The eviction proceedings went smoothly and the moving van was just pulling away as the landlord arrived at the property to begin cleaning. During court hearings, the tenant seemed more resigned than angry and a last call between the two parties even included apologies for rent payment problems. It was doubly shocking, then, to open the apartment door and see ripped carpet, broken appliances, smashed banisters and broken plumbing fixtures. The broom in his hand felt faintly ridiculous as he surveyed the devastation, which he now realized included theft: a lovely dining room chandelier was missing.


After paying nearly $8,000 in repair and replacement costs, the landlord wondered if the awful outcome could have been different. Fortunately, tenant vandalism can be avoided with smart planning before, during and after tenants rent.


There are a number of helpful steps to take prior to executing rental agreements. First, meet with insurance carriers to ensure policies cover vandalism; many policies do not automatically cover this type of damage. Second, screen tenants carefully before renting to flag potential problems. Statistics show that half of all landlords fail to conduct criminal background searches or contact references. A quarter fails to order even basic information like credit checks. Finally, prepare lists and snap photos to document the condition of the property prior to move-in and require tenants to sign and date this documentation.


As a rental progresses, good communication and timely attention to problems build rapport with tenants. Planning regular maintenance visits to the property is also recommended. Not only do air filter replacements and dryer vent cleaning keep the rental in good condition, they allow landlords and property managers to gauge wear and tear as tenants use the property.


As leases reach their end dates, discuss with tenants what conditions are expected when they leave the property. Next, inspect the property several times before the tenants move out, scheduling a final visit just prior to the date tenants will vacate the premises. Again, document conditions in writing and take pictures for verification, providing a copy of the findings to the tenant – by registered mail if possible, to prove receipt. Finally, obtain correct and complete future contact information for tenants, should further contact be required to resolve issues.


If vandalism occurs despite these measures, file a police report, contact insurance carriers and press charges. Then let an expert like Paul Davis return the property to its former glory with timely repairs and restoration.