Landlord Attorneys

Serving Central Minnesota From Our Location in St. Cloud


Minnesota Property Damage Lawyer

Was your property destroyed or severely damaged by a tenant? If so, you shouldn’t be footing the bill for the repairs. When you’re dealing with damage that goes far beyond wear and tear, you may need to speak with a lawyer. Contact Toepfer at Law to schedule your confidential consultation today.

The best landlords pour their hearts into their properties. They take pride in making sure each unit is functional and well-maintained. For these property owners, damage caused intentionally by a tenant hurts them on more than just a financial level—it can feel like a betrayal. 

However, not all property damage is personal; sometimes it’s caused by a tenant’s carelessness or even normal wear and tear. Determining the difference can be difficult when emotions are running high, as can deciding how to proceed. An experienced property damage lawyer may be able to clear things up for you. 

At Toepler at Law, we know that being a landlord is a lot harder than most people think. It can be easy to forget that just like your tenants, you also have legal rights. If you’re dealing with property damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear, we may be able to help you. 

Types of Property Damage

If you weren’t there to see the damage happen, it can be tricky differentiating a totally normal occurrence from a weird accident or spiteful behavior. Here are some examples of each type of property damage: 

  • Normal wear and tear. It doesn’t matter how careful a tenant is—they will inevitably cause some wear and tear in their unit. It’s just part of occupying a space. This type of damage can include marks on the wall, broken blinds, worn or stained carpet, nail holes and scratched floors, all of which can be paid for with the tenant’s security deposit.
  • Intentional damage. Occasionally, tenants cause damage on purpose to get back at the landlord. This could look like broken doors, spray-painted walls, missing appliances, smashed windows, intentionally clogged drains and more. In these cases, the cost to repair the damage will likely exceed the amount of the security deposit, in which case a landlord can bill the tenant. 
  • Accidental damage. Legally speaking, wear and tear and intentional damage are the two main categories of property damage. However, some types of damage fall in between, accidents resulting from ignorance or irresponsibility. This type of damage may look like burst pipes in winter, fire damage in the kitchen or water damage from over-filling the bathtub. Despite this ambiguity, the result is the same: The landlord can subtract the cost of repairs from the deposit and bill the tenant for the remainder. 

Ideally, a security deposit would cover everything, but if you’re a property owner, you know that isn’t the reality. And unfortunately, billing a tenant—even for damage they purposefully caused—doesn’t always mean they’ll pay. In these cases, a lawyer may be able to help.

Addressing Property Damaged by Tenant

Discovering property damage can be overwhelming, and as much as you want to just walk away from it, it can’t go unaddressed. There are a few actions that can help you secure compensation for your losses.

Making Repairs

If the occupant is still living in the damaged unit, the first thing you should do is pay for the repairs. Although some landlords would suggest paying for those repairs with the security deposit, others would argue the deposit should be left untouched in the event that the tenant skips out on their last month’s rent or causes additional damage. Regardless of where the money comes from, repairing the unit is the first priority. 

Charging the Tenant

If the tenant causes property damage beyond normal wear and tear, you can charge them for the cost to fix it. If you decide not to take it out of their security deposit, you may be able to add the costs onto their next month’s rent. 

Evicting the Tenant

In the event that a tenant refuses to pay for the damage they’ve done, you may want to start the eviction process. If the eviction is granted, the tenant will only be able to remain in their unit if they pay all outstanding charges and back rent. If you’ve never evicted someone before, you should consider hiring an experienced eviction attorney to help. 

Protecting Yourself Against Property Damage Liability 

If you want a tenant to pay for damaging their unit, you’ll need to be able to prove that the damage occurred during their lease cycle. Otherwise, you may not be able to pursue compensation. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from liability: 

  • Conduct a thorough move-in inspection, taking pictures and videos of the entire property. 
  • Make a detailed, itemized list of things wrong with the unit before the renter moves in. 
  • Draft the lease agreement to include a provision that says any intentional damage automatically becomes additional rent. 
  • Encourage your tenants to buy renter’s insurance. The insurer may pay for damage done to your space. 
  • Screen prospective tenants properly, contacting previous landlords to make sure they haven’t destroyed units in the past. 

Although taking these measures can help prevent an expensive catastrophe, they’re not fool-proof. If you find yourself in a situation involving extensive damage and aren’t sure what to do, it may be worth contacting a property damage lawyer for advice. 

Dealing with the Insurance Company

Landlord insurance typically covers the structure of your rental property from a variety of perils. This could include unintentional or accidental damage caused by a tenant, such as a kitchen fire or burst pipe. However, landlord insurance does not cover the cost to repair wear and tear or intentional damage and vandalism. 

In an ideal world, your landlord insurance would cover all damage done to your rental properties. But if that were the case, insurance companies wouldn’t stay in business. The unfortunate truth is that your insurer will always care more about the bottom line than your wellbeing. This reality can make getting the compensation you deserve difficult. 

Top Minnesota Property Damage Lawyers

Figuring out who is liable for property damage is a complex issue, especially when it involves landlords, tenants and the insurance company. Even after you’ve assessed the situation and determined the responsible party, getting them to pay up is a whole other challenge. Many hardworking landlords who find themselves in this liability limbo may feel discouraged, but they do have options.

An experienced Minnesota property damage lawyer can do several things to protect you from this situation. They can help draft your leases and legal documents and speak to the insurance company on your behalf and even help you evict a tenant who refuses to pay for the damage they’ve caused. 

If you need a Minnesota property damage lawyer who has experience in protecting the rights of landlords like you, there’s no better firm than Toepfer at Law. Contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation or give us a call at (320) 497-4416.

See What Our Clients Have to Say

“Divorce and custody cases are emotional, stressful, and generally quite financially burdensome. Tony really helped me to understand all viewpoints in my case, helped to keep emotions under control, and was able to make quick decisions while in the courtroom. Most of all, his services were reasonable and he helped me to financially plan throughout the process.

He also was able to refine ambiguous language in our documents and filings to ensure they were clear and easily understood by all parties. He really is one of the “good guys” – he will fight for the best interests of the children and isn’t blindly one-sided. You will not go wrong hiring hiring his firm to represent you. I know where I will turn if I need an attorney in the future.”

– Kris H.

After digging through some of my papers, I came across my will and realized it was quite out of date. I delivered my current will to Tony, and we discussed some of the changes I wanted to have made. He advised me on the best way to structure the will and then had it done in no time. He was efficient and not costly. I felt much better knowing that I had things in order in case something were to happen to me. Thank you Tony!

– Eileen T.

Tony responded quickly, and his work was very effective. I would and have recommended him to friends and family.

– David V.

Tony provided excellent service for my legal needs. He explained things thoroughly, was patient with my many questions, and succeeded in delivering the settlement I expected. Thanks, Tony, for your great work!

– Joanne K.

I first met Tony at a networking group and I could immediately tell he had an immense passion for his clients and career. The more I got to know Tony the more I knew he’d be the first people I would call if I ever had any legal questions or concerns. So when it came time to need a lawyer to help with some legal questions, Tony was the obvious choice. His response was quick and thorough and he made all of the legal terminology so easy to understand. Integrity is important in the legal field and Tony is nothing short of that.

– Kelli P.

Contact Us

Toepfer at Law

58 10th Avenue S
Waite Park, Minnesota 56387

Phone(320) 497-4416 Fax(320) 295-7813
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