Super pumped that you asked. Sorry that you’re in this situation. But let’s talk about it. How should you handle something like this?
Now, the way to do this is to be as objective as possible. This is often my advice when dealing with rental homes because it’s so hard to be objective.
But did you do anything wrong? The first thing I would look at is did you return the security deposit in a timely fashion based on Colorado landlord-tenant law?
If you didn’t, you may want to call an audible and try to settle with the tenant. If you did, that’s step number one.
Do they have some valid concerns? Were you a little too heavy-handed on estimating repairs that the tenant caused?
Are the repairs actually ordinary wear and tear that shouldn’t have been charged to the tenant? Sometimes that happens.
Try to take an objective view. It may not be worth fighting about. If it’s a gray area, you may not want to fight for it. But take an objective view.
The next one is if you do believe that the tenant owes this money, do you have the evidence to back it up?
Just because you know for a fact that that tenant owes you money based on a hole in the wall, do you have proof that the hole in the wall wasn’t there when the tenant moved in?
It’s very important to be able to stand in front of a judge and say, “Here’s a picture before, here’s a picture after.” It’s a pretty objective thing.
And the judge would say, “Yes.” I mean, that’s obvious.
Make sure you have real costs associated with these items because judges don’t want just some willy-nilly, you know, the throw-it-out-there number to fix these things.
They want real items, real receipts, real estimates. So, make sure that you’ve got evidence to back up the things that you’re charging for.
And then the last thing I would say is you need to make a decision at this point. Is this worth fighting?
There are times that it is not worth your time, energy, and effort to fight this tenant and may be worth just returning the tenant’s security deposit even though they haven’t earned it, they don’t deserve it.
Getting them to sign a mutual termination and just moving on. That may be a business decision.
Yeah, it costs you a little bit of money, but on the back end, it probably won’t cost you as much money and time and effort and brain damage to fight it.
Now, look, if the tenant owes you a ton of money and you think, “Hey, I’m going to go after this money,” then you need to make sure that you do it in an appropriate manner.
If you need an attorney, I would…and keep in mind. I’m not an attorney. So, use this all with the caveat of that. But I would get an attorney and fight that tenant.
I would make sure that you have somebody that’s a professional at understanding how to move through the legal system to fight it.
So that’s it. I’m Matthew Whitaker. That is questions owners ask. I hope this was helpful.
Matthew is the CEO of Evernest. He is a student of the book Good to Great and is passionate about building the best property management company on the planet (and maybe even the universe if Elon Musk will hurry up). You can usually find Matthew at the baseball field with his son, at a dance recital with his daughter, or at his favorite restaurant with his wife, when he’s not in the office. And if you can’t find him in any of those places, it probably means he’s traveling.