Landlord’s Expensive Move-In Mistake

by Chris on November 19, 2012

Without documentation to show the condition of a rental home at move-in, a landlord in B.C. was unable to deduct damages from the tenant’s security deposit.  Instead, the dispute resolution ended with the landlord paying the tenants $700 for wrongfully withholding the deposit.

Although the landlord did walk through the property with the tenants when they moved in, she failed to make a record of the condition of the property at that time. Later, on move out day, the landlord found she was not available to meet with the tenants for a move out inspection.

The tenants caused damage to the property, which required repair and repainting. But, when the tenants moved for dispute resolution and demanded their deposit back, the landlord had no way to prove she was entitled to take deductions from the deposit.  As a result, she was ordered to pay double the deposit, plus the tenants’ costs.

In order to apply property damage to a security deposit, the landlord bears the burden of proving that the damage did occur, and that the tenant was responsible. Move-in and move-out condition reports are the best way to paint the “before” and “after” pictures.

It’s easy to understand why many landlords feel that their testimony alone regarding damages to a rental will suffice if there is a tenant dispute.  Unfortunately, without documentation, it may be impossible for a judge to determine whether a landlord has meet the legal burden. In fact, some local tenancy laws require the inspection reports before a landlord can make a claim against the deposit.

Inspection reports may take a little time to complete, but that is time well spent when it comes to keeping a rental property profitable. 

Landlords should use the same report format for both move in and move out so the documents are easy to compare.  One tip that may speed up the process is to simply follow the floor plan of the unit. Record notes regarding items discussed during the inspections on the forms, and ask tenants to sign.  It’s also critically important for the unit to be in good repair when the tenant moves in, and that needed repairs are made throughout the tenancy.

By following these rules,  a landlord is in a better position to refute any future claims a tenant may make that the property was already damaged.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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