problem.  You need to make it clear you expect them to apply the deposit to the damage.

Jerry W.

    Originally posted by @Scott Weaner :

    This is not "normal" wear and tear. Charge them.

    Thanks Scott this is what I thought. I am suspicious because it seems the current PM is charging them most of their security deposit for removing the trash on the property as well as cleaning the house ($698 of $750).  What is in excess of that it seems they are charging me, stating it is wear and tear. I’m wondering if they figure it’s easier to get me to pay for it than take the prior tenants to court. 

    Originally posted by @Jerry W. :

    @Amie D., I don't know how your property manager deal works, do they do the work in house or get bids?  Either way I would suggest getting some bids on the place, at least 3.  I would also look around for other property managers.  You don't necessarily need to change, but maybe find out how other companies handle this kind of problem.  You need to make it clear you expect them to apply the deposit to the damage.

     @Jerry W., thanks for your input, the PM company likes to do the work themselves but I’ve felt they charge on the high side for things compared to my other property manager. It is one reason I’m changing (the other reason is that it can take them a week to get back to me if they do at all).

    I actually have another property manager ready to go, but the new PM and I decided it was best to let the current property managers handle move out since they did the move in inspection with the prior tenants and were holding their deposit. 

    The current PM didn’t even send someone to do the move out inspection until over a week after the tenants moved out. The neighbors were even concerned as to why the place had gone vacant and nothing was going on, and were calling me. I called and twice and emailed over three days, and finally they got back to me and said the tenants had not returned the keys to them and that’s why it took so long. Again at no penalty to the tenants. 

    The property managers seem to have charged the current tenants with leaving debris on the property and cleaning the house to almost their total security deposit. The other charges are now going to be billed to me. I’m suspicious to be honest.

    I’ve called for other bids, but while I do this the house sits vacant. The current pm also said it would be until “next week sometime” just to get someone to the property to clear the items left by the previous tenant.  This is frustrating as I’m across the country trying to look at other investments, while they seem to drag their feet. 

    They are charging too much, especially for the trash removal and cleaning.  End your relationship as neatly as possible and have the new PM give you estimates for the turnover.   However, going forward you should be aware that even the best property managers are hesitant to go against set procedure as they are licensed and follow more strict rules than a homeowner could possibly get away with.  If the tenant is there more than 3 years, my PM won't charge tenant for painting the unit, but they will charge if the tenant left holes, did poor patching, damaged trim, primer for dark colors painted without permission, etc.  They have contractor separate it on bill and charge accordingly.   Also, if tenant doesn't turn in keys, that's a problem for PMs.   I had a tenant turn off utilities in winter.  PM said they paid through January, still have belongings in there, didn't turn in keys, and not responding to calls, so they can't take it over until proper notice, eviction, etc., likely 2 months' time.  I drove down, had utilities transferred in my name, called the tenant directly (she called back when I left a message saying I'm the owner standing in her unit taking pictures and ready to sue if there were frozen pipes).  Turns out she took a job out of state and relied on her ex-boyfriend to get his stuff out and turn the key in.  As he wasn't on the lease, I called him and said I'm putting his stuff outside if he didn't get it that day as tenant said it wasn't hers and I could get rid of it.  In some states, that would be against landlord/tenant laws, even if he wasn't on lease.  Luckily, he complied, actually apologized for the delay and turned in the keys.  But the PM was not going to take those steps as it wasn't proper procedure for them.  Ultimately, it's your investment, and there are times you have to protect it yourself.   I have a great PM now for many years, but knowing PMs limitations helps as I now know when I'll need to get involved.  

    @Amie D. Sounds like you may need to find a new property management company to work with. Try the National Association of Residential Property Managers if you need to find a new one to work with. Sounds like you've got the evidence to show the property management company was not working in your best interest. If it becomes a problem, you may want to file a formal complaint with the board of realtors and/or the real estate licensing state agency. Sounds like the company may be taking advantage of you. Good luck! 

    AS you suspect you need to get rid of your present PM. He is scamming both you and the tenant. He make his money by charging you, as opposed to the tenant for the turn over costs which are clearly damage caused by your tenant.

    It's a scam. Do not let him do any work on the property. Dumping him now may save you some money but more importantly you are getting rid of a dishonest PM.

