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All tenants responsible for damage

March 22, 2009|Janet Portman | Inman News

Question: I rent to cotenants. One has lived in the house for two-plus years, and the other for one month. They have given their 30 days' notice, although one has already left. She claims she left the property sparkling clean and is not responsible for what the other tenant does in the meantime. How will I handle the damages and cleaning at the end of the contract?

Answer: If both tenants were on the rental agreement, both are responsible for leaving the place clean and undamaged. It is not up to you to try to divine who did what when. That is courtesy of a legal principle known as joint and several liability.

It simply means that either of your two cotenants may be required, by you or a judge, to pay for all the damage and even all the rent. How the tenants split the responsibility and the bill is their decision.

When the second tenant leaves, conduct your inspection and deduct from the deposit only those sums necessary to cover unpaid rent and damage and cleaning beyond normal wear and tear. Split the balance and send half to each. If you cannot find one, you can give the entire sum to the one whose whereabouts you know.

When joining an existing tenancy, a new tenant should have an understanding with the existing tenants about damages. A written agreement will be invaluable evidence if legal action ensues

-- Janet Portman, Inman News

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janet@inman.com

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