College Kids Leave a Mess at Your Rental Property? Here Are Your Rights as a Landlord.

For many landlords in Minnesota, June is a time of high tenant turnover. College kids are leaving for the summer, and some of them leave their rental units in less-than-courteous condition. Some landlords may find their properties are downright trashed. Here is a run-down of your rights as a landlord and what you can do to fix the mess your college-aged tenants left behind.

You Should Find Your Rental Unit in Similar Condition

Finding your rental unit in better condition than when you leased it may be wishful thinking. But you can and should expect your unit to be clean and with only the expected amount of wear and tear. Normal wear and tear typically includes scuffs on the walls, nail holes, and stains and wear on the carpet.

If your college-aged tenants left behind holes in the drywall, broken screens, and other messes, you may be within your rights to withhold their security deposit to cover the cost of repairs. Sometimes, though, the security deposit won’t cover the damages. In this case, it’s possible to take your tenants to court.

You Have the Right to Recover Your Damages

There are two ways to recoup the cost of damages your tenants do to your property. If the damages amount to less than $15,000, conciliation court, also known as small claims court, is your option. Conciliation court only allows you to recover money—not actual lost or stolen property. In most circumstances, a conciliation court judge will not allow you to use an attorney.

You may pursue damages over $15,000 through housing court. You may hire an attorney to represent you in housing court. Minnesota Statute 504B.165 allows landlords to recover damages for “willful or malicious destruction” of their rental properties. In these cases, you might also be able to recover your court costs and attorney’s fees.

You Can (and Should) Document Your Property’s Condition

Documenting the condition of each of your rental property before a tenant moves in will help prove your case if your tenant trashes it. Require your new tenant to walk through the unit with you and take inventory of the condition of the walls, floors, and fixtures. Take photos or a video during the tour.

If you find a mess after your tenants leave, take photos and video of the damage before you repair it. These before and after photos will help build your case.    

Cleaning up the mess college kids leave behind is no fun, but it is possible to recover the costs of the repairs you make. To learn more, contact Jon Morphew and the Morphew Law Office, PLLC at 612-790-9189 today for a free consultation.

Brynne Turner