What Damages Can a Landlord Make You Pay?
You pay the rent, and so you expect your home to be reasonably maintained. Don’t forget you signed a lease, so you too, have obligations as a tenant. Keeping your home safe and livable are your landlord’s responsibilities, but issues will inevitably arise between you and a landlord, especially if you are a long-time renter, about damages.
Your lease states you must give the rental unit back in the same or better condition than you received it, normal wear and tear excepted. So, make sure you’re thorough during your MoveIn walk-through, take notes and pics for documentation. You cannot be charged for a previous tenant’s damage or structural issues that are the fault of poor construction. But your security deposit is there to cover damages you cause and don’t be surprised if even simple repairs exceed it.
When Your Landlord Can Make You Pay (A Very Short List)
1) If you break your lease, you will be on the hook for any rent payment through the end of your lease contract. Your landlord may choose to seek additional damages for expenditures associated with finding a replacement tenant.
2) Normal wear and tear, like worn carpeting and nail holes in the drywall are exempt, so your landlord is responsible for bringing the property up to par between tenants. Significant damages are what your landlord will use your security deposit for and may seek to recoup extra expenses over and above. Large holes in the carpeting or wall (be careful removing your wall-mounted big screen TV), deeply-scratched flooring, broken windows or a cracked countertop will become your responsibility.
3) If the repairs can’t be covered by your security deposit, your landlord has a couple of options. First, they will send you an itemized bill showing the work that was completed which you are responsible for. If you contest the charges and/or cannot reach an agreement, the second option is suing you in court to recoup repair costs.
4) Appliances wear with age and eventually die. If that’s the case, that’s on your landlord. But if you break it, render it unusable or never clean it thus making it unusable, you can be held responsible for fixing/replacing it.
5) Your lease states that you MUST leave the property in as good or better condition than you received it, which includes taking all your stuff with you when you leave. If you leave behind a lot of junk or furniture expect to be hit with a bill from your landlord. Be aware that companies like GOT JUNK? charge by the hour plus a fee for the amount of space it takes up in their truck. That loveseat and dresser you didn’t feel like taking with you will cost around $150 to have removed.
6) Some landlords are fine with you repainting as long they get it back the way you got it. If you painted the wall in funky colors to match your trendy personality, you’d be required to repaint them to their original color before leaving. Failing to do so will result in a charge. Intense colors like reds, oranges and greens, will require primers or extra coats to cover.
7) If your landlord allows pets, know that you will be held accountable for their behavior. Pets may stain, scratch, and produce other natural odors that you need to be aware of. Non-pet people can find it disgusting, your landlord will have to replace and/or professionally deep clean to prepare the space for the next tenant.
Just Pay for Damages, It’s the Right Thing to Do
If the cost of repairs is reasonable, it’s better to just pay for them. You will not likely end up in court over $100-$200 because it just wouldn’t be worth the effort for your landlord. But if the estimate for repairs is several hundred dollars or more, be ready for a subpoena.
Can My Landlord Really Sue Me?
In a word, Abso-stinking-lutely! There’s a laundry list of reasons why your landlord can take you to court to recoup damages. While nobody likes going to court, if more civil tactics don’t work, lawsuits are effective. Especially if the amount of money you owe is large enough, it’s definitely worth their effort.
Court-Worthy Violations (A Very, Very Short List)
1) Rent Owed – If you’ve stopped paying your rent, you should expect problems from management. It starts with a reminder letter. Then an eviction notice. All the while, you may still end up in court for back payments.
2) Severe Property Damage – Contractors are expensive and repair bills skyrocket quickly. Don’t expect your security deposit to cover it.
3) Damages Caused by Your Pet – So your Alaskan Husky tried to claw and chew its way through the door because it was mad you left it home all day. No matter whether you’ve paid a pet deposit or snuck in a furry friend because of the no pet policy, they are your responsibility. As such, you’re responsible for any damages they may have caused. Chances are if the repair exceeds your deposit by a relatively small amount the landlord might just suck it up as a cost of doing business. Most problems will arise when you’ve really irked them or showed a total disregard for their property, especially when there are multiple costly repairs to attend to.
