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Tip #234: Damage Control

 Security deposit disputes are one of the most common headaches a landlord will face. Fortunately, you can reduce the chances for such a dispute, stay out of court, and keep your sanity:

1. Be clear with tenants on the condition you expect to see when the unit is returned at the end of lease. Don’t assume this is obvious — spell it out.

2. Give tenants the opportunity to fix items that need to be repaired or cleaned by offering to do a walk-through a few weeks before they move out.

3. Do a final walk-through with the tenant, and point out items that may be deducted from the deposit. Knowing ahead of time can help avoid an emotional response, like hiring an attorney.

4. If you have to make deductions, give tenants a good description of the damage and if possible, include repair receipts. This not only addresses a tenant’s concern that they are being wrongfully charged, but this information may discourage a lawyer from taking the tenant’s case.

Security deposits don’t work as a profit center, but rather as an insurance policy. You want to be in a position where you give back all the money — because that means you got your property back in tiptop condition.

See last week’s Landlord Quick Tip.

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