Security deposits are set in place so you’re not left out in the cold when a tenant damages your property past normal wear and tear. In most cases, the deposit is equivalent to a month’s worth of rent, but what are your options when the tenant has caused destruction that exceeds the amount of the deposit? The tenant is responsible for damages they make to the unit, and if costs surpass the deposit requirement, they still owe the difference. Just like when you deduct from the security deposit, you still need to prove your case. 

Itemize the list of repairs 

Send the tenant a detailed list of everything that was damaged or broken past normal wear and tear. Include cleaning, trash removal or replacement costs for damaged items. Basically, the list you send to the tenant needs to show the item-by-item breakdown and total cost for the damage. 

Keep all receipts and invoices for repairs 

You need to prove that the damages did, in fact, exceed the security deposit. If this is the case, you can charge tenants for the entire amount it costs to put the property back to its original condition. Tenants will have a harder time contesting $5,000 worth of damages if you have invoices to prove it rather than charging them arbitrarily. 

Take photos of the damages 

Ideally, you will have “before” pictures from prior to the tenancy. In cases where you need to work with a renter who denies responsibility, take them to small claims court or hire a collection agency, you’ll need as much evidence as possible (on top of invoices and written documentation) to make a solid case. 

Contact the tenant 

Once you’ve determined (with proof) that the tenant needs to cover further damage costs, get in touch with them immediately. You have 15 days to take care of the security deposit - post-move out, so make sure you act within the appropriate time frame. 
Explain that the tenant needs to take responsibility for the repairs and total amount required to fix the unit, as outlined in your list of damages. If they deny responsibility or ignore contact repeatedly, it may be time to take the tenant to small claims court.