Claiming for Property Damage

Hi All

We are first time investors and have been quite naïve with our dealings so far. We’ve relied on our property manager a lot (unfortunately she is very blasé about our house and we’ve since realised that we’ll have to be more proactive ourselves if we want things done right) and have always fixed things as soon as we are notified. We have since realised we have been paying to fix things that were actually damaged by the tenants.

9 months ago my husband (a qualified carpenter) put in a new kitchen and bathroom while our tenants were on holiday. Amazingly, even though they knew the owner was coming, they left the house in a horrendous state (food scraps, ash and cigarette butts everywhere, toilet absolutely filthy, etc). Warning bells were ringing loudly but as my husband had travelled over 1000km to install the new kitchen and bathroom he went ahead with it. He photographed and documented everything at the time and we sent that to the agent.

2 months ago my husband travelled back up to inspect the property. As we had feared, there was already mould (that apparently the tenants can’t remove) and other damage in the 2 new rooms. We decided to give them 2 months notice and are now set to do the exit inspection next week. Our plan of attack is to simply walk around with the Entry Report and document and photograph everything that is damaged and not noted on that report.

Here are just some of the items we believe is damage and not general wear and tear:
- Brown stains (not from rust) in toilet bowl
- Urine stains around toilet which have eaten into the varnish and stained around the toilet
- Damaged blinds
- Nail holes for pictures
- Cigarette smoke has stained and embedded odour into walls, ceilings, curtains, etc
- Louvers broken
- Decorative toilet seat replaced with a plain one (not that I even liked the toilet seat (it came with the house), but it retails at $125 and they shouldn’t get away with removing it without permission)
- Mould damage in the bathroom
- Huge chunks (approx 50 cent piece sizes) taken out of the enamel in the stove (only 2 years old)
- Brand new kitchen sink dinted so much that it broke the seal (we wouldn’t have been as concerned about this as it could have been an accident, however they never notified us and water has now gotten through and the benchtop has warped and swelled. If they told us, we would have arranged for someone to come in and reseal the area immediately).

Some of these items may seem a little petty but we have been so disappointed at the state of the place we have decided to go with the attitude that we shouldn’t have to be out of pocket for anything. Our agreement states that the property should be left in the same condition as it was before the tenants moved in (fair wear and tear excepted).

We intend to keep the bond, but the damage caused will cost more than we will get back from the bond, so I have a few questions:

- What is the process we have to go through to claim this money back?
- Do we have to quote how much we think we are owed or is this done after the claim goes through?
- Some items they have damaged have already been fixed to prevent further damage (eg. Re-sealing around the kitchen sink). Is that claimable, or should we just cut our losses here?

Any gotchas, information or similar experiences will be most appreciated.

Many thanks. :)
Assuming property is in Queensland.... When a similar situation occurred with outgoing tenants, my mother got together costs to replace curtains that were taken down and left to go mouldy and rot. We took plenty of photos to prove how dirty the house was left, we priced new items that were broken etc.

We then made sure that we lodge the refund of bond form BEFORE the tenants did so. That means the tenants have to prove they deserve some bond back.

They chose to take Mum to the tribunal. I went too and we were quiet and dignified whilst the tenants were brash and strident. We tried to keep our notes concise and after a VERY brief chance to state our case, the "judge" asked to read our notes. Keep it brief but with good dates and facts.

The photos told him all he needed to know and tenants got $12 back whilst Mum got the other ($1188 from memory).

It sounds like even if you get all the bond you will be out of pocket. Do you have landlord insurance?

Chalk it up to experience and make it presentable again. Next tenants will be better.
Yes, sorry - forgot to mention it was in QLD.

We do have Landlord Insurance, but I was under the impression that they would require us to fight the tenants for all the money first. That would make things a lot easier if we don't have to go to court.

Thanks very much for your response. I will make sure our Property Manager does not sign the Refund of Rental Bond form without our approval.
Sadly, this is one post that every professional property manager does not want to read. Have regular inspections been done? and have you received copies of those reports? If the inspections have been done, get copies of the reports, as well as a copy of the entry condition report. Have you advised the PM of your concerns and what were the answers? Try and arrange to be present, when the exit inspection is done and ensure you have the copies of the above reports with you.
Hi Peter

Yes, regular inspections have been done, but we've found the PM to be not as observant (to put it nicely). We documented and photographed everything that was found 9 months ago and sent that to the PM, but nothing was really done about it.

We are hesitant to change PMs because it's a small town and not sure if we'll get much better. I guess we've never really known how much to expect from a PM in the first place.

We are definitely coming to the exit inspection, armed with all reports. :)

I have another question:

If they do not thoroughly clean the house before they leave, we will have to arrange for it to be professionally cleaned as we want to attract new tenants asap. If we pay for that before any claims go through, will we be able to recoup those costs?
You will have to firstly point out to them the shortcomings in the clean, and give them an opportunity to make good, before you call in your cleaners, and yes, that can be part of your claim.