How to handle malicious damage from tenants
Over time, it is commonplace for an investment property to start to show signs of aging. Under standard Australian tenancy laws, it is the landlord’s responsibility to address fair wear and tear and perform regular maintenance of a Perth rental property. However, in the event of accidental or malicious damage caused by the tenant or their guests, this will be the responsibility (and cost) of the tenant to repair. So how do you identify and avoid malicious damage? And what do you do if you experience malicious damage from your tenant?
Accidental vs malicious damage: what’s the difference?
Accidental damage occurs when there is sudden and unexpected damage to property. Examples of accidental damage could be spilling a glass of red wine on the carpet or creating a dent in a wall when moving furniture, put simply when damage occurs accidentally and without malicious intent. Accidental damage differs from general wear and tear, as the latter occurs gradually over time, whereas the former occurs instantly and without warning.
Malicious damage to property is damage that is caused by the tenant (or a person legally on the premise) either on purpose or with malicious intent. This is different to deliberate damage that is not caused with malicious intent; for instance, if the tenant was to install a shelf or paintings on the walls. Whilst this damage was deliberate, it was not done with malicious intentions.
Common types of malicious damage
- Smashing windows on purpose
- Damage to door hinges
- Destroying furniture that is the property of the landlord
- Large damage to indoor surfaces, such as holes in walls or ceiling
- Theft of landlord’s property i.e. if the rental property is furnished
It’s always best practice to check the conditions of the landlord insurance policies to determine whether accidental and malicious damage are covered as many policies don’t cover both. If you are unsure whether you are covered under your current policy, seek the advice of a Perth property manager as their property insurance policy recommendations generally cover both malicious and accidental damages, and have a better overall coverage.
What to do in the case of malicious damage to property
If you or your Perth property manager notices signs of malicious damage during a routine property inspection, there are a few options to consider. Firstly, taking photographic evidence of damage will help to ensure there is a record of the damage in case further legal action is later required.
Secondly, your Perth property manager may send a formal written demand, typically in the form of a breach notice, requesting said damage be repaired at the cost of the tenant within a set time period. This gives the tenant the opportunity to mend any damage without the landlord needing to involve third parties.
If there is a disagreement on whose responsibility the repairs are, or the tenant is refusing to repair the damage, further legal action may be required. This will involve lodging a police report for malicious damage (this is also a requirement for malicious damage insurance claims). Malicious damage charges carry hefty fines, and in some cases, could involve imprisonment for the perpetrators, and should therefore not be taken lightly by the landlord or tenant.
How to avoid malicious damage to property
Screening tenants: implementing a thorough screening process for potential tenants will help you find renters who will treat and care for your property like their own home. Checking previous rental references is a great way to gauge how potential tenants will treat your Perth rental property.
Regular rental inspections: property inspections allow you to keep track of general wear and tear of the property, and schedule maintenance as required. Rental inspections will also ensure your Perth rental property is getting a thorough clean on a regular basis whilst giving you the opportunity to check if any damage has occurred.
Get insured: having a full coverage insurance policy is essential for any Perth rental properties. Make sure to check the fine print to ensure you have malicious damage insurance as part of your current policy.
Appointing a Perth property manager is a great way to keep track of your Perth rental property. The property management team at Rentwest can perform regular rental inspections and property reports to ensure your property is properly maintained. In the case of malicious damage to property, the team can assist in the proper legal proceedings and eviction processes for the offending tenants. If you’d like more information on our Perth property management solutions, visit the Rentwest website or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 08 9314 9888.