Tenant vandalism

It’s every landlord’s worst nightmare—a hostile, angry tenant who destroys the property because he or she is mad about eviction proceedings. Tenants like this figure they have nothing to lose and get revenge on the mean landlord by causing thousands of dollars in damage to the structure and breaking or stealing appliances.

From smashing windows, tearing up carpet, punching holes in the walls and ripping out appliances, an angry tenant can really cause damage to the rental.

When faced with this situation, landlords have few options.

That’s why we decided to cover this topic in a video excerpt on how to take control of the situation with the ICE Method.

(after watching the video above) Let’s use the ICE Method to handle an angry tenant destroying your rental.

Steps to take when tenant damages rental property:

You own a double and your upstairs tenant called to say he thinks the downstairs tenant is destroying the rental based on loud noises they’re hearing. You have a lease in place with the downstairs tenant that doesn’t end for another 7 months. Now let’s run this scenario through the ICE Method.

1. Identify

The first step is to identify the situation. Do you actually know 100% that the tenant is destroying the property? Are you upset and susceptible to emotional decision making? Have you had any past issues with the tenant in question and how will that change the way you approach the tenant.

2. Categorize

Is this situation something you can control or not? In this particular case it depends on the landlord.

Many times landlords get upset but they don’t actually take control of the situation. Don’t waste time worrying about the situation but take action to take control of the situation.

A great first place to start is to get into the rental to inspect it. You’ll need to give the tenant a 24 hour notice. I’d suggest posting the notice on their door and call them 24 hours in advance.

When you go through the rental, document any damages (read below) and assess the situation. Your lease is going to be crucial to moving the situation into the “circle of influence.”

If you’re unsure on how to use your lease in this situation you can consult with a lawyer, which again is a way of taking action and categorizing into the circle of influence.

3. Eliminate

You want to eliminate this issue. That doesn’t necessarily mean eviction in this hypothetical scenario. It means getting to the bottom of the situation and eliminating the actual issue.

Is the tenant causing damage?

Perhaps they’re playing Grand Theft Auto really loud and the upstairs neighbor thought they were smashing things.

Or… maybe they are damaging the property. If this is the case, commit to taking care of the issue.

The hardest situations are the ones we tend to avoid the most. A situation with a destructive tenant certainly classifies as a difficult situation.

It’s natural to want to avoid this but you need to commit to a time you’ll take care of it. In this instance the best time is ASAP because you don’t want further damage being done to your rental.

Run through the ICE Method in your situation and figure out how you can take control.

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Get Your Emotions In Check

This is tough to do when you’re in a situation where you feel taken advantage of.

However, when landlord’s make emotional decisions it can be costly.

Locking your tenant out of the rental is not a good solution and you could end up paying them for each day they’re locked out of the rental.

Take a moment to get your emotions in check so you can follow the proper procedures.

One way you can do this is by joining our private Facebook community of landlords and ask questions about your situation.

For instance here is one thread from the community…

If you want access to the community just go to http://rentprep.com/group/ in order to get the password to join.

We keep the discussion in the group about managing rentals and no promotion of any sort.

Eric will add you to the community as soon as he can.

Just keep the questions in the group constructive and not just a place to bash tenants.

What Do I Do When A Tenant Damages The Rental Property?

On episode #30 of our podcast we discuss a few ways you can deal with this unfortunate situation.

The topics include “Cash For Keys” and how to use the SODA form for documenting the damages.

You can download a SODA form template from the show notes of episode #30 about what to do when a tenant damages your rental.

For more information on how to handle a tenant that damages rental property, check out this video:

Make Sure You Document Everything

Regardless of the offense, if anything crazy happens to your property make sure that you document it properly. Here are some tips to do just that:

Take Pictures and Video

As soon as you discover the damage, grab your video camera and still camera and take video and pictures of every inch of the rental property. This documentation is valuable in establishing the level of destruction for a future court case. Make sure the images have a time stamp and date stamp on them.

Here’s a video we created showing you how you can add a timestamp.

