The tenant in your rental is calling to tell you there has been a home robbery. The door is kicked in, cabinet doors ripped off the hinges, torn screens, electronics removed, and a big hole punched in a wall. The tenant is scared and you are upset. Now it is up to you to sort this mess out. Nobody prepared you for these moments when they convinced you to buy a rental and try to self-manage the tenant and property.
A problem like a home robbery has multiple issues to address in a very prompt manner.
Secure the home
Lets start with the first, primary issue. The home is not secure due to the robbery. Unfortunately, when serving as a manager we have experienced owner’s stalling to deal with this situation on the assumption that somehow the tenant brought it on themselves. Whether the tenant is somehow to blame is not relevant at this moment. The basic fact is that the owner is obligated to provide a safe, secure, habitable property as part of the lease. So, without delay, the home needs to be secured. The cost of these repairs belongs to the owner.
Next, we have the issues of the damaged interior items (cabinet doors and a hole in the drywall). Again, the natural reaction is for an owner to want to avoid these repairs. The thought may occur that these are possibly damages that already existed and were caused by the tenant. As your property manager, at the owner’s expense, we are going to make these repairs immediately. If later information is obtained that leads us to believe the tenant might be responsible, we can bill them and as a last resort look to their security deposit for repayment.
Put Yourself In Your Tenant’s Shoes
I believe it is important in these situations that we operate with empathy toward the tenant. If you have ever experienced a robbery or break-in, there is a lot of feeling of violation. Imagine the tenant’s trauma and fear over the next few days or weeks when they return home wondering if the intruder has returned. For an owner to try to avoid returning a leased property to its previous condition, and ensure is it safe and secure, is not an appropriate response. If the home did not have a security system, this might be an excellent time to reinforce to your great tenants how much you value them and offer to install one.
As to the tenant, their Renters Insurance will cover the loss of the electronics. When a tenant signs a lease and they are required to provide proof of renters insurance, it is really for their own good. It’s very inexpensive protection to help in these situations to return life to normal. If the tenant chose to not obtain renters insurance, or failed to keep their premiums current, it is recommended that the lease is clear that there is no coverage for their possessions.
We require a copy of the police report and any additional updates from law enforcement. If a connection is made to the tenant as to any of the circumstances associated with the robbery, we can determine how to proceed. An example of an actual situation where a tenant potentially invited a break-in involved illegal activity taking place in the property. By the police determining that the illegal activity was a potential cause of the break-in, a decision ensued to invite the tenants to relocate (with a threat of eviction).
Every Situation Is Unique
A rental home robbery must be handled on a case by case basis. It’s best to approach these events giving your tenant’s the benefit of the doubt. The first priority must be to immediately provide our tenants safety and security. For the good of all parties, and the property value, immediately secure the home and repair all damages. Once these priority issues are resolved, a review can be made. The purpose of the review is to determine if there are any issues with the tenant’s lifestyle that invited the home robbery or break-in. In most cases, your tenants are innocent and they should be treated as such.