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Who Is Responsible For Rental Property Damage?

If you are the owner of multiple rentals, you have likely dealt with property damage incidents before. Property damage can occur in many different ways. If there is flooding, fire, or incidents involving damage purposefully done by the tenant, you may wonder what you are responsible for regarding doing the repairs. Likewise, there could also be property damage caused by crime, or a pest infestation problem may also occur. Let’s take a look at who is responsible for repairing the property damage and the many available solutions for both tenants and property owners.

Common Forms Of Rental Property Damage

Damage to a rental unit can be pretty extensive. In some cases, it is the result of a natural disaster. If a storm comes through, the property may suffer roof damage from branches falling from trees. The storm may also lead to flooding the main level and the basement, which can be very expensive to repair. If flooding does occur, there is always the probability of mold development. It is necessary to remove black mold as soon as possible. Concerning damage done to the physical property through vandalism, electrical issues, heating issues, or even unauthorized repairs, either the property owner or the renter will be responsible for these restorations.

When Is The Property Owner Liable For The Damages?

Although we must evaluate each situation independently, certain forms of property damage will undoubtedly fall to the tenant’s responsibility.  If they have purposefully damaged windows, walls, doors or destroy your carpet or flooring, they will be legally responsible for the restoration of these damaged areas. With crime, this often falls upon the owner of the property. If a vandal damages the property, the damage must be repaired, typically done by filing an insurance claim. 

accidental damage to property

The same is true for natural disasters, which will include flooding and fire damage. However, if the tenant’s negligence causes the fire, they may be responsible for repaying the owner for the repairs’ cost.

Plumbing And Electrical Issues

These are areas that are typically the responsibility of the owner. For example, if there is a plumbing problem not caused by the tenant, the owner is financially responsible for fixing it. The same is true for electrical systems that either need to be rewired or replaced. It is advantageous for the owner to resolve these issues early, so they do not lead to more expensive problems. Faulty electrical outlets and wiring can lead to fires starting. Minor plumbing issues may lead to the flooding of the entire household. Therefore, the owner of any property should have a home inspection done to ensure each location’s safety, helping them save money to avoid potential damages.

Is The Tenant Responsible For Vandalism Due To Crime?

If a rental unit has a break-in, any damages are the owner’s responsibility.  The owner is also responsible for ensuring locks on all doors and windows are in proper working order. However, if the owner can show an alarm system was not on or doors and windows were left open, the tenant may be responsible for the cost of some of the vandalism. When vandalism occurs, the owner or tenant must file a police report. An investigation may also follow, especially if the damage is significant. 


At the very least, once this has occurred, it will provide the owner with insight to better protect their tenants and avoid future issues.

Is The Tenant Liable For Unauthorized Repairs?

Unless the tenant has received implicit instructions or permission to do repairs, they can be liable for repairs that lead to additional damage. For example, if they attempt to repair the plumbing, which leads to flooding, they should have in writing from the owner that they could do these repairs. If not, the owner can show the tenant did not have permission, and they will be liable for what could be extensive damages and repair costs. Therefore, any tenant must receive direct permission from the owner of any property to do repairs, which may come in the form of a lease-to-own option that allows them to do so.

Can a Property Owner Legally Keep A Deposit For Vandalism?

In most cases, vandalism will be paid for by the owner. However, certain circumstances where the owner may keep a portion of the tenant’s deposit for certain damage types. For example, if the tenant allows a person to stay with them on an ongoing basis without permission, they can be held liable for payment for damages caused by a guest that was not supposed to be there. Of course, the property owner would need to prove this to a court, but if it is, this is how the owner could resolve the costs for damages.

natural disaster property damage

How to Prevent Damage to Your Rental Property

Damage to your rental property, whether caused by a natural force, an accident, or intentional, can be a nightmare.  Below are a few things you can do as a property owner to help prevent property damage.

  • Screen Tenants – We can’t stress this enough; it is crucial to do a background check on every potential renter.  A background check allows you to gather information to make an informed decision on your prospective tenants. We also suggest asking for the previous landlords’ contact information and pulling a credit report, and any documents you feel are necessary to protect your investment.
screening tenants
  • Get an Inspection – Make it a point to have a property inspection performed once or twice a year.  An inspection will allow you to ensure your property is being cared for properly.  It also allows you to identify any issues that might need immediate action, as well as the opportunity to take notice of the normal wear and tear of the property to schedule needed repairs. 
  • Hire an Experienced Residential Property Management Company – Hiring the right property management company can make a big difference in your experience as a landlord owner.  A full-service property management company will take care of everything from vetting tenants, filling vacancies, repairs, rent collection, and more.

The Bottom Line on Rental Property Damage

Dealing with damages to your rental property can be a huge hassle.  And while normal wear and tear will occur over time, it is essential to know your rights and responsibilities when your property is damaged.   Unfortunately, property damage is a responsibility that generally falls to the property owner or landlord.  

If you are a landlord or property owner and are overwhelmed with the day-to-day issues of managing your properties, contact Real Property Management Consultants.  We understand and are here to help you.  When you work with Real Property Management Consultants, you can say goodbye to vetting potential tenants, late-night calls from tenants, rental property damage issues, collecting rent, property maintenance, and so much more.  We have over 30 years of experience providing exceptional property management services to our clients in Cass County, Clay County, Jackson County, and Johnson County.  

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