The front yard of a Florida home trashed by bad tenants.

Being a landlord isn’t for the faint of heart. While a vast majority of renters are reasonable and respectful people, there are definitely nightmare tenants out there. Even if you think you’ve vetted them thoroughly, you might end up surprised by the destructive and negligent actions they take on your property.

If you’re dealing with a tenant-trashed rental property, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. How do you handle moving forward? How do you stop the bleeding in terms of the financial loss you’re facing? Could this happen again? There are a few steps you can take to salvage this rotten situation.

1. Eviction Time

If the tenant is still living in your property, it’s time to serve them with an eviction notice. Some landlords are fine drafting this on their own, while others look to an attorney for help. Either way, make sure you’re abiding by the landlord-tenant laws in your state so that you’re protected. Also be aware that this process can be lengthy, and an irate tenant may do more damage to your property once they’re notified that you intend to evict them.

2. Lawyer Up

Once you remove the troublesome tenant, you may want to go about recovering cash for the damage they caused. This means taking your tenant to small claims court to seek compensation. But remember that legal fees will apply, and (if your tenant is truly destitute) there may be no way for you to get any money from them for repairs.

3. File a Claim

If you want to avoid the legal circus, your best bet is often to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance. Your policy should cover damages made by your tenant. Be aware, though, that every time you file a claim, there is a risk your rates rise. (Once you make a claim, the likelihood that you’ll make another increases, making you a bigger insurance liability.)

4. Make the Repairs

If you want to get your rental house back on the market so you can continue generating income from it, repairs will need to be done. No one wants to live in a trashed house.

If the damage is small, you may be able to address it yourself. If all you need is a fresh coat of paint or some new window panes, it may be doable. But if the damage was more severe, you’ll likely need to bring in contractors to mediate things, which will of course incur additional costs.

5. Unload the Property

As the landlord, you have certain rights to your property. Your tenant, however, also have rights. Depending on your state, you may be required to give several days’ notice before you’re able to evict them. You may also be required to give a certain amount of notice before showings. Selling your house for cash to a company that deals with homes in need of repair is the easiest option for selling your house fast without infringing on your tenants’ rights–and without having to run the risk that they’ll scare off potential buyers.

What About a Fixed Term Lease?

Keep in mind that if you have a fixed term lease, you may have to wait for the lease to end before you’ll be able to sell the house and evict the tenant. Make sure you’re keeping track of how much time you have left so that you can be done with it as soon as possible! If you’re in a bind and simply ready to be done, look for an investment company that will be willing to purchase the house while the tenant is still there, adhering to the terms of their lease until it ends. In this case, the investment company will essentially purchase the lease along with the property, which means that you can move on with your life sooner. This method is ideal for many landlords, since it means that you’re going to have income from the house until it sells. Selling the home to your tenant is also an option, and some states may require you to give them first refusal before you put the house on the market.

Secure Tenant Cooperation

If you don’t plan to sell the house with the tenant in residence, the best way to proceed is to gain their cooperation in the process. There are several things you should consider when dealing with your tenant.

  • Explain how the process is going to work. Set out guidelines for when the house can be shown, how much notice you will give, and what condition you’d like the house to be in when you show it. This is, of course, most effective with a cooperative tenant.
  • Offer monetary incentive to help your tenant move on, whether that means returning their deposit in spite of damage to the house or even offering to pay their first month’s rent and deposit on a new residence.
  • Consider a discount on rent for tenants who are cooperative with the showing process. 

For you, your rental property is a source of income. For your tenants, whether good or bad, that property is a home. They may not be eager to move or to accept a new landlord, but most tenants will be willing to work with you in order to help the process proceed more smoothly. By selling your house for cash, especially if you work with an investment company who will keep the tenants on for the duration of your lease, you streamline the process and make it easier for everyone involved.

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