What is Damage to Property?
Damage to property is one of the most common disputes between tenants and property owners. The former say they didn’t cause it, and the latter wants payment to repair it.
Damage to property is a loose term. It usually refers to accidental damage caused by either negligence or chance. It can also mean wear and tear, though, which is an unavoidable consequence of the daily use of the property.
Landlord Protection Specialists Terri Scheer define tenant damage to mean “loss or damage caused by the tenant, the tenant’s family or the tenant’s invited guests including theft by the tenant, the tenant’s family or the tenant’s invited guests”.
Before sending out a strongly worded letter and allocating costs, it’s best to determine the details.
Wear and Tear vs. Accidental Damage
Wear and tear is damage that occurs with normal, everyday use of the house or space. Common examples include worn carpet, faded curtains, loose hinges on doors, or water stains from roof leaks.
Since these damages are unavoidable, tenants are generally not liable to pay for wear and tear. They are also not covered by insurance policies.
An unintentional action or incident causes accidental damage to property. A classic example is a broken window due to an impromptu cricket game in the yard or a burn stain on a kitchen benchtop.
Accidental Damage vs. Malicious Damage
An additional type of damage that needs to be factored in, is accidental versus malicious damage. Whilst the costs of both can be attributed to a tenant, how or if you are covered by your insurance in each case is important to understand.
Some insurance policies only cover you for malicious damage, where as most damage is accidental, therefore its important to understand the difference to ensure insurance cost recovery is possible, should you be unable to recoup the costs of repair from the tenant.
Terri Scheer Landlord Protection defines the two differences:
“Malicious damage to your property, either by the tenant, their family or friends, is damage motivated by malice, vindictiveness or spite. By contrast, accidental damage is sudden or unexpected damage that is not deliberate or malicious, such as cracked floor tiles after a heavy saucepan is dropped, or wine spilt on carpet’
If your property has had extensive damage whether it be from years of accumulated neglect or malicious damage it’s important to ensure you call your Landlord Insurance company as they may appoint an assessor. Further assistance can also be found in this article in regards to bringing your property back to a leasable state when there has been extensive damage.
Who is responsible for Damage?
When it comes to resolving a conflict between tenants and property owners, the proof is essential. Both parties should take plenty of photos and videos if possible.
If you’re a tenant, you want proof that the damage in question is regular wear and tear.
For property owners, if you suspect accidental damage is due to neglect, you would need proof to support your suspicions. It gives you the precedence to withhold bond funds.
Make sure that tenants and property owners sign any reports and a comprehensive Property Condition Report is mandatory.
At the end or during a tenancy one party may apply to the Magistrates Court in order to seek an order to be able to resolve a dispute. Before any party takes this step we heavily recommend the dispute is attempted to be resolved by negotiation.
Court applications are required to be accurate as the Magistrate will only consider items listed on the order, if you do not state all possible order, the hearing may be adjourned or dismissed. It is imperative that you prepare thoroughly for court and prepare your evidence. It can be a stressful situation and can be a financial burden in regards to the time taken to prepare and attend court, so finding a way to resolve outside tribunal is recommended.
Whilst tension can be high when it comes to disposing of bonds, costs and responsibility for damage, it’s important to keep open communication lines to avoid court where possible.
How A Property Manager Can Help
Property and tenant disputes can take a heavy toll on your time and mental health. That’s why it’s best to avoid ongoing conflict if you can, by implementing sound property management practices early in the process.
A reliable property manager regularly inspects the property, documents areas of concern and takes photos. They can also ensure that all other items in an occupancy contract are routinely followed.
An expert property management professional creates peace of mind for both the owner and tenant, acting as an objective liaison between the two parties.
About the author
Ryan Blinco is a Property Manager at Empire Estate Agents in Victoria Park. Ryan has been working in real estate for over 5 years and is a natural people person with a passion for properties. Ryan is committed to doing the right thing by his clients and is privileged to help them achieve their property goals, looking after the rights of each and supporting them to make the rental/investment process as smooth and as straight forward as possible.
Need more information or can we help you with any of your Property Investment or Management questions? Feel free to call and speak to us Empire Estate Agents to have a chat on (08) 9262 0400 or email email@example.com or www.empireestateagents.com