Many of the landlords we talk to have a couple of huge concerns when it comes to renting out their homes. First, they worry that rent won’t be paid. Their second concern is that tenants will damage their property.
This fear is understandable. However, in our experience as Atlanta property managers, we have learned that tenants who are well-screened rarely leave damage behind that exceeds the security deposit. Routine inspections can also help by ensuring your property is being well-maintained and the tenants are following the lease agreement.
However, it’s impossible to eliminate all risk of property damage. If a tenant has moved out and you discover a lot of damage left behind, there are a few steps you can take right away.
Conduct a Full and Documented Inspection
Before your tenant moved in, you should have conducted a thorough inspection to document the condition of the property before your residents took possession. You’ll need that inspection report so you can compare it to the move-out inspection. If there’s a lot of damage, you should easily see the difference in the home’s condition then and now.
Remember that damage is different from wear and tear. You may be outraged by the small nail holes in the walls or the scuff marks from furniture on the carpets, but that’s not damage nor is it the financial responsibility of your tenant.
Take a lot of pictures. Damage often includes large holes in walls, broken appliances, doors, or windows, and writing or scratches on walls and floors. You want to make sure you’re able to prove the damage so you can lawfully keep the security deposit.
Gather Repair Estimates
You will need to know how much it will cost to return your Atlanta rental property to a habitable condition that allows you to rent it out again. Call in contractors and vendors to provide estimates and get the work started as soon as you can. Providing exact invoices instead of quotes is always better from a legal standpoint.
Once you have an idea of what you’ll have to pay to repair this damage, you’ll know whether you’re keeping the entire security deposit or part of it.
Reconcile the Security Deposit
Deduct the amount of damage from the security deposit your tenants paid before moving in.
There’s no limit in Georgia to what you can collect as a security deposit, but most property owners ask for the equivalent of one month’s rent. If you’re keeping the entire amount, send a letter to your tenants within 30 days of their move-out to let them know why. Enclose receipts, invoices, and estimates as well as the language in the lease that references your right to keep the security deposit for damage that goes beyond wear and tear.
Send an Invoice for Any Amount Still Due
It’s rare that the damage is so significant it surpasses the amount of the deposit. However, it can happen. In this case, you’ll want to send the tenants a bill for what is still owed. It’s unlikely they’ll rush a check right over to you. At this point, you’ll need to decide how aggressively you’ll want to pursue them for the unpaid amount. You can contact an attorney or a debt collection agency for help if you think it’s financially worth it.
We can help you avoid damage when you’re renting out an Atlanta property. Contact our team at Property Services of Atlanta.