Click here >>> iPhone Timestamp App

Click here >>> Android Timestamp App

Gather Bids for Repairs

As soon as you can, invite experts in to provide estimates on how much it will cost you to restore the unit to its original condition.

Keep copies of the bids and subsequent invoices for your court case.

You should proceed quickly to get the rental property ready to lease again to minimize your financial cost.

Deduct from the Security Deposit

Don’t forget to still follow the laws of your state when it comes to refunding the tenant’s security deposit.

While the cost of repairs in an event like this will more than likely exceed the amount of the deposit, you are still required to send an itemized list of repairs with the costs deducted from the deposit to the tenant within a set number of days.

The form you fill out is called a SODA form or a Security Deposit Disposition form.

It’s important to fill this form out and get it to the tenant within state guidelines. Some states (such as Washington) require this to happen within 14 days of the end of the lease or eviction.

Law Enforcement and the Courts

Once you document everything, you still need to seek legal help.

Here are a few tips if you decide to take legal action:

Call Your Local Police

Always contact your local police department to report the damage and destruction. This helps you with official paperwork to document the event and see if there is enough to lead to an arrest. Note that just because you file a police report, it doesn’t mean there will be an arrest or criminal charges. If the damage is significant enough and numerous valuable items were stolen, the police may consider it a criminal case and file charges.

It’s possible that charges such as criminal mischief could be filed. If there are additional illegal elements that are tied up with the damage, such as making meth in the unit, the police are more likely to take action.

Seek Restitution via Civil Court

Often the police department won’t make an arrest in cases like this so your other option is to seek restitution via civil court. This means you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the cost of repairs of the damage. It’s best to get an attorney for this action and realize that the process can take a while to work its way through the courts. If the former tenants were having trouble paying rent in the first place, it is likely you won’t recover much in the long run.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Your final course of action is to contact your insurance company if the damage is extensive enough. You may be covered under certain conditions for some or all of the cost to repair damages. Your insurance company will also want to see a police report, so make sure you have copies to send. Your insurance agent should be able to work with you on exactly what else you need to do.

Landlord Nightmares in the News

While every landlord hopes that the angry tenant scene never plays out in his or her rental property, unfortunately, there are incidents where tenants seek revenge.

Here are just a few stories that reflect this all-too-common action:

Evicted Tenants Seek Revenge, Destroy Property Says Landlord

When a landlord served her tenants’ eviction papers for nonpayment of rent, the tenants trashed the property. Read the full story here.

Tenant Sledgehammers Apartment Over $2,500 Deposit Beef

In France, a tenant seeking revenge on a landlord who did not refund his deposit takes a sledgehammer to the apartment, videotapes the act, then posts it on YouTube. Read the full story here.

Landlord on Hook After Tenant Trashes Unit

A teenage tenant, approved by a social services agency, destroys a rental property, and the landlord faces an uphill battle in getting compensation for damages. Read the full story here.

How Can Landlords Avoid This?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid situations like this when an angry tenant is set on causing destruction. One option that is increasing in popularity is known as “cash for keys,”  or when a landlord offers money to the tenants to leave the property right away. This practice may entice struggling tenants to exit without damages in order to get some quick cash.

What’s the worst tenant revenge you’ve ever witnessed or heard about? Share this article and let us know your experiences in the comments below.

Landlord Rights When Tenant Destroys Property

A landlord has rights when tenants destroy their property and this usually comes in the form of financial repayment. The first step is to document the damage and serve a notice to the tenant. If the tenant is evicted or already abandoned the property the landlord can deduct money from the security deposit. If the damages exceed the funds in the security deposit the landlord can sue the tenant in small claims court.

Tenant Damage Property Eviction

When a tenant damages property eviction is a legal recourse. You’ll want to make sure you follow the proper eviction steps which include serving a proper eviction notice. If a tenant is severely damaging a rental property they are violating the lease and may be evicted for this infraction. Don’t want or there could be further damage accrued during this period.