4) Random Damages caused by Others – A neighbor kid broke a window, so why do you have to pay? Well, remember that legal requirement about giving the property back to the landlord in the same or better condition blah, blah, blah…? It doesn’t matter who caused the damage, you are responsible.
When it comes to damages, if you’re in the wrong or your case is weak, it’s best to settle up with your landlord and avoid losing and also owing court costs. Avoid being bull-headed over something to make a point. Chances are that you will lose and your name will be placed in the official court record, which may affect your ability to rent in the future.
So the next time you see a cracked tile in the kitchen or bathroom, report it as quickly as possible before it has time to spread. If you’ve failed to keep to a routine cleaning schedule, perform a solid deep clean or hire some professionals after you’ve removed your stuff but before turning in your key. It’s best to avoid any uncomfortable situations that will put your landlord in a position that forces them to exercise their legal rights as a property owner.
58 thoughts on “What Damages Can a Landlord Make You Pay?”
I rent a house for 4 years
If I moved out.must I paint the house again.insite
It depends on what your lease states and if you repainted in non-neutral colors.
Please check your lease and confirm with your landlord.
Can a landlord make me pay for small holes caused by nails and staples when I’m capable of fixing myself? Especially when there was no lease till now. In the state of texas.
We’re not familar with landlord-tenant issues in Texas, but in general, most leases require tenants to maintain and return their homes in the condition they received it.
We can’t give legal advice, but you may want to repair the issues in a professional manner to avoid being cahrged for them.
Maintenance has been slow on resolving issues I’ve had with the apartment since day 1. It took them 3 months to fix an ac unit, and there are some tiles on the kitchen floor and shower that need to be handled as they haven’t been touched or finished. I haven’t laid a finger on any of the property in forms of harm, but I feel I could be hit with paying off repairs for the tiles even if it’s not my fault. Am I correct on this thought?
What damages did you note on your MoveIn Checklist?
The purpose of the document is to protect you from a landlord charging you for damages that were there when you moved in!
Our cooktop was scratched pretty badly prior to move in and we took pictures. And notated it on the move in form. since move out the landlord is trying to bill us for the replacement of the cooktop. He says if we don’t pay they will send us to collections. Can they just do that or do they have to take us to court?
In Michigan, you must give your landlord a forwarding address within 4 days of terminating your possession of a rental home. If you fail to do this within 4 days, the landlord is releases of legally having to give you a list of damages. Landlords may abuse this and add on mysterious amounts and just not pay any of a security deposit back.
You can then take them to small claims court and ask the judge to force them to disclose the damage charges against your security deposit.
If claimed damages exceeed a security deposit, the landlord must file a collections case against a tenant, win that case with a money judgment and then go back to court to garnish income and/or assets.
You didn’t share what state you are in, so if you’re not in Michigan, different laws will apply.
Please note this is NOT legal advice and you should always consult an attorney.
After the landlord said that everything in the apartment looks good, she came back and said that there’s a crack in the granite counter in the kitchen near the sink. She told me that it was very expensive, I’m I required to replace the entire granite slab?
A rental lease usually requires a tenant to return the property in the same condition they received it in, normal wear & tear excepted.
It’s not eay to crack a granite counter top. How did it happen? Did you place a hot skillet or pot on it? Kneel or sit on it?
Unless you can prove the counter top was installed incorrectly, you are responsible to repair it. If something cannot be acceptabbly repaired, then you would have to pay to replace it.
(1) I moved into my mother’s apartment in 2007, got succession rights and my own lease in 2012. When she died, she left behind an apartment with issues. For example, one whole wall had been mirrored. She had papered virtually the whole apartment but I don’t know if this was approved–probably by the Super. I think she also had painted the front of the kitchen cabinets. All of the things she changed took place decades before I moved in. Now that I myself am moving out, I’m concerned my landlord is going to sue me for all this, even though I was living in Connecticut, Virginia and Washington DC at the time. Are there are any precedents showing that the landlord cannot sue me for stuff that was changed 20, 30, 40 years before I moved in with her?