    @Lynn M. I felt they were charging too much as well. In fact recently when I was considering hiring a new property manager I came across reviews for my current property manager online. They were very negative and from former tenants that felt the mangers overcharged them and took their deposit for things like cleaning. I wasn’t sure if it was just disgruntled tenants however it was on google reviews and there were 20 reviews - I think all negative except one or two (1.8 / 5). These reviews weren’t there when I hired them five years ago (they took over management and I didn’t turnover the property with them before). Now I feel I may be seeing it in action.

    Like you I felt I may have to go there. I’m across the country involved in other projects as well but can’t have a vacant property and be getting ripped off. They hold the tenant’s deposit and there are specific laws that have backed me away from asking for them to give it to me and taking that process over. But perhaps they can transfer the security deposit to the new property manager and we can do it that way. 

    This is really the worst time for this to happen. The new PM sounds good - was referred to me by another property owner and his references and policies seem in line - but so did this one originally - gah!

    @Rachel H. Thank you for those links and information! Very helpful.  It has become a problem, and I wasn’t aware of where I could file a complaint. 

    Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

    AS you suspect you need to get rid of your present PM. He is scamming both you and the tenant. He make his money by charging you, as opposed to the tenant for the turn over costs which are clearly damage caused by your tenant.

    It's a scam. Do not let him do any work on the property. Dumping him now may save you some money but more importantly you are getting rid of a dishonest PM.

    Yes at this point I’m going to call the new property manager and see if he can obtain the deposit and take over the cleaning and repairs. This has gotten out of hand. 

    @Amie D. paint in rental properties will last 5-7 years. That is considered the useful life. Even if you determine the tenant is to blame for it needing to be painted prematurely, you can't charge 100% of the cost. This is true of any depreciable item (carpet, appliances, etc). You have to establish the lifespan of the item, then prorate. Let's say you determine wall paint should last 10 years, then the tenant is responsible for 5/10 of the cost or 50%. I would expect a rental property to require repainting after a 5+ year tenant, touch up for anything less than that. As far as the rooms they painted without permission, I would charge them for repainting but only the prorated amount of remaining life.

    The fact that you have a PM in the middle stating it is common wear and tear, hurts your position greatly. A third party is saying it is acceptable wear, so now if you go to court it is your tenant and the PM against you. Your PM is not helping here as you already know, which is why you fired them.

    I will disagree with your statement that the PM "figure it's easier to get me to pay for it than take the previous tenants to court." You are paying for this either way. Even if they take the tenant to court, you still need to pay the bill while you try to recoup the money. In most PM agreements, the PM gets reimbursed for time in court, so it could cost you more chasing money you will never get. 

    Fire your pm. Pay people to make your life easier, not harder.

    I agree with @Joe Splitrock ....... you should expect to have to do some repainting after a 5 year tenant.... that part is wear and tear and will not hold up in court if you try and charge them the full cost. You can pro-rate the rooms they painted without permission and that's it.

    And I agree the other charges seem pretty high and I would get outside bids ASAP.

    Ned Jackson

      If it shortens the life of the item by a greater amount than the duration of their stay, it’s damage.

      Another vote to fire you PM.  Those demands are ridiculous, and their level of service is appalling.  I would consider reporting them to the State Board of Realtors as well.  As licensed agents, they have a fiduciary responsibility to put your best interests first, and clear they did not.

      Here's a clause from my lease.  Demand that any future PM add it to their lease, unless they can cite you chapter and verse of the state statutes where your properties are that forbid it.  
      .
      Wear and Tear: TENANT AGREES THAT DIRT, FILTH, GREASE, GRIME, SMUDGES, DINGS, HOLES, STAINS, SCRATCHES, TEARS, CRACKS, CHIPS, AND BREAKAGE does not constitute normal usage and will be billed as damages. _____ _____ _____ _____ (initials)

      I’d talk to several local property managers and tell them this exact story. They want you business and service fees

      Originally posted by @Kris F. :

      Fire your pm. Pay people to make your life easier, not harder.

       Yes ageed! In process!!

      Originally posted by @Bradford Clark :

      I’d talk to several local property managers and tell them this exact story. They want you business and service fees

      I’m going with one that was recommended by a friend who also owns property in the area. But maybe I should shop around too. This is such a bad time to happen, I’m currently relocating across country and looking at places for myself as well as additional investment properties !!

      Originally posted by @Erik Whiting :

      Another vote to fire you PM.  Those demands are ridiculous, and their level of service is appalling.  I would consider reporting them to the State Board of Realtors as well.  As licensed agents, they have a fiduciary responsibility to put your best interests first, and clear they did not.

