And it just happened again, this time to an Omaha landlord. He reports discovering extensive damage to his rental property, including stolen appliances and fixtures, foundation damage, nine broken windows and five broken doors, including the garage, trashed carpet, and smashed drywall. This landlord estimates the damage to be about $13,000.
So what does a landlord do when faced with such a dizzying loss? One word should come to mind: accountability.
Tenants like this are banking on the fact that most landlords do nothing. Discouraged, landlords in this situation often will give up because they assume that they’ll never find the deadbeat, and even if they do, they think they’ll never see a dime.
But if you care about your bottom line — and your sense of fairness — you must pursue the legal rights you have against a problem tenant.
The first step, of course, is prevention. Carefully screening tenants will reduce the likelihood of renting to someone who will destroy the property. This landlord discovered the damage during a property inspection, and quickly moved to evict the tenant, both good moves.
Now, comes the recovery. A landlord must restore the unit as quickly as possible and seek new tenants. Not only does that reduce the injury, but it is required by law. Keep meticulous records, including a move in/move out checklist signed by the new tenants.
Stay on the trail when the tenant leaves. If they believe they’ll get a deposit back, they’ll provide a new address. If you’ve done a good job with the rental application, you’ll have tons of clues as to how to find both the tenant and their assets.
If necessary, use a tenant debt collection service. Rent Recovery Service specializes in tenant debt, and provides an inexpensive means to send automated collection letters under the auspices of a nationally-known collection agency. The advantage: you keep whatever you collect. If more muscle is needed to produce the results you want, the company offers full service collection based on a contingency fee. Some landlords are adverse to collection fees, but keep in mind that every dollar you receive from the efforts of a professional collection agent is one more dollar you thought you’d never see.
Even deadbeat tenants find the way to rehabilitate. Your collection file will follow that tenant around for years, and eventually they’re bound to have to deal with what they did to you. And that’s accountability.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for all your property management needs. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.