(2) As far as I’m concerned, when the lease became mine in 2012, the landlord should have addressed the kinds of things they normally do when a new tenant moves in, but she did not. I was and am a nonperson to her. Most areas cried out for paint, including in the closets. No one came to look at the apartment to see what did or didn’t need attention. So essentially she did not hand me an apartment that met with my leases’s standards, thereby violating it. I don’t want her to blame me for things that were due to her negligence in the first place. She is not normal and I’m a bit afraid of her.
You should review your state laws and discuss with a real estate attorney.
Both you and the landlord probably had legal requirements when you formally signed your lease, that don’t sound like they occurred.
I got the building in illinois on low income housing and have to pay 2800 they broke it down in to gave me to month to pay but I don’t pay rent and they know I don’t have a job right now is it right for them to do this why couldnt they give me aleast 4 months
We’re only hearing your side of the story, but everything is usually negotiable.
If they are unwlling to negotiate, it’s usually a sign that there are reasons they want you out.
The electric heater is not working, but I am not sure if it’s my fault. Could just be the socket or worst case secario the whole thing need to be replaced, because sometimes I used to put staff over the radiator.
Which it’s responsible to pay me or the landlord? The electrician will come on Monday so I need to be prepared.
Without more information, we can only convey that who pays depends on:
1) Who broke it
2) What the lease states
We suggest you contact your landlord, with your lease at hand, to inquire what their opinion is.
The rental house we are in now is a former model home. Recently the built in BBQ grill on the back patio completely collapsed in on itself. Our property management company has denied a repair request saying that we are responsible for fixing. With that being said, you can look at the construction and clearly tell that it was a construction issue and was absolutely going to fail. It was a simple piece of bathroom drywall holding up roughly 50 brings across a 4 foot span. Are we responsible for fixing construction issues that were there long before we moved in?
With your PMC stating you are responsible for the repairs, you should look carefully at your lease to see what it states about repairs.
If it does NOT clearly state you are responsible for repairs, then you may automatically have a legal issue with their response.
If it DOES CLEARLY state you are responsible for repairs, it can be a bit trickier, but you may still have a “case”.
You’ll need to read up on your state and local laws to figure out what your legal recourses are:
-Can you escrow your rent to dispute the repair issue?
-Can you send proper notification to your PMC and if they do not respond, are you allowed to pay for the repairs and deduct the from rent?
-Can you report the issue to the local municipality, so they threaten the PMC or property owner with a ticket?
Highly recommend consulting a real estate attorney before you do anything!
Thanks. In the lease, this seems to be a gray area. It stats I need to repair things “whenever such damage or injury to the same shall have resulted from misuse, waste or neglect by any occupant” but then later on says that “any and all repairs, maintenance or replacement required to restore the premises to the same condition as when the tenant took possession, normal wear and tear accepted”. I feel that because this is due to clear construction issues that were present before we took possession, one could argue that we aren’t responsible for the repair.
So, my landlord moved from a two bedroom on the second floor to the building next door to a two bedroom on the first floor. He never gave me the sheet to check off anything, and is charging me for damaging that were done by me but not on purpose. There were little holes in a couple of the wooden doors that I did not see at all because they were high up but he saw them. Can he charge me for all of them combined even though I was never given the check list? And is he allowed to evict me for those damages even though I’m no longer in that apartment? Thanks.
This is a tough situation:(
How can you prove the landlord never gave you a MoveIn Checklist? Is it required by the state or municipality you live in to supply you with one?
Unless, you can prove the above, you may have no option other than to pay.
The landlord can add the damage amount to your rental ledger and start eviction process if you do not pay.
Check with a landlord-tenant attorney.
Am I headed to small claim court? The adult tenants in my Cheektowaga NY Rental House did more damage than their two kids. Smoke damage to the aluminum siding caused from their gas grill and from fire pit fires located too close to the house. Painted two rooms without Landlord approval. Refrigerator, Stove, Microwave damage from negligence and abuse not from normal wear and tear. Unreported missing tile grout. Furnace filters unusually dirty, were never routinely changed and never reported as possible concern that needed a professional heating and cooling individual to determine the problem.
