A landlord recently wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper, complaining that tenants had trashed her rental property. They left food and garbage everywhere, along with a garage full of old TVs, mattresses and appliances for the landlord to dispose of. She was (justifiably) frustrated at the lack of legal recourse offered her. Tracking down a former tenant is difficult and seeking judgments futile, she said.

Why should a tenant get away with leaving trash in and around my property (when) they can be fined for litter elsewhere?” she added. The landlord thinks it should be a police matter, and that property-trashing tenants should be charged.

The article received a lot of comments. Here are a few examples:

  • Landlords just need to charge enough of a security deposit to cover it.”
  • “It’s part of the risk of having tenants.”
  • “This is a civil matter, not a police matter.”
  • Landlords who don’t return deposits, who enter the residence without prior notice and who don’t fix things should get tickets.”
  • “I’m more interested in laws that protect neighborhoods from slumlords.”
  • Most tenants want their cleaning/damage deposits back and will leave the place ready for the next tenant.”
  • “My grandmother’s tenants left her thank-you notes when they moved out.”
  • If you want to be a landlord, do your job. If you own a house in my neighborhood, you are my neighbor. Act like it!”

Not surprisingly, the comments are all over the place: people with landlord gripes chimed in, as did neighbors who think the minority of bad landlords are worse than bad tenants. And some actually addressed the issue of charging tenants for trashing rental property. What do you think? Should a security deposit cover disposing of a tenant’s trash and unwanted items? Or should there be stiffer penalties for actions like these?