Tenant Intentional Damage and Injunctions

It less common than other problems landlords have with tenants, but occasionally, a landlord will discover that a tenant is intentionally damaging the rental property. What can the landlord do?

First, the landlord needs to inspect the property routinely to ensure the tenant is caring for the property. In addition, the landlord should form good relationships with vendors (e.g. plumbers, electricians, HVAC, etc.) so that if the vendor enters the home and sees that the tenant is destroying the property, the vendor will communicate that with the landlord. The same could be said about neighbors of the rental property.

The landlord cannot know what is happening inside the home on a daily basis and will only occasionally see what the property conditions are when inspections are performed throughout the year. The more frequent a landlord or his agents, neighbors, or hires can see the property, the better. Of course, if the landlord suspects that the tenant may be a risk for damaging the property, the landlord should consider whether to increase property inspections.

If the landlord discovers that the tenant is intentionally damaging the property, the landlord has a statutory remedy in F.S. 83.681. The landlord may file a petition for temporary or permanent injunction against the tenant. F.S. 83.681 provides,

(1) A landlord who gives notice to a tenant of the landlord’s intent to terminate the tenant’s lease pursuant to s. 83.56(2)(a), due to the tenant’s intentional destruction, damage, or misuse of the landlord’s property may petition the county or circuit court for an injunction prohibiting the tenant from continuing to violate any of the provisions of that part.

(2) The court shall grant the relief requested pursuant to subsection (1) in conformity with the principles that govern the granting of injunctive relief from threatened loss or damage in other civil cases.

(3) Evidence of a tenant’s intentional destruction, damage, or misuse of the landlord’s property in an amount greater than twice the value of money deposited with the landlord pursuant to s. 83.49 or $300, whichever is greater, shall constitute irreparable harm for the purposes of injunctive relief.

Note that the landlord must first deliver written notice to the tenant to terminate the lease agreement pursuant to F.S. 83.56(2), that is, a 7 Day Notice to Terminate based on a non-curable violation of intentionally damaging the landlord’s property. It may go without saying, but if the tenant is intentionally damaging the property, the landlord should deliver a notice to terminate the lease as soon as possible.

The trial court handles a landlord’s petition for injunction the same as any other injunction. (See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.610, rules of procedure governing injunctions). If the damage value to the landlord’s property is more than $300 or double the amount the security deposit amount, whichever is greater, the court will find “irreparable harm” exists for purposes of granting injunctive relief. So, if the security deposit was, say, $600, the damage value must be more than $1,200 before the court could find that the landlord suffers “irreparable harm”.

Keep in mind, the tenant’s damage to the landlord’s property must be intentional. This does not include negligent treatment of the landlord’s property. For damages caused by the tenant’s negligence, the landlord would not be able to get an injunction against the tenant but would have to resort to other legal means to seek remedy against the tenant, such as money damages and making a claim on the security deposit when the tenant vacates.

The landlord can also call the police authorities, but they may not “get involved” in what they may consider a “civil dispute” between the landlord and tenant. But if the property damage is clearly intentional, that is a crime, and the policy authorities may investigate the matter to see if charges should be brought against the tenant. 

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.