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What Happens If The Tenant Breaks Something?

If you have a tenant in your property for long enough it is inevitable that repairs will need to be handled upon their move out. You might be wondering, can a landlord make a tenant pay for repairs? Thankfully, we’re here to help you uncover that answer.

Keep reading to learn all there is to know about what happens if the tenant leaves owing you money on repairs, how to handle repairs, as well as who should be paying for what.

Article at a Glance:

You can break down the responsibilities by first establishing how to handle repairs, make the repairs, and pay for repairs on the property:

  • Handling Tenant Repairs
    • Check the Lease Agreement
    • Take Pictures
    • Show Proof of Invoice
    • Be Firm on Collecting
  • Making Repairs
    • How a Tenant Can Repair Damage They Caused to the Property
    • What If a Tenant Makes Unauthorized Repairs?
  • Paying for Repairs
    • When Should Landlords Pay for Repairs?
    • When Should Tenants Pay for Repairs?
    • Can a Security Deposit Pay for Repairs?
    • Can Landlords Make Tenants Pay for Repairs?

Handling Tenant Repairs

When it comes to handling tenant repairs, it’s best to look at it from a specific scenario. For example, what happens if your tenant breaks your air conditioner and the reason that the air conditioner is broken is that the tenant didn’t change the air filter?

Let’s talk about that for a second and what you need to do as a landlord.

Check the Lease Agreement

The first thing you want to do is to make sure that you have this information detailed out in your lease. You need to make sure that it clearly states that the tenant is responsible for changing the air filters in your lease. If you don’t have that in your lease you need to make sure you get it in there right away.

Take Pictures

If you check the lease and you find that this information is in there, next you’ll want to take a picture of the air filter. It’s crucial that you have some sort of hard evidence in order to be able to charge the tenant for these types of repairs.

Show Proof of Invoice

Then, you will need to supply the tenant with a picture of the invoice of the repairs. With the invoice you should include the picture that you took of the air filter when you charge them.

Make sure that they have a copy of all of that information when you present them with the charges.  It should be apparent to them that there’s nothing they can do to argue against that thick lint or dust on the air filter. Ultimately, it is their problem that they neglected to address. Be sure you highlight it in the lease.

Be Firm on Collecting

Lastly, you will want to collect the necessary funds and make sure to be very firm on collecting.

Something as basic as changing an air filter is a simple enough task that every tenant should be doing when they live in a home. You shouldn’t let them off the hook because it is something they should absolutely know how to do.

Making Repairs

You also want to make sure you understand the different scenarios in terms of actually making the repairs on the property as well.

How a Tenant Can Repair Damage They Caused to the Property

There are small improvements tenants can make around the property to help minimize the number of repairs a landlord will need to perform upon their move out. Here are a few examples:

  • Professional cleaning before moving out
  • Clean up the facade of the property
  • Perform garden maintenance
  • Clear rubbish from the house and yard
  • Refinish wood surfaces
  • Tighten loose hinges
  • Grease squeaky hinges
  • Fill in nail holes
  • Repaint (check with lease)

What If a Tenant Makes Unauthorized Repairs?

Tenants should always communicate with their landlord before making any large repairs because it could interfere with language set forth in the lease agreement. Of course, what repairs tenants are and are not authorized to perform can vary by region so be sure to look into your local laws.

If you find out that your tenant has made unauthorized repairs you may opt to have them pay for the repair. If they have broken the lease in performing the repair you may have the option to pursue eviction, depending on state laws.

Paying for Repairs

It’s not difficult to figure out when repairs are necessary, but the challenging part can be determining who is responsible for covering the costs associated with the repairs. Here’s how you can figure out who pays for what in terms of repairs.

When Should Landlords Pay for Repairs?

The cost of repairs should be the responsibility of the landlord for anything that breaks due to normal wear and tear, age, or is a safety issue. Some common repairs that landlords should almost always cover include:

  • Visible mold
  • Heating repairs
  • Electrical issues
  • Plumbing issues
  • Broken locks (if it is not the tenant’s fault)
  • Pest infestation (unless due to negligence on the tenant’s behalf)

If tenants notice that the landlord is failing to make necessary repairs they may stop paying rent or pursue legal action.

Always make sure you are up to date on your local laws which will detail the timeline in which you are required to make repairs as a landlord. Failure to do so could result in the tenant’s right to get it fixed themselves and deduct it from their monthly rent.

Don’t forget that to help foster the tenant-landlord relationship it is in your best interest to respond to maintenance requests as quickly as possible. Ideally, you should be able to respond to non-emergent situations within a 48-hour timeframe.

When Should Tenants Pay for Repairs?

Some repairs will fall upon the tenant to cover in terms of costs. Mostly, these repairs include damages they incurred themselves or other minor inconveniences.

Typical repairs that tenants will be responsible for covering may include things like:

  • Stains or smells from smoking
  • Damage caused by the tenant or their guests
  • Burnt out lightbulbs
  • Damages caused by pets
  • Issues left unattended for an extended amount of time

Tenants should always do their best to abide by the terms as set forth in the lease regarding maintenance and repairs. It’s in everyone’s best interest for the tenant to avoid damages to the property, but being understanding that things happen is the best you can do as a landlord.

After all, it’s always better to keep an open line of communication with your tenant so that they feel free to reach out to you right away for anything that may need repair. Otherwise, if they hesitate it could lead to more significant damages down the line.

Can a Security Deposit Pay for Repairs?

Depending on local laws, the security deposit can pay for repairs. However, you do not always have enough money from the security deposit to cover all of the necessary repairs. It’s always best to have a discussion with your tenants to let them know their options before jumping to taking funds from their security deposit to cover repairs.

Can Landlords Make Tenants Pay for Repairs?

There are circumstances in which landlords can make tenants pay for repairs. Primarily, these situations arise that have been clearly defined as being the responsibility of the tenant per the lease agreement.

Keep in mind that the details of your lease agreement must fall in line with the local laws. If your lease is legal then yes, you can make your tenants pay for repairs.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what happens if the tenant leaves owing you money on repairs, how to handle repairs, as well as who should be paying for what. Answering the question of can a landlord make a tenant pay for repairs should no longer be an issue for you.