      Here's a clause from my lease.  Demand that any future PM add it to their lease, unless they can cite you chapter and verse of the state statutes where your properties are that forbid it.  
      .
      Wear and Tear: TENANT AGREES THAT DIRT, FILTH, GREASE, GRIME, SMUDGES, DINGS, HOLES, STAINS, SCRATCHES, TEARS, CRACKS, CHIPS, AND BREAKAGE does not constitute normal usage and will be billed as damages. _____ _____ _____ _____ (initials)

      Thanks for that! I’m going to go over the new PM’s lease and add.

      Going on two weeks since the renters moved out and they’ve only gone over and taken the photos. House is still sitting dirty and unkempt. 

      Originally posted by @Kris F. :

      If it shortens the life of the item by a greater amount than the duration of their stay, it’s damage.

      Yes. Not sure why the poorly filled holes are not being charged, etc.

      Originally posted by @Ned Jackson :

      I agree with @Joe Splitrock ....... you should expect to have to do some repainting after a 5 year tenant.... that part is wear and tear and will not hold up in court if you try and charge them the full cost. You can pro-rate the rooms they painted without permission and that's it.

      And I agree the other charges seem pretty high and I would get outside bids ASAP.

      Sure, some repainting, but they painted the various colors on most of the house and the rooms that remain have the poorly spackled holes of various sizes filled all around. Like white patches on the off white walls. 

      I’m just trying to end it with the current PM now. The bad part is they have the tenants deposit and I’m not sure how the transfer of that would work since there are certain rules that govern the handling of it. 

      They seem to be dragging their feet and I believe there’s a 30 day time limit on the deposit, we are almost two weeks from when they moved out with nothing done but the photos taken a few days ago. 

      Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

      @Amie D. paint in rental properties will last 5-7 years. That is considered the useful life. Even if you determine the tenant is to blame for it needing to be painted prematurely, you can't charge 100% of the cost. This is true of any depreciable item (carpet, appliances, etc). You have to establish the lifespan of the item, then prorate. Let's say you determine wall paint should last 10 years, then the tenant is responsible for 5/10 of the cost or 50%. I would expect a rental property to require repainting after a 5+ year tenant, touch up for anything less than that. As far as the rooms they painted without permission, I would charge them for repainting but only the prorated amount of remaining life.

      The fact that you have a PM in the middle stating it is common wear and tear, hurts your position greatly. A third party is saying it is acceptable wear, so now if you go to court it is your tenant and the PM against you. Your PM is not helping here as you already know, which is why you fired them.

      I will disagree with your statement that the PM "figure it's easier to get me to pay for it than take the previous tenants to court." You are paying for this either way. Even if they take the tenant to court, you still need to pay the bill while you try to recoup the money. In most PM agreements, the PM gets reimbursed for time in court, so it could cost you more chasing money you will never get. 

      Repainting rooms between tenants is an expense/maintenance cost not a capitalized depreciable asset, if you can show me differently I’d be interested in seeing that for future reference. This also wasn’t that we just found they had painted. They specifically asked the PM for those colors in those rooms, and we said No. Especially since most were dark and would take more paint to recover back to neutral. I’ve got that all documented. As I stated, the rooms they didn’t paint they had poorly filled in holes everywhere, that will need to be sanded and fixed. 

      I spoke to the owner of the company and he was apologetic and said he would go over there himself to do the inspection, as he thought that I was simply moving on to the new manager. I’m not sure why that would matter, why do a slipshod job in any case. 

      The reason I said that the pm is getting me to pay for the paint is it seems suspicious that they would charge the current tenants for cleaning and removal of the items they left up to almost their entire deposit and then the rest billed to me, done by their maintenance company of course. Also almost twenty bad reviews online by former tenants and many had mentioned this using the deposit for cleaning fees similarly. So I dunno, maybe they just do it that way for everyone but they get paid in the end either way. 

      I doubt I will do more than bill the tenants for what they would need to pay beyond their deposit. Even if I won in small claims it would probably be difficult to reclaim the funds in the end. I’m getting bids for the work so at least it lowers my bill. The property is sitting vacant while this is all going on as well. 

      I’m half tempted to go there and paint it and fix the floors myself just to get this done finally lol. 

