Owning investment property in Florida offers numerous advantages, from potential passive income to property appreciation. However, it is not always smooth sailing, especially when dealing with problematic tenants. As a landlord, one of the worst scenarios you can face is discovering that a tenant has caused significant damage to your property.
While the immediate reaction might be frustration and anger, you need to understand the available steps you can take to remedy the situation and protect your investment.
Evaluate the damage and document everything
Before you take any steps, thoroughly inspect your property. Identify all the damages and differentiate between regular wear and tear and intentional or negligent damage. Take clear photographs and jot down detailed notes. This documentation can be beneficial, especially if you must withhold a security deposit or require the tenant to cover repair costs.
Communicate with your tenant
Open a line of communication with your tenant. It might be possible that they are unaware of the damage or they intend to repair it themselves. Discuss the issue calmly and avoid making accusations. Depending on the severity of the damage and the tenant’s response, you can decide on the best course of action.
Review the lease agreement
Your lease agreement is a binding contract that outlines the responsibilities of both parties. Revisit the terms to see if there are provisions about property damages. Most leases require tenants to maintain the property and notify landlords if there is damage.
Withhold the security deposit
Florida state law allows landlords to use a tenant’s security deposit to cover repairs for damages that exceed normal wear and tear. However, you must provide a written notice to the tenant detailing the damages and repair costs. If the tenant agrees or fails to respond within 15 days, you can deduct the necessary amounts from the security deposit.
Consider mediation if the tenant disputes the damages or costs exceed the security deposit. This process involves a neutral third party who can help both parties reach an agreement without resorting to more drastic measures.