When it comes to a dispute with a tenant over property damage, the best protection is to have photos of the property before the tenant moved in.
This is a must for every landlord – regardless of how big or small your property portfolio is.
Although this may seem really simple, you would be surprised how many landlords forget to do this – so consider this article your friendly reminder! A little extra effort now, could save you a whole lot of pain in the long-run.
Why take photos of your rental properties?
Sometimes, when a tenant causes damage to a property, it can be a case of their word against yours.
A tenant might claim that damage was pre-existing or is simply wear and tear, but you might disagree.
If you cannot come to an agreement, you may have to take your tenant to court for damage to your property, and the judge will ask for proof of the state of the property before you tenant moved in.
If you don’t have photos of the property before they moved in, this may put you in a tricky situation.
Photos are the most effective and easy way you can document the state of your property.
What steps should I take before a tenant moves in?
First and foremost, document the state of the property by taking a series of ‘before’ photos prior to the new tenant moving in.
This will include taking photos of all the rooms, appliances, fixtures, furnishings (if any) and any existing wear and tear that cannot be attributed to the incoming tenant.
Take photos of the outside of the property as well, including any outdoor features. This will be important if the tenant has any obligation to maintain the lawns or yard, etc.
Before your tenant moves in, the property should be sparkling clean. All maintenance should be up to date and any repairs should be dealt with.
This sends a strong message to your tenant that this is the state you expect the property to be kept in. It also makes it easier to show that damage has been done that wasn’t pre-existing.
What steps should I take after the tenant moves out?
After a tenant moves out, carry out an inspection of the property to check for any damage. The best way to document this is to again take a series of photographs of the entire property.
We recommend taking photos of the exact same places you took your ‘before’ photos, so you can show an easier comparison.
Check your state laws to see how long you can take to put together a list of damages. Then send a list of the damages and the cost of the repairs to the tenant. If they refute your claims, you can always send them a copy of your ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos.
Remember the difference between normal wear and tear and damage. This can be hard to define depending on your personal preferences!
However, it does pay to check your state laws to ensure the damage is outside of the definition of normal wear and tear. Some definitions are more specific than others.
If you are unsure of any of your obligations or rights, consult independent legal advice.
Take the photos as close to the tenant’s move-in and move-out date as possible and label each photo appropriately. Remember that the date the photos were taken will be a crucial part of the evidence, so make sure you document this.
How you store the photos will depend on the system you use. However, we recommend keeping a copy of the photos in the cloud, so that if anything happens to your computer, you will still have access to them.
We hope you found this blog interesting! However, do note that it should not be used as a substitute for competent legal and/or other advice from a licensed professional.