      Originally posted by @Amie D. :
      Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock:

      @Amie D. paint in rental properties will last 5-7 years. That is considered the useful life. Even if you determine the tenant is to blame for it needing to be painted prematurely, you can't charge 100% of the cost. This is true of any depreciable item (carpet, appliances, etc). You have to establish the lifespan of the item, then prorate. Let's say you determine wall paint should last 10 years, then the tenant is responsible for 5/10 of the cost or 50%. I would expect a rental property to require repainting after a 5+ year tenant, touch up for anything less than that. As far as the rooms they painted without permission, I would charge them for repainting but only the prorated amount of remaining life.

      The fact that you have a PM in the middle stating it is common wear and tear, hurts your position greatly. A third party is saying it is acceptable wear, so now if you go to court it is your tenant and the PM against you. Your PM is not helping here as you already know, which is why you fired them.

      I will disagree with your statement that the PM "figure it's easier to get me to pay for it than take the previous tenants to court." You are paying for this either way. Even if they take the tenant to court, you still need to pay the bill while you try to recoup the money. In most PM agreements, the PM gets reimbursed for time in court, so it could cost you more chasing money you will never get. 

      Repainting rooms between tenants is an expense/maintenance cost not a capitalized depreciable asset, if you can show me differently I’d be interested in seeing that for future reference. This also wasn’t that we just found they had painted. They specifically asked the PM for those colors in those rooms, and we said No. Especially since most were dark and would take more paint to recover back to neutral. I’ve got that all documented. As I stated, the rooms they didn’t paint they had poorly filled in holes everywhere, that will need to be sanded and fixed. 

      I spoke to the owner of the company and he was apologetic and said he would go over there himself to do the inspection, as he thought that I was simply moving on to the new manager. I’m not sure why that would matter, why do a slipshod job in any case. 

      The reason I said that the pm is getting me to pay for the paint is it seems suspicious that they would charge the current tenants for cleaning and removal of the items they left up to almost their entire deposit and then the rest billed to me, done by their maintenance company of course. Also almost twenty bad reviews online by former tenants and many had mentioned this using the deposit for cleaning fees similarly. So I dunno, maybe they just do it that way for everyone but they get paid in the end either way. 

      I doubt I will do more than bill the tenants for what they would need to pay beyond their deposit. Even if I won in small claims it would probably be difficult to reclaim the funds in the end. I’m getting bids for the work so at least it lowers my bill. The property is sitting vacant while this is all going on as well. 

      I’m half tempted to go there and paint it and fix the floors myself just to get this done finally lol. 

      Part of this depends on your lease and what is considered reasonable. Most people consider it reasonable to put some holes in the wall. Some landlords specifically ask their tenants NOT to patch holes, because they do a crappy job. Others require patch and touch up. So again, it partly depends on what is in your lease.

      As far as expensing versus depreciation, I would expense it. I know I used the term "useful life" but I wasn't talking about taxes as much as how long something "should" last. Maybe a good analogy is your car. Let's say you get into an accident and your car is 10 years old. If the car is totaled, you don't get a new car. You get the value of a 10 year old car. Same with paint. If the paint is 5 years old, you don't get to charge the tenant for the full cost of a paint job. Exactly how long paint should last is subjective, but whether you say 5 years, 10 years or 15 years, just determines whether you can charge 0%, 50% or 66% of the cost. In a situation where they repainted with a darker color, you could probably charge 100% the cost for a stain blocking primer coat. Ultimately, you are probably not getting anything from the tenant, so charge enough to take their deposit and move on. 

      Well, that’s what I meant - the pm charged them almost their full deposit ($688 or something out of $750, don’t have the bill in front of me) for cleaning fees and removing items they left; charged me for the repainting and repairing black stains the tenants left on the hardwood floors. 

      Honestly at this point I’m just bidding out the floors and paint with the new pm and having the last pm do the cleaning and dealing with the deposit. This is dragging on too long; they also say they are closed on weekends so each time I hit a weekend, more inaction.

      They say it can take them 2-3 weeks to turn an sfr and that’s really not acceptable to me because by the time they will then show it I’ve had a vacant house for a month. The new pm operates on a faster turnaround schedule. Old pm cites limitations as far as how many people they have working for them, I think if they have more properties than they can handle to where properties are sitting vacant for weeks, they need to hire more people to get the work done, especially since they charge the high end for everything. This vacancy time and back and forth is costing me money as well as risking a break in etc just sitting. 

      Your PM is the problem. Find a new one and take the hit. Don't use premium paints on rentals either, a nice light color will make your turnovers much easier. 

      Jimmy Dudley

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