When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Damage caused by tenants

Tenants have a duty to report damage and disrepair to you. When the property has been damaged in some way, you should try to establish what has happened to find out whether the tenant is at fault. If it is obvious that the tenant has caused the damage you may be entitled to compensation.

Using the tenant's security deposit

You ask tenants to pay a deposit so that you are protected from any financial loss as a result of their actions. Any deposits paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be protected with an approved tenancy deposit scheme. 

At the end of the tenancy term, you should assess the property for damage or disrepair caused by the tenant, bearing in mind the rules about wear and tear and replacing damaged items with items of a similar age and quality. If, during the course of the tenancy, you have had to repair items which were damaged as a result of the tenant's actions you can deduct the costs of the repairs from the deposit.

You need to follow the process outlined by your scheme administrator if the deposit was protected.  If you received the deposit before 1 April 2013, you should write to the tenant. The letter should

  • explain how much money you have deducted from the deposit
  • list the repairs and the costs of each repair
  • include receipts for any replacement purchases or payments to contractors 
  • explain how and when the remainder of the deposit will be returned to the tenant.

If the tenant has caused significant damage and the cost of repairs is greater than the value of the tenant's deposit, you can make a claim for compensation through the courts.

Evicting a tenant for breach of contract

If your tenant has caused serious damage to your property you may have grounds to start eviction proceedings.

Most tenancy agreements include clauses requiring the tenant to keep the property in a good state of repair or preventing the tenant from using the property for certain purposes. If the tenant has breached these terms, you may be able to serve a notice to quit on the tenant requiring that they leave the property.

Making a claim for compensation in court

You can retain the tenant's deposit to compensate you for the cost of repairs if the damage was the tenant's fault. However, the deposit may not always be sufficient to cover the cost of repairs. If this is the case, you will have to file a claim in court for compensation.

If the damages are less than £5000, or you are happy to write off any amounts owed beyond £5000, you can use the small claims court. In the small claims court you won't need a solicitor. If you wish to claim for an amount greater than £5000 seek advice from a solicitor to find out what other legal options you have.

Remember, if your tenant is on benefits or a low income they may only be able to pay compensation back in small amounts rather than in a lump sum.

Criminal damage

Contact the police if you believe that the tenant has carried out criminal damage on your property. Failure to contact the police could affect your insurance claim.  The police cannot help you to remove the tenant from the property.  Only an Enforcement of Judgements official can forcibly remove a tenant from the property and this can only be done after securing a court order.