A nightmare for a property manager and something he does have to face at times is when a tenant significantly damages a rental property. No doubt you hold the security deposit against such events but it’s preferable to take steps to prevent it and know what you have to do if repairs become necessary. The security deposit does not cover the extent of the damage many times either.

Damage or wear and tear?

Reasonable deterioration resulting from normal conditions is to be expected and may be written off as regular wear and tear. Examples of this are broken wall switches, faded paintwork, wear of tiles or carpet, and similar occurrences, all of which form part of maintenance expenses borne or owned by a landlord.

Damage is a different matter and which constitutes an abuse of property or the result of an accident. Examples are stained carpets, broken windows, holes punched in the wall, broken doors, cabinets, knocked down ceiling fans, and an extreme accumulation of dirt. Such instances of damage fall within the purview of the tenant for which he/she is responsible.

Prevention Preferable to Cure

It’s far better to take steps to prevent damage rather than have to handle it after the event. Your starting point is before the lease is signed; this is when you must ensure that the prospective tenant is fully aware of his responsibilities in taking care of the rental property. It pays to tactfully remind the tenant about the security deposit you hold and how it will be applied in event of a contingency.

While no property manager wishes to sound aggressive with a prospective tenant, it doesn’t hurt to caution the tenant diplomatically, especially if this is one who is living on his own for the first time or one who has a track record of infringements in previous rental premises. It will pay you in the long run to make your views clear. This is when you have the tenant sign off on what you have said and that they understand the policy.  

Be Clear

Once the lease agreement is signed and you are walking your tenant through the rental property, point out specific areas where additional care is required. This is particularly important in older properties with original windows and fixtures. Some tenants, especially first-timers, might not be aware of how to keep everything in sterling condition and might have to be enlightened on basic maintenance practices.

When Property is Damaged

If a responsible tenant intimates you of damage, if it is minor you might recommend a reputable tradesman who can repair it, the cost of which the tenant will have to bear. Extend your assistance so a tenant can repair the damage to your satisfaction at the cheapest possible price.

If the damage is extensive you might have to have it repaired yourself and send the bill to the tenant to pay. But first explain to the tenant what you plan to do.


If you have had to make the repair and the tenant won’t pay, gently remind him about the security deposit you hold from which it will be deducted. If the damage is in excess of the security deposit then send the tenant a detailed bill. If he cannot pay this amount with one payment, work out a schedule. If he refuses to pay, then serve him notice to either pay up or they will have to be evicted and if the damage is severe enough, they could be sued.  

Talley Properties

Talley Properties of Charlotte, NC is an icon in the region having been in the property management business for over three decades. Because of its efficiency and satisfactory services, the company has now expanded to manage commercial and residential rental properties in the surrounding counties.