We are not versed in NY landlord-tenant laws, but it does appear there are damages you can pursue against the tenants.
Please check with a local real estae attorney.
I have a double pane 1970 era patio door in poor condition from age that the lock is nearly impossible to use on. I discovered the outer pane of glass broken and my landlord claims they can make me pay to replace it because they put it in the lease I’m responsible for glass. They had a mowing crew right in front of my apartment shortly before the door was discovered. I live in Utah
It should be relatively easy to prove a rock broke the window as there hsould be a “nick” in the glass at the center of the crack.
Take pictures and send to your landlord disputing that you caused the break.
Worst-case, you may have to go to small claims court over this and unless the landlord has solid evidence that you caused the break, the court won’t hold you 100% responsible.
They agree I’m not the one the broke it. They just claim tenants pay for all broken glass regardless.
I’m in Indiana and have been in my apartment for almost 5 years. Getting ready to move soon and I’m dreading getting some large repair bill. The complex was sold last year and I’m hoping they have records of maintenance claims and what was repairs over the years prior to the new ownership. The wall of my shower was repaired about 3 years ago but it wasn’t done very well and there are some holes in the grout, as well as they moved my thermostat from one wall to another and never painted over the patch to match the wall color, among ung other little things. Should I bring up these concerns before my lease is officially up?
You should try to arrange a pre-moveout inspection to find out what they may try to hold you accountable for.
Get everything in writing to protect yourself. Also, do you have a copy of your MoveIn Checklist? You’ll want that to prove any issues that were there upon your MoveIn.
Can the landlord make me pay for ground property
Thank you for your question! Could you please explain a bit more, so we fully understand?
My property manager is trying to charge me for gate repairs and stating my children interfered with the gate and deactivated remotes. First of a I don’t have children and second of all my remote stopped working and we brought it in to her and she handed us a new one. Three months later she’s charging us 270. Why is she doing this ? Can she do this? What can I do about this?
It is difficult to give a full answer when only hearing one side of a story.
You should check your lease and see what it states about maintenance and the remote specifically.
If it’s not covered, then you can politely challenge your landlord to meet in the middle. Else you will end up in court to let a judge decide.
This is an unusual issue. I’m in Arizona, and a few years ago we had a really bad heatwave and the cheap plastic draw shades melted on the west side of the house. I had to draw them up and leave them as is, brittle and unusable. They dip in the center where they melted from the sun. We informed them when it happened. Can they charge us for the draw curtains, we had no control of this issue? We ended up putting regular blackout curtains on that side during the worst of the sun during the day.
You did the right thing my notifying them right away, but you should have politely demanded an answer in writing from them.
Now, years later, you may be challenged by staff turnover and no one remembering you previously informed them.
Suggest you “re-open” this topic with them and get it resolved in writing.
Hi, we’re in AZ renting an apartment unit. I cleaned our bathroom sink using bleach, and now the brass drain has corroded beyond repair. It works fine but it looks hideous. Is this something we must fix ourselves, or am I right to inform the renter?
They do routine maintenance, and we’ve had things that broke (from wear and tear) replaced in the past, but what about this case?
Most leases state something along the lines of a tenant must return a rental in the same shape it was when they moved in, normal wear & tear excepted.
Don’t really see how the damaged drain would be normal wear & tear, so you should probably address it before you move out and have it deducted from your security deposit.
I’m in California, recently moved into a place.. Couple months ago, a bathroom towel rod fell out the wall.. couple weeks into the move… when we put a towel on it. Turns out it wasn’t installed properly, with drywall anchors, and by looking around the bathroom it’s not the first time, more like the 4th or 5th. They had to send 2 different repair people out to fix the damages to the wall from it since it took some drywall with it. The first guy threw some crap on it real quick n left..n then it fell within 24hrs leaving a bigger hole. So next guy fixed it.
Now I’m being billed for the repair. Couple hundred dollars, we also saw the repair order, says they had to use 4 anchors n a new rod.
We didn’t install the bar. Was clearly not installed properly to begin with. We opted out of having another put it to avoid the same issue anymore. Was there when we moved in and only being used as intended, to hold a towel.
