What Happens If Tenant Damage to Your Nashville Rental Property Costs More Than the Security Deposit?

Lee Blackburn

A lot of Nashville rental property owners are concerned that tenants will leave behind property damage that exceeds the amount of the security deposit. The good news is this: We rarely have that happen. As long as you’re screening tenants well, inspecting the property and documenting its condition, and maintaining a good relationship with your residents, it’s unlikely that so much damage will be left behind that you are left with excessive costs that aren’t covered by security deposits and pet fees. 

But we also know that people are unpredictable. Things happen. 

Here’s how to prepare for the unexpected. 

Normal Wear and Tear vs. Damage

As a landlord, you cannot charge your tenant’s security deposit for normal wear and tear. This might include scuff marks on the wall and wear marks on the carpet and small nail holes in the wall. Differentiating between normal wear and tear and damage can sometimes be difficult, but we have talked about it a lot in prior blogs. You’ll recognize damage because it goes beyond the general deterioration that would occur simply from people living in the home. Damage is intentional or accidental abuse, neglect, and misuse of the property and its functions.

Conduct a thorough inspection before a tenant moves in and at least once during the tenancy. You’ll be able to document the condition of the property, including any damage. When your tenants move out, you’ll conduct a similar inspection and compare the condition of the home at that point to points prior. 

Itemize Your Nashville Security Deposit Charges

You can charge the security deposit for damage. Collect receipts or cost estimates for any repairs that you need to make and send the documentation to your tenant when you provide a letter explaining why their security deposit is not being returned. 

When you have costs that exceed the security deposit amount, send an invoice for what is still owed. 

It’s unlikely that the tenants will rush a check right out to you. But, you want to have the overdue amount documented and provided to the tenant. Provide a timeline for them to respond with payment. Typically, that should be 14 to 30 days. 

Collections and Court Actions

gavel with miniature house

Sometimes, landlords opt to work with a collection agency if money is still owed to them. You can try to recover the money that’s owed to you that way, but success is hardly guaranteed. You can also take your tenants to small claims court to sue for damages. Be prepared if you’re going to follow this path. You never know how courts are going to act, and you’ll need exceptional documentation as well as copies of all your lease agreements, correspondence, and repair invoices. 

If you win your court case, you get a judgment. This doesn’t mean you’ll get the money from the tenant right away, but it will give you the right to collect it. 

Collecting money from the tenant after they’ve moved out and moved on is difficult. With professional Nashville property managers, you can be sure all precautions are being taken to avoid damages that exceed security deposits. If you’d like some help or more information on this, please contact us at Omni Realtors & Property Management.