Tenant Intentional Damage in Oklahoma

9 Replies

Hello, 

I am a first time landlord and bought my first Triplex in June 2019. I currently use a property manager. 

One of my tenants filed a work order that said the garage door spring was broken. The tenant then removed the garage door from the building, folded it up, and put it in the front yard. The repair man said it destroyed the rails and the door which will both need to be replaced, estimated fix $1000. 

A friend gave me a recommendation for a guy who might be able to offer a lower price. However, I'm more concerned about preventing this sort of thing in the future. 

What prevents a tenant from destroying the garage door every month? Or from say putting the stove in the front yard and asking me to buy a new one? It just seems like he could tear down a brand new garage door the moment it gets fixed and I'd be on the hook to replace it again. It seems more than obvious that this was intentional, I'm guessing there is no legal way to bill the tenant for this sort of thing. Any advice? 

Shortcomings on my end: I bought this house while deployed and have not yet had a chance to view the agreement my property manager has with the tenant. 

Thanks very much for any help.

@Ryan Brady   Your property manager should be dealing with this.  The fact that the tenant removed the entire door due to a broken spring; they need to pay for it.  The tenant needs to be told (again this is why you pay a property manager) that if something is broken, to let him/her know and they will deal with it.  If the tenant does this again, tell them they need to move.

When the spring breaks, it is really hard to lift the door, but it can be done allowing them to move any vehicle that is inside out...one time and after that they can park in the driveway until it is fixed.

Do you have a clause in your lease that states that (1) any modifications to the property must be approved in writing (2) any repairs must be approved (or made) by the landlord, or (3) any damage to the property, intention or otherwise, is the responsibility of the tenant? Any of these clauses may render the tenant responsible for the damage.

(Disclaimer: I'm new to this and parroting what I've heard in other posts, so please verify with experienced landlords and your real estate attorney. Just thought I'd chime in to be helpful.)

Hey @Ryan Brady

I'm going to echo what you are already hearing from @Theresa Harris and @Ben Hilldorfer . There should be something in your lease that says that the tenant is not allowed to make alterations to the property. The fact that they removed an attached fixture would count as an alteration to me. The property manager can better guide you on this, but I would say that you should be able to charge the tenant for the repairs as long as the lease has a provision for it. (This is why you pay a PM, they need to be handling this correspondence). 

I would also ask the PM what the turn-around time was on the repair request. Not saying it would justify taking the garage door off, but if their repair requests weren't being answered they may have decided to "fix" the issue themselves. 

Yikes.  That is crazy they took the whole door off like that.  I question why the property manager wasn't dealing with this mess.  That's good advice about having that in the lease.  I will be adding it to mine here shortly.

@Theresa Harris @Ben Hilldorfer @Cassi Justiz @Brent Paul Thank you all very much for the help. My property manager got back to me and said that they would definitely be billing the tenant for the damages. Collecting might be another issue but it was a huge relief to hear him say that. 

I am more than happy to replace the garage door if it means getting a different tenant in there, or to let him stay if he pays for the repair. 

It is a wonderful feeling to have a community of support for issues like this. Thank you all very much.

@Ryan Brady my lease says that fees are paid before rent is. So if I billed my tenant $1,000 to fix the garage door, and they paid only their $1,200 rent next month, they would not have paid their rent and are subject to eviction.

This varies based on your state and your lease... but I’d make sure you read the wording and make sure that your PM gets that repair paid for. If you/they wait it out, then you’re never going to see it.

@Mike McCarthy thank you, that is an excellent tip. I'll speak with my property manager about adding that to the rental contract. 

As it is the tenant still hasn't paid rent for the month so will most likely get evicted regardless. Definitely going to lose money in the short term but more than happy to get someone better in there hopefully.

Ryan,  did the PM say what the turnaround time was on the repair request?  You may have an issue with the repair time frame and need to look at the PM for reinbursement.

I say that, because if you have this scenario your PM is responsible in my opinion.  The spring broke and the tenants transportation is inside.  He called the PM to advise them the door is not working.  If the PM waited days to get a repair done, that is on the PM.  You can't expect the tenant to be without transportation.  There is absolutely no reason that spring could not have been repaired same day, or next if the tenant called in the afternoon.

I would make sure you don't have that situation with your PM first.