  1. I am living this nightmare every night. I am a single mom that finally was able to buy a home. I purchased a two family house and the tenants upstairs stayed. I figured it would b ok but as soon as I moved I could tell it wouldn’t work out. They are very disrespectful. There is no lease bc they didn’t sign the lease I presented to them. They gave their 30 day notice but every night I hear sawing and banging. I real believe these ppl are under the floors messing up the plumbing. its a horrible feeling listening to them destroy my home… I already called the police…they said its a civil matter. All I can do is wait until the first to see the damages.

    • Tonya, this does sound like a nightmare! I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through it and I hope that it ends better than you fear it may. If it’s not too late, maybe look into a “cash for keys” situation. I can see the peace of mind being worth the extra expense on your part – check some info here http://rentprep.com/blog/cash-for-keys-program-pay-renters-leave/

      Good luck with everything and let us know how it goes.

      • Why the Hell are there no laws to stop this stuff. Why would courts allow this? I got the same problem. I’m so close to being on CNN it’s unreal. Of course this would make me look as bad as them. The Renter gets to do this stuff with no consequences, but I bet I would go to jail or worse. Good Grief!!!! …..Jesse

  2. I have 3 rental units my home also has a barn studio. I allowedy mother and her boyfriend to stay in the studio behind my house in exchange for working on the property and making improvements. Well, instead they trashed the inside by hoarding as much as they could fit, turned the outside into their own personal junk yard, put up servalance cameras and have been recording all of my family’s private conversations, ran over my front gate with a tractor “by mistake” (he we drunk). As my I’m realizing how out of control this is, his dog viciously attacked a puppy on my side of the fense and he then drunkenly attacked the owner of the puppy, my brother in law. Having enough of their non sense, I served them a 30 day notice. My mother then put a restraining order on my fiance and I to attempt to take control over my property full of lies from top to bottom. They are putting up unauthorized fenses around the unit, putting chains on my gates to block our entry way, flipping the electricity off and on to mess with us, and last but not least, slashed my tractor tires that I just bought 2 months ago.. I am going to need a top notch lawyer to bring these vandalizing low lives to justice. I was just trying to help out a family member and I get an unbelievable amout stress. I don’t know what type of perso. You have to be to do this to a child…? But Im glad I don’t understand. I just wish my son didn’t have to witness so much hostility. I just want to have peace in my home, without threats and over grown thugs.. its unbelievable.

    • Azsa, this sounds like a nightmare. I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through, especially seeing that it’s family. The best advice I can give is what you already mentioned – get a “top notch” attorney to represent you. But don’t confuse top notch with best fit. Make sure the attorney you choose is well experienced in handling landlord/tenant law. This should actually keep the costs lower as they are already accustomed to handling your type of cases.

      To help with your search, here is a podcast episode we did on finding an attorney http://rentprep.com/landlordu/ep-023-night-school-tips-finding-landlord-tenant-attorney/

      And here is an article on 9 Tips to Find a Landlord Tenant Attorney 9 Tips to Find a Landlord Tenant Attorney

      Good luck and let me know how things turned out

  3. I have a tenant who worked on my property. He is a general contractor. I rented the property to him and his wife. Within two months he started to complain about the place. He now refuses to pay the rent and took me to court. I have fixed everything they complained about, I don’t know what else to do. I had to retain a lawyer to represent me. Do anyone have a recommendation?

    • Lawrence, I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this. As landlords our worst fear is to have to deal with an unreasonable tenant, and it sounds like that’s exactly what you have.

      My advice is not going to be accepted by everyone, but your situation sounds like a perfect case for “Cash for Keys”. I’ll include a few links for you to learn more details, but essentially you’re paying the person to leave the unit. In these types of cases, all you can do is either fight with them for the duration of the lease term, or get them out. Getting them out the fastest, cheapest way possible is what you should be looking for.

