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Are You Responsible for Damage Caused by Halloween Mischief?

Washington DC Rental Property with Toilet Paper in the TreesFor most of us, Halloween is that particular night filled with costumes, parties, and candy. But Halloween also tends to bring out the mischief-makers, those who take advantage of the holiday to pull pranks and cause mayhem. During such time, those pranks create messes or even damage your rental property; it can be challenging to know who is responsible for the cleanup and repairs. While it is the property owner’s responsibility to keep their Washington DC rental in habitable condition, most leases require the tenant to have the property clean and in excellent shape. In case holiday pranksters have made a mess in the front yard, the issue now of who is held liable for the cleanup may eventually depend on the lease and the amount of damage the prank has truly caused.

Although landlord/tenant laws vary from state to state, for the most part, a property owner is not responsible for cleaning up the aftermath of a Halloween prank. Common pranks tend to more of a nuisance than a legitimate problem. For example, hurling toilet paper or smashing pumpkins on the driveway are equally frustrating and messy nuisances, but they seldom cause permanent damage. While the mess is not your tenant’s burden, unless you are already taking care of yard maintenance for them, they will need to take action and clean up the mess on their own volition.

However, if the prank results in property damage, notably the types of damage that would make the house uninhabitable, it is the responsibility of the property owner to make repairs. While soaping windows and egging a house can seem harmless enough, these pranks can result in damage to the exterior surfaces of a house. If the vandalism has gone even further than expected to include broken windows, damaged trees or shrubs, or even spray paint, however, it is unreasonable to expect a tenant to accept the value of the repairs. Most landlord insurance policies will cover vandalism that ends up in serious property damage, but you will need to make the decision whether filing a claim is worth it in these circumstances.

You must also consider your tenant’s safety when debating responsibility. If the mess from the prank is excessive or would force your tenants to get on a ladder (such as taking down the bunch of toilet paper from the roof or a tall tree), it is always an excellent plan to help them with this or hire someone to do it for you. There are reportedly 36,000 deaths and more than 164,000 injuries attributed to falls from ladders in the United States each year. By consenting tenants to complete cleaning or repairs that involve ladders, you are exposing yourself to a high degree of liability. Tenant safety must be a priority when making decisions about how to clean up after Halloween mayhem.

As a property owner, there are several things you can do to help deter Halloween pranksters. For example, installing motion-sensing lighting everywhere in the home’s exterior could scare off any would-be vandals. You can likewise encourage your tenants to leave exterior lights on Halloween night. It’s also a great time to check your insurance coverage to make sure that you will be covered in the event that Halloween shenanigans do end up causing property damage.

Though these are not challenging tasks to accomplish, they still take much of your time, and as they say, time is money. To help keep your property safe and vandals at bay, think about hiring a Washington DC property manager to keep an eye on things for you. At Real Property Management Washington DC, we can assess the result of any Halloween mayhem and help you determine your best next steps. We can also ensure that your tenants will follow through on their responsibilities, should any messes need to be cleaned up. To learn more about our services, contact us online or call us at 202-813-9993.

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