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Is There Any Hope of Recouping Losses When a Tenant Trashes Your Rental Property?

by Editor | ezLandlordForms
Financial Losses from tenant

What are you supposed to do with moldy couches, boxes of cassette tapes, broken appliances and mountains of garbage?

Your tenants quit paying rent then fought for months, exhausting all of their legal rights, before finally and begrudgingly moving out. You held onto their junk as long as the law required, which was itself an expensive pain in the neck.

How did it get to this?

The legal steps for regaining possession of your unit, and for trying to recoup the inevitable losses thorugh the courts, were draining enough.

But nothing prepared you for the utter and complete contempt for another’s property evidenced by the wreckage your former tenants left behind. ‘Who lives like this?!’ you’re probably asking yourself.

Even if there was a history of difficulty with a rental, most landlords are nevertheless unprepared for just how destructive a careless or angry tenant can be. It’s common to feel deeply dismayed, even personally hurt over the bashing your unit took after you took such care to restore and maintain it.

Is it worth it?

This is the point at which many a landlord has wondered whether it’s worth the stress to manage property. And that’s a valid question. Your accountant might track your ROI but doesn’t factor in the emotional cost of being a landlord.

Entrepreneur Cy Wakeman acknowledged the impact that ’emotional expensiveness’ can have on the bottom line in her book, Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace. For instance, Wakeman says that an overly-demanding employee hurts ROI. “The emotional expensive or overly dramatic employee is draining. His or her dramatic existence is not neutral. It takes something away from everyone on the team and decreases morale,“ Wakeman explains.

Only you know whether your morale can survive. Take heart in knowing that most landlords have confronted a trashed unit – and have prevailed.

The experience does have one possible upside – property managers who go through it often improve their tenant screening process and stick to a property inspection schedule. They learn to treat property management as the business it is. If that’s your takeaway, then the mess may not affect your emotional balance sheet long-term.

What’s next?

The mess awaits.

For the property manager who contracts out the clean-up jobs, proper disposal of mountains of junk is the hired firm’s problem. That still leaves you with the bill and with preparing the unit for showing, a job made more difficult when the carpets are ruined and the property smells like the hippo house at the zoo.

Break the work down into manageable tasks, just like when you bought the place and outlined what you’d do to make it marketable. Be sure to log the time spent cleaning and prepping for the next tenant. Take before and after photos for a record of work that goes beyond cost-of-doing-business expenses. Have your professionals give plumbing and electric systems a once-over to rule out hidden water leaks or open circuits caused by the former tenant.

When it’s all you

A trashed unit requires a different approach for landlords who do their own clean-up. You could find yourself coping with abandoned furniture, toys and dishes. Food may still occupy cupboards and refrigerator. Soap and used razors may litter baths. And the trash. One landlord was still picking bits of glass, broken toys, and candy wrappers out of the lawn and landscaping a year after the trashing tenant moved out.

It’s bewildering to consider the stuff people leave behind. Family photos and yearbooks, checkbooks and other important personal financial information, even entire wardrobes.

One well-seasoned property owner with a destroyed unit said she just couldn’t face the mess alone. She tapped family and friends for moral support, and found she needed them to help wrestle piles of junk into a waiting van and  truck bed. She knew the project would exhaust her and cleared the calendar for a few days following clean-up to recuperate.

Guidelines for dispensing with the junk:

  • Donate and get receipts. Goodwill, Salvation Army, local community centers and many churches accept clothing, home goods, furniture and appliances in working order.
    Check municipality rules for trash that can be recycled. Towns often stage free, ‘bulk pick-up’ service, so lug those large items to the curb and let the town haul it away.

Hazardous materials handling must meet federal guidelines. Most communities sponsor hazardous waste collections for old paint, solvents, automotive fluids and pesticides. Electronic waste collections are also held regularly in many communities. They’re for audio equipment, computers, printers and monitors.

Check rules at the local landfill before driving up with a load that includes verboten car tires or batteries.

  • Earth911.com has a Recycle Search service that will help you find sites that take recyclable trash.

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