If my tenant intentionally damage the home they rent from me because they are being evicted, can I have them criminally charged?

Asked almost 3 years ago - Orlando, FL

My tenant refused to pay rent. Subsequently I filed eviction to have her removed (after being very nice and trying to work with her because she had kids). She left without returning keys. I found out she turned off the power, so I regained rights by her abandoning the property. The problem is she ruined the house. It very clearly is intentional. She took a hammer and destroyed the appliances. Everything is ruined. The home was remodeled before she moved in, so everything was new (appliances, carpet, walls, everything).

Since it is clear this was intentional, can I file a criminal complaint against my former tenant for some sort of criminal misconduct? This home is located in Orlando, Florida.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Carol Lynne Zimmerly

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18
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    Answered . You are correct, if she did the damage, then it is a CRIME. You should call 911 and report it. The law enforcement office who shows up (police or Orange County Deputy Sheriff) will probably tell you "this is a civil matter."

    Tell them you want an investigation opened up, that you did not authorize anyone to destroy the premises and appliances and tell them that no landlord in florida writes a lease which authorizes this. Write a letter to the Sheriff and explain your situation.

    I have actually been told by a Deputy Sheriff in Osceola county, "The laws regarding criminal acts to property do not apply to a property owner who is renting property out." SHOCKING!!!

    The fact is that it is difficult to prove that the tenant did the damage unless they hand the key to you and state that no one else was in the premises and you notice the damage right away and call 911 right away (and yes, that is right to some extent).....

    NEVERTHELESS, it is still outrageous that the law enforcement officers will REFUSE to even make a report. Property owners in Florida need to stick together and begin standing up for their rights. We need to point out to our local law enforcement that we contribute to their salaries and they should afford us at least a thought to our damaged property (real and personal).

    Perhaps we need to add something in the written lease agreement to the effect that is is prima facie evidence of vandalism and crimes against property if the premises are damaged when the property owner takes legal possession and that the tenant should make an appointment to turn over keys to the landlord at the address rented and at that time if the premises are damaged, law enforcement will be called to take a report.

    End of rant. I have faced this situation too many times with my clients. It's become personal!!!

    Good luck!

  2. Marshall C Deason Jr.

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    1

    Answered . You can bring an action against your tenant for the damage she caused in the apartment. However, if she does not have money to pay the rent, she will probably not have money to pay the cost of the damage she has done. You may be able to convince a prosecutor to charge her criminally for the damage she did, however most prosecutors would regard this as an civil matter and not bring criminal charges against her. You can apply her security deposit to the damages if you give her proper notice of your intention.

    Disclaimer: This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does... more

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