Evicted tenant vandalizes property - what would you do?

12 Replies

I evicted a non-paying tenant from one of my Indianapolis properties last week and he was good enough to kick holes in many walls, kick in most of the interior doors, break cabinet doors and drawers and, oddly, stole all of the knobs from the kitchen cabinets. A typical repaint and clean up turnover turned into a $6k repair on top of several month's lost rent. Of course, I can't prove the tenant did this. My PM often uses a collection agent to pursue past due rents but is limited to $1,500. I'll be talking to my attorney and consider my options and may just end up sucking it up and moving on. But, I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and what you may have done

@Ric Ernst this is not a rent issue this is property damage issue. take him to small claims court. in the past small claims was limited to sometimes $500 but lately they've increased that amount upwards of $2,000 in some states for a small filing fee it could be worth it on your part to do some research you don't need an attorney. you might collect something especially if he doesn't show up.

Can you file a police report for damaged property?  Consider getting a camera for your properties especially if they have problem tenants.  I have a solar camera that watches who comes in and out of the front doors.  

@Ric Ernst

Never happened to me, but similar situation happened to my brother. Luckily, he requires renters insurance and that covered the expenses on more than one occasion. Recently a tenant, who was being evicted, called and said the upstairs toilet overflowed while she was not home. Turns out that she stuffed two diapers in the toilet. She was liable and her renters insurance covered it.

Concerning small claims court, yes you could take them there and if you win, get a judgment against them.  But that doesn’t mean you’ll ever see even a penny of it.

The type of person who does this also doesn’t give a hoot about their credit or their reputation.  

To get any money after a judgement you would have to hire a collections agent and whatever ever money they can get from the guy will be eaten up in fees to the collection agent. They charge something like 40% of whatever is recovered.

So....small claims court, for a landlord in a different state, will cost you more in travel and time than you will ever actually get back in your pocket.

The question of how to handle this situation is a legal question for your attorney to advise you about.  Your attorney will take into account the factual specifics of your case, along with & the laws & remedies available in your jurisdiction.   Don't wait until the damage is repaired, contact your attorney immediately.  

Take lots of detailed photos of the damage before repair - both close up shots of the individual holes, scratches, etc, and larger shots of the walls & fixtures.  Take way more photos in way more detail than you think you'll need, & label them immediately before you forget where your camera was aiming.  Make sure you get clearly labeled receipts for any damage repaired.  

Did you take any photos of the unit before that tenant moved in?  You'll certainly want to take photos of the unit at the time the next tenant moves in - talk to your attorney about what procedures you should follow to protect you in the event this happens again going forward (assume it will, and prepare for the worst case).

@Ric Ernst  Be ever so thankful you live in a state where evictions are even possible.  In many states (well, now the entire US) we have eviction moratoriums.  I would not even bother with the small claims.  Just get your property back in market condition and screen the hell out of future applicants.  I'm pretty sure the tenant you just evicted had red flags.

Thanks to all for the input. Quite honestly, it isn't worth the effort to pursue this but I was curious if anyone had a similar story and how they handled it. 

Even if I wasn't 2,000 miles away, the effort for small claims court with the limited damages and possibility that it doesn't go my way and the even stronger likelihood that collecting would involve more money would be a waste of my time. I'll sick a collection agent after the previous tenant for unpaid rent and gladly pay the 30% commission for whatever small amount I can get back.

This was a great tenant until he was not around the time COVID hit. The pandemic is really showing character and, thankfully, with only one other exception, all my other tenants are paying in full and on time. 

The other turnover I did have was filled immediately at higher rent and it looks like I have a tenant lined up for this one at a higher rent even though it'll take a couple weeks to get it back in shape.