It’s the part about owning investment properties and being a landlord that people dread the most—walking into a unit that someone just vacated to find it in complete and utter disrepair. Whether you were dealing with evicting a tenant or were simply renting to someone who had no regard for property that didn’t belong to them, you’ve got a mess on your hands. More irritating than that, you know that the security deposit—if there was one—isn’t going to cover everything. When a tenant smashes windows, punches holes into walls, rips up carpet, burns or stains wood floors, cracks tiles, etc., the cost to fix everything can add up unbelievably quickly. Being on the hook for the expenses isn’t fair, but if a tenant didn’t care about trashing the place, they’re probably not going to willingly offer up the cash to fix it. So what do you do?

First Things First: Document Everything and Contact Police

Take pictures and video of everything that’s been damaged. Make sure you’ve got everything—for safe measures, it can be a good idea to simply photograph the entire unit. Make sure that the photos you take are timestamped with the day and time. This can help you if you need to go to court over the damages. File a police report about the damages. This gets the paper trail started, and may even make things easier, if you can use police help to find out where the tenant’s new address is for legal proceedings.

You’ll also want to contact your insurance company and your property management company, if you have one. Like contacting the police, this starts the process of getting things started so that you can be reimbursed one way or another. Your property manager can, at the very least, take note of who the tenant is that did this, so that if you’re ever called upon for a reference, you know what to do.

What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Your Property Severely Damaged or Destroyed

Gather Bids for Repairs

Once you’ve determined all that needs to be taken care of, start contacting contractors to help you put the pieces back together. Keep copies of the bids, and proceed quickly so that you don’t lose money from having your unit vacant and unrented.  Your property management company can provide you with a list of reputable contractors. You can work on seeking restitution later on—right now, the most important thing to do is get your Chicago investment property back to its original condition. The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can start renting your properties out and earning money. Shelling out cash to fix damage someone else caused is not anyone’s idea of fun, but in the grand scheme of owning investment properties, moving past your frustration is the fastest way to get back to turning a profit. Once your properties are back in working order, then you can worry about getting reimbursed for them one way or another.

Use Security Deposit Money

Use the security deposit money to cover the repairs. Of course, if your tenant left the place destroyed, it’s likely going to cost more than their security deposit can cover. Even though your expenses will outweigh the amount of money in the deposit, you’re still required to keep a detailed list of repairs with the costs deducted so that you can show the tenant why they aren’t getting back their security deposit.

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Seek Resolution in Court, If Necessary

If there was enough damage done to the apartment, it may warrant a criminal case to be opened. Charges including criminal mischief and property damage can be filed, and the tenant who caused the damage can be punished for it. However, if the police department refuses to make an arrest, you can still follow up in civil court. You’ll have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the cost of the repairs for the damage. Find a good attorney for this part, as they can be the difference between you seeing the repair money or not. If the former tenants were having trouble paying rent prior to the damage, however, you may not recover much. Your outcome will depend a lot on certain case specifics.

How Can You Prevent This?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that landlords can do to safeguard themselves. One way that some property owners help incentivize tenants leaving the premises without damaging it after an eviction or after a lease expires is to offer cash back for turning in the keys. This can encourage tenants struggling financially to duck out without causing damage, while getting a little bit of money to float themselves. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it can be beneficial in the long run if it prevents you from having to deal with expensive repairs and renovations.

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Getting Help from a Property Management Company in Chicago

If you’re having trouble with tenants or managing your properties, it can be very helpful to work with a property management company. At Lofty, we’re dedicated to helping investment property owners in Chicago take care of everything at their properties, from finding tenants to scheduling maintenance to, when necessary, dealing with damage and tenants who destroyed property. We make things easier for you so that you can live the life you deserve, rather than spending all of your time on paperwork and phone calls. To find out about how we can take some of the work off of your plate, contact us anytime.

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