And they didn’t install a new rod. I have pictures of everything every step of the way and have provided them to the landlord, and relayed the facts out to them.
You should be able to challenge this.
Ask for the MoveOut list of damages from the last tenant to see if the rod was also on it.
I took over the lease from somebody and there was a little bit of damage done by the previous tenants the landlord kept their damage deposit after my lease was up I moved out cleaned up the place but she turned around and charged me for damages done by the previous tenants can she do that
When you say you took over the lease from someone, do you mean you assumed their lease or they sublet to you?
If so, then the landlord is entitled to charge you for damages caused by you or the previous tenant.
Conversely, if you signed a new lease or some type of lease takeover document, gave the landlord your own security deposit and formally did a MoveIn Checklist that you gave to the landlord, then the landlord can only charge you for damages you caused.
Please see an attorney about this though.
Question, I have lived in a house for 8 years, one morning I woke to the bathroom mirror crashing down on to the floor. My landlord says I need to take care of it and replace it. They say they don’t know if I broke it or not. Would I be liable for this?
This would be a tricky situation.
Both parties may have a difficult time proving they were not 100% at fault – unless there’s something obvious being missed in your story.
So, it may be beneficial for both parties to split the cost 50/50.
Please check with a real estate attorney as this is NOT legal advice.
Our landlord wants us to pay for damages to the house before the end of lease which is in 3 weeks. We agree that the security deposit can be used and we will pay the remaining amount. Can he force us to pay the amount of the repairs before the end of the lease. It does not make much sense because then the landlord will just have to give us back our security deposit if we were to pay him 2 weeks before the lease is up.
He is treating that if we don’t pay a week before the lease is he is going to evict us for the last week. Even though we have already said we will agree to let the security deposit be used and we will pay the remaining amount(even before the end of lease) we just don’t want to pay all this money just to get it back a month later.
We’re not sure what state you’re in, so check with a local attorney about this and read your lease.
What we can say is that your ladlord appears concerned that you will not pay the difference after you move out and may even cause more damages when you do move out.
It’s a fair concern as many tenants “disappear” after moving out, providing no forwarding address and not responding to phone calls, texts or emails.
Can a landlord up the rent of the whole building (12 Tenants) if a plumbing issue arises? It says in the lease that we are not allowed to flush wipes, tampons, etc. I do not do that. Can mine or other innocent tenants rent be raised because of someone else’s ignorance? And does the landlord have to give tenants proof of this? To validate said issue. I’m in VA.
From our experience, the only legal method for a landlord to do this is if all 12 tenants are on month-to-month leases. If this is the case, the landlord can do whatever they want as each month is technically a brand new, negotiable lease.
Please check with a local attorney for potential local statutes that may impact this.
My husband and I accidentally damaged some flooring by the kitchen sink in a rental property, with water. We notified them and we’ve been asking for months for a quote to get the repair done. The same flooring is through the whole of the house, so now they are sending us quotes of $17,000 and up to replace the flooring in the whole of the house and it’s literally a few feet. They also said they are not renewing the lease as they would like to move into the property themselves. It seems like they are just trying to get us to pay for the whole floor. There is a family room, that they can take the laminate out and replace the floor in the kitchen and we can pay for the family room to be done, which we are willing to do for about $2000. They sent us a quote and we’ve accepted that, but they are still asking for more money. Nothing else in the house is broken and we’ve left it in better condition than when we moved in. We are in California. They did a walk through, but didn’t bring the original checklist and they don’t want to do the work straight away either. I’m not sure any of this is legal. Can you help?
This is a difficult situation.
Most leases require tenants to return a rental home is the same or better condition as it was when they moved in, normal wear & tear excepted.
The damage to the kitchen floor is not normal wear & tear.
The homeowner does have the right to expect that you would return the rental in the same condition. If that can’t be done, then they do have an argument that could require you to make sre whatever repairs are done, match what is there as close as possible. This could even include putting in new MATCHING flooring throughout the house, if that is what was there when you move in. Insurance claims often have to deal with this same predicament.
