Someone hit garage door; tenant claims no knowledge; now what?

9 Replies

Tenants in our townhome reported that their garage door was hit & damaged. It's clearly dented and broke hinges, so not fixable and needs to be replaced. However, they claim no knowledge of how it happened and don't want to be responsible for damages.

It clearly wasn't our negligence. And since it's a private driveway, most likely the person who caused the damages either lives there, visited someone who does, or was delivering something to them. This isn't normal wear and tear, and we clearly didn't cause the damages, so I believe the expense should be covered by the tenants. Anyone can claim ignorance, but it was damaged during their tenancy and likely related to their use of the home. 

We can look into auto coverage and rental coverage, but they want us to pay any deductibles. How would you approach this?

Updated over 2 years ago

Our lease states: Casualty: Landlord and Landlord’s agents shall not be liable to Tenant, Tenant’s Guests or other persons on the Premises for personal injury, property damage, or other losses to such persons or their property due to any cause except Landlord’s negligence. Tenants agree to indemnify and hold Landlord, Landlord’s agent, and the property of the Landlord, including the Premises, free and harmless from any and all liability for injury or death of any person, or for damage to property arising from the use and occupancy of the Premises by the Tenants or from the act of omission of any person or persons, including Tenants, in or about the leased Premises with the express or implied consent of Tenants.

@Princesa Hansen To be fair, you will be getting a brand new door with new springs and rollers to replace an old door so you should probably kick in some. Renters insurance? That’s what it is for, because tenants are responsible for damage to property they rent.

Stop by and check the front and rear of their cars to see if there are any bits of your garage door paint on them or car paint on the garage door.  That might be the only way of getting some physical evidence that it was their car that hit the door.

Otherwise, I think you are buying yourself a new garage door.  Your logic make sense, but so does the tenants' if they are being honest.  It could have been a package delivery service, neighbor pulling in drunk, etc.  You have to decide how much you value your relationship with your tenants and how long you want to be in an endless argument circle if they don't yield.

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There’s a few ways to handle it. 

Go over see if there is paint transfer take pictures and if it is obviously one of their vehicles you know who did it. 

Option one

If they did it replace the door and then send them a bill for the % of life left for the garage door. (Whatever that is). 

Or second option

  Replace the garage door and deduct it from their security deposit when you don’t renew their lease.

Third 

   Pay for it and move on.  This is why having a reserve comes in handy.

This is clearly their fault. When you rent a home, you assume liability for the day-to-day goings on at the house. Even if it was a delivery driver, it was a driver delivering something they ordered. If it was a visitor, it was their visitor. If it was a broken window or a dent to the side of the house or a hole in the wall, would you really buy the excuse, "Well we didn't do it and we don't know who did"? What does your lease say about damages? 

If it's a really great tenant you want to keep in the long run, you could cover a portion of it. But this sounds like a standard tenant responsibility. 

I'd go with option 2 that Eric posted.  Take it out of their security deposit when they leave.  At least renewal, you can also raise the rent a bit more than usual and over time that will cover the expense.

I would also do what others suggested and casually check their car bumpers for paint and see if their bumper height matches the damage to the door.  As you said it was someone coming to see them or them as it is a private driveway.

There is a certain cost of doing business as a landlord, but nobody ever wants to feel the burden of that cost. You may need to buy yourself a new garage door and move on. If you are able to obtain any proof of who/what caused the damage (obvious paint transfers, neighbor's security camera, etc) you should be able to either demand payment against their auto insurance policy or deduct from their security deposit.

Unless you can prove their negligence, you do not have many options. Even deducting from their security deposit if they did not (or claim they did not) cause the damage would cause a headache later down the line.

Not sure you can really charge them without any evidence of them causing the damages.

Seems like a gray area to me.

If it's a hole on an interior wall then it's reasonable to assume the tenant (or their guests) is the cause of the damages.

If it's on the exterior it could well be a neighbor, or someone who's lost or drunk and doing a U-turned and back into the door,  I don't see how you can hold them responsible simply because it happens during their stay.  Same with a broken window...did they break the window, or a kid walking home during school decides to throw a rock towards the window, or may be your own lawn maintenance crew riding a mower could potentially kicked a piece of pebble towards the window.  Are you going to hold the tenant responsible if it gets windy and a tree branch came down and poked a hole through the roof?

I would try my best to figure out who's responsible.  Any paint, smudges, or scratches on their vehicles matching the door and the height of the damages.  Any neighbors who might have security cam facing your property that may have video recordings you can review.  I would file a police report for property damages - someone did a hit and run right.  Having a police report and having the cops interview them may change their story...you never know.  Plus the police report may be necessary for any insurance claims anyways.

If they owned the condo and "had no knowledge" of how it happened, who would pay for it? They're not renting an apt, they're renting a condo and signed a lease stating they'll pay for all damages. Guess what this is? Maybe their insurance will cover it, maybe it won't but that isn't your issue. What about broken windows at the condo? If their car got hit in the driveway instead are you responsible for paying their deductible or fixing it because they have no clue who did it?