When the Apartment Is Wrecked

Landlords want tenants who call their apartments home. Not all tenants do. They trash the apartment and yard and misuse the property by breaking fixtures and appliances. They can be so unsanitary in their habits that they leave food on counters and in the sink, inviting rodents and bugs indoors to have a feast.

You won't get an eviction if your tenant simply doesn't keep house up to your standards. If there's no damage or threat to health and safety, the lease protects her.

That's why security deposits can be used for repairing and cleaning up trashed apartments after tenants leave. But you don't have to wait until the end of a lease to get rid of objectionable tenants. They can be evicted for decreasing the value of your property.

The ideal tenant will let you know when a faucet needs to be fixed, a door can't be opened because the lock breaks, or the grouting falls out of shower tiles. Tenants should always report problems caused by normal wear and tear. Unless you keep up with your scheduled maintenance checkups, however, you might not learn about damage until they move out.

Damage Versus Normal Wear and Tear

Chipped paint, sun-faded curtains, worn countertops, dirty screens are the result of normal wear and tear. Tenants aren't responsible for these things. If you have any doubt, think about your own home. You bump and nick your paint. You have to replace old curtains. After some years even the best Formica countertop looks shabby. And you've got dirty screens at least once a year, just as your tenant does.

Damage includes such things as missing doors, burned or stained countertops and carpets, holes in walls, and chipped or broken tiles. Carelessness, anger, and irresponsible behavior cause damage. Unfixed, they undermine the value of your property.

What Are Your Responsibilities?

As a landlord, you have to pay for repairing items if the malfunction was caused by normal wear and tear. Eventually appliances and fixtures wear out. After years of wear, carpets and linoleum have to be replaced. You also must pay for damage from accidents that are not caused by your tenant or your tenant's guest. It's your responsibility to keep the dwelling functioning in a clean, sanitary, and safe manner. If you're doing your part, though, and the tenant is the one decreasing the value of your property by irresponsible behavior, start the eviction proceedings by sending the tenant a warning letter for lease or rental agreement violations. (See Chapter 21 for more on evictions.)

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