You also have a valid position of repairing the kitchen floor using materials from another part of the house and then putting in new flooring in that area only.
One of the challenges with all this is, “how much will it all cost?” So, you may want to get three estimates from licensed contractors to determine 1) how much to redo flooring in the entire house and 2) how much to do the repair and replace flooring only in the family room.
Then you will be in a better position to negotiate with the owner.
The easy answer to all this is to go to court, but in reality that will waste time & money for both of you. Most judges would push the two of you to arbitration and if that didn’t work may just do their best to “split the difference”.
Try to negotiate with good intentions and even give a little more than you think is fair to avoid the circus of a court battle.
Please note this is in no way legal advice and you should seek the advice of an attorney.
My mom bought a house for my brother and his wife to live in. My mom paid to fix it up, replacing flooring, doors and an entirely updated bathroom. They only paid the house payment as their “rent”, so well below market value for the area.
There is no lease but the agreement was that they would pay for any repairs to the property and they would own the house once it was paid off. They broke up, wife moved out, brother cannot afford house on his own. They left the house a terrible mess. There are holes in many large holes in the walls and doors, a cabinets hanging by one screw, cabinet doors missing, animal feces everywhere, and the quantity of junk and clothes left is unreal (21 contractor bags and still not a dent made). They had siding and windows installed and replaced the furnace in the 9 years they lived there. Wife now wants the money back for those items and her “lawyer says she’s entitled to that”. I told my mom she owes her nothing because it will cost at least that to get the house back to a rentable condition. Thoughts?
Unfortunately, this may come down to who gets the better lawyer.
My daughters college apartment flooded during a Texas Freeze. Her apartment complex is now trying to make her pay for the damages to 5 apartments totaling $5,800 because of the flood. She followed the guidelines of running the heat and running the taps. The apartment complex says it was her hot water heater that burst. How is she responsible for this when she did all she could.
We’re not familiar with TX landlord-tenant laws, so you should seek advice from an attorney.
In our opinion though, this doesn’t make any sense.
Why hasn’t my landlord sent me a bill for damages? We definitely had some. It has been almost 5 months. I gave her my address when I moved.
Is it possible to still receive a bill?
You may want to confirm the legal requirements of the state you are in.
In Michigan, tenants only have 4 days to give their landlord their forwarding address after they move out. If the address is received after 4 days, the landlord is relieved from having to supply a list of damages.
Please check with a local attorney as this is NOT legal advice.
My neighbors heard my dog making noises and called 911 thinking something happened to me. EMS broke down the door to find the dog alone and healthy (I left about 30 minutes earlier after walking and feeding my dog). The landlord now wants me to pay to replace the entire door. A) am I responsible? B) the door is in perfect shape, it’s just the lock that needs to be fixed, is there a way for me to force them to just change the lock instead?
A tenant is required to return a rental home in the condition they received it – acts of nature excluded.
It seems you have accepted that you are responsible, now it is a matter of negotiation about the door itself. The fact that you wrote, “EMS broke down the door” implies there was damage done to the door frame and possibly the door.
Suggest you take plenty of pictures, then arrange a meeting with the landlord at your home to discuss & resolve the door issue.
My land lord rented this house to me with major structural damages and compromises. There was a lease and she moved back in with no notice and brought a new boyfriend as well as her ex boyfriend’s mother to come stay a few nights.
She flooded the tub in my bathroom while I was not home and it overflowed onto the floor in the bathroom, hallway, and my room. The floor is cork board and also already compromised by water damage so after just a couple days the floor has sunk dramatically beneath my bed and my bed frame actually went through the floor in 2 places. Is it my fault? Am I responsible for repairs?
My bed frame had been there over a month already and there was no damage but the floor was already structurally compromised. The damage didn’t occur until the night she flooded my bathroom. Is there anything that I can sue her for? I had to remove my frame and put my box spring on the floor to prevent any further damage to my rental. And she isn’t even supposed to return to take residency until the lease is over.
You should document any damages with pics/videos and send a registered letter to your landlord detailing the damages. You can also ask for repairs, rent relief or to get out of your lease early.
Highly recommend you seek advice from a real estate attorney.