      Here is a podcast episode we did covering the topic – http://rentprep.com/landlordu/cash-for-keys-paying-bad-tenants-to-vacate-ep-10/
      Here is an article covering the topic – http://rentprep.com/blog/cash-for-keys-program-pay-renters-leave/

      I just noticed that the link in the article for the form is down, so if you want a form feel free to email me directly at steve@rent-prep and I’ll forward one to you.

      Good luck with everything and I hope the situation ends peacefully for you. Keep me posted if you try the Cash for Keys.

  4. I am so upset right now….my husband a general contractor went to my house today to replace a thermostat for the tenants in my home. He came back to tell me that they have melted my siding with a propane heater used to heat an outdoor room they smoke in.

    My husband said a minimum of $1000 to replace if he can even find the same type color. He is going to get me a bid and I am going to contact the police to file a report. On top of this, a year ago they broke the front door because the wind caught it and pulled it from the jam. I took pictures and replaced the screen door mechanism that allows it to open shut properly and have been waiting to get in there and look. I didnt want to replace my brand new door that cost me $2000.

    I bought the home as a single mother and completely remodeled every room into a gorgeous home, then met my husband and moved into his home. My heart breaks that they tore my home up. What should I do? Thanks

  5. i rented the basement. The tenant created a lot of damage.the carpet was damaged, the walls had holes filled with white wash, the bathroom and refrigerator was dirty, the doors were broken from all the banging, the smoke detector was missing ..the place had to be fixed.
    When explained to the tenant, he was very angry and is asking for receipts.to keep cost low, I had most of the work done myself and had some other handyman work done at a low cost .In this case, what is the best way to present the receipts to the tenant ?

    • My first reaction is to get a receipt from the handyman. As a landlord you can charge for your time to make repairs. Just be sure to be fair and itemize the charges.

  6. My landlord is saying i stole their stove and refrigerator. This is not true at all.. When i moved out i was not evicted but moved out because of my job. relocation and now several weeks after i left they text me with our stuff is missing.. I told the apartment manager that i was moving and she said ok. she didn’t do a walk through or anything.. Now they’re trying to press criminal charges on me and i know i didn’t do it.. Help!

    • Yikes Tar! A good lesson for everyone in the importance of documentation, that’s for sure. I guess I would say that first thing you should do is gather up any form of documentation or dates/times of conversations that you can. I am assuming you turned in your keys, were you given any kind of acknowledgment of that event?

  7. I served an eviction notice. Am I allowed to go in and take photos? There is dog crap in every room. People moving in I don’t even know. I receive no rent. I need help.

    • Jesse, you cannot enter the property until you have either provided proper notice, or received the forcible entry detainer from the courts. If the tenants are not cooperating, chances are you’ll not get to enter the property until you have legal permission to do so through the eviction proceedings. Normally people who are getting evicted don’t all the sudden want to play by the rules and let you in the property with just a 24 hour notice to enter.

      • This just better and better. They won’t leave and the court won’t make them. Even with the proper eviction notices. I have a garage on the property that I retained for myself. Court may give rights to the contents. I have thousands of dollars in tools in there. This may cost me my livelihood. I need my tools for work but am not allowed to get to them. I simply can’t believe this.

  8. Good article. This just happened to me, but not to the extent of taking appliances and destroying lights etc. They just trashed everything……..carpet is destroyed, holes in walls, interior doors removed, thermostat and smoke detectors all ripped out, and dog poop everywhere. It stinks so bad in my house, the people who did the walk through almost threw up.

  9. So sorry to hear about this Slingerss 🙁

    Hopefully you’re going above and beyond with your tenant screening process for these next tenants!

  10. I’m actually predicting this event in a property I just purchased. the old landlord was too scared of them due to them giving threats and cursing. We approached them with an eviction notice because they weren’t paying and don’t plan to pay (evidence recorded on camera that they had and have no intent to pay their rent.) Does anyone have any advice on what I should do for the very imminent damages I will be seeing to this place?

