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Are You Responsible for Damage Caused by Halloween Mischief?

Smithfield Rental Property with Toilet Paper in the TreesFor a lot of people, Halloween is an evening complete 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. Whenever those pranks create messes or even damage your rental property, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for the cleanup and repairs. Even though it is the property owner’s responsibility to make sure that their Smithfield rental is in habitable condition, most leases require the tenant to keep the property clean and in good condition. If holiday pranksters have made a ruckus in the front yard, the question of who is answerable for the cleanup may eventually depend on the lease and the amount of damage the prank has actually caused.

Even though landlord/tenant laