Landlords take on a substantial amount of risk when they lease a property to a new tenant. They not only need to maintain the unit in a state fit to live in, they also need to maintain the unit with an eye on long-term value.
If an individual tenant behaves irresponsibly or breaks the law, the landlord could face diminished property value or even the forfeiture of their property as a result of a tenant’s behavior. Rowdy parties, animals kept in violation of a lease or just failing to clean could lead to serious property issues ranging from pest infestations to mold growth.
In the vast majority of cases where a tenant causes physical damage to a rental unit, the landlord will be able to recoup the repair costs from the security deposit. However, sometimes the cost of repairs will far exceed the security deposit paid at the time of signing the lease. Can a landlord sue a tenant for such damages?
The lower the rent, the less security deposit there is to use
Recent changes to New York’s security deposit law might make it more likely that landlords will have to initiate civil proceedings against former tenants. Landlords are now subject to a strict limitation on the amount of security deposit that they charge.
The security deposit cannot be any more than a single month’s rent. Depending on the price of the unit and the extent of the damage, a single month’s rent could fall woefully short of the cost of necessary repairs. It may not be enough to even replace the carpet, let alone completely rehabilitate a unit destroyed by aggressive pets or the inappropriate use of indoor spaces.
Landlords can potentially take their tenants to court
There are certain steps the landlord will need to follow when they retain someone’s security deposit because of damages. They will need to document the damages, notify the tenant in writing and provide an accurate accounting of what the security deposit funds covered.
If damages are significantly higher than the amount of the security deposit, the landlord may be able to pursue civil action against the tenant for the remaining cost of repairs to the unit. Both landlords and tenants may require advice and guidance when dealing with major damage claims related to a rental unit.