  11. Meagan, first off sorry to hear that you’re stuck cleaning up someone else’s mess.

    Have you considered cash for keys? If you’re able to inspect the unit and determine what the damage is already, paying them to leave may be the most affordable option for you in the long-run. This would avoid the eviction costs and give you some insurance that they won’t damage things any worse.

    For a full description of how cash for keys works, check out this article http://rentprep.com/collecting-rent/cash-for-keys-program-pay-renters-leave/

    Aside from this suggestion, I would say be sure to document everything. Which I’m gathering you’re already doing if you have video of them. Be sure to take pictures of everything and create a file that contains all things relating to this rental unit. If you end up going down a legal road you’ll need rock solid documentation.

    Let us know how things turn out. Good luck to you through this and hang in there. The good news is that once they’re out, you can start fresh.

  12. You can call the police (which I would recommend doing) but this won’t evict them any faster than the court systems will allow if they’re already in the process.

  13. So sorry to hear this Jess 🙁

    This is always every landlords worst fear. Hopefully you can recoup some of the damages with a security deposit, but I’m sure you’re already in deep with the cost of the eviction, lost rent etc.

    If you’re willing to share your story on our blog and help other landlords learn from your experience, I’ll give you some free background checks to help ensure this doesn’t happen again.

    Email me if you’re interested steve@rent-prep

  14. I know we are not allowed to do this, but what about going to the unit when the tenant is not there and change the locks, then provide notice that all contact is to be done through your lawyer, most tenants that don’t pay will probably not go the lawyer route and just end up leaving…. what is the worst a tenancy Board could do to a landlord for doing this?

    • I’d be less worried about the tenant board and more concerned with breaking the law.

      I’ve known of landlords to be charged with trespassing and wrongful eviction in criminal court when trying to bypass eviction processes. There have even been cases where the landlord was found guilty of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and forced to pay damages.

      Bottom line – it’s not worth it. Don’t do it. Follow the law and manage your property like a responsible business with no emotional attachment that causes you to do irrational things.

  15. You said it Barb.. good screening is the only answer.

    A landlord I know had a tenant put concrete mix in the toilet and ruined the plumbing all the way to the street. Which then required the driveway to be ripped out to repair. 28k later, all the landlord has is a useless judgment the tenant will never pay.

    In a perfect world, the new landlord will call that previous landlord and find out what a mess this tenant caused. But that landlord never received a call or inquiry. The judgment helps if you’re running a background check, but if the new landlord skips the background check and verification calls, then the cycle continues.

    Barb, since you mentioned having the T-shirt, email me directly and I’ll send you a free T-shirt we printed up recently that I think you’ll love. steve@rent-prep

  16. I hear you Jayne. Unfortunately the laws will always favor the resident over the owner.

    With regard to the appliances, my advice is to take pictures and conduct inspections before they leave. I’ve seen situations where the landlord had to use pictures to prove the appliances were in the apartment after the tenants flat out lied and said there were never any.

    Also, have you considered Cash for Keys? http://rentprep.com/collecting-rent/cash-for-keys-program-pay-renters-leave/

  17. Not answering calls or responding to texts is never a good sign.. I think you know exactly what you’re dealing with here Jayne.

    Hopefully you walk away from this with as little damage as possible. And this maybe obnoxiously obvious but, you have to screen the hell out of your next tenants! Avoiding these people all together is the only way to survive as a landlord.

  18. I hope you got a security deposit from them! Otherwise you’ll be invoicing for the damages. And with them being on disability, you’ll likely never see that money.

    I’m not sure what you’d be able to charge, if anything for the hole they dug. That’s one you’ll probably have to eat. But the carpet can easily be tracked and added to the damages that cost you money to repair.

  19. Your principles are right and just questionoftruth. Unfortunately principle can get very expensive for landlords. Is it worth $10,000 in damages to be able to say you taught the tenant a lesson? If so, then don’t ever do cash for keys. For the rest of us, it’s a business decision to minimize risk and loss.

  20. I’m sorry you have to deal with bad tenants. I own a few properties myself and had to have a property manager deal with the headache with bad tenants. Were you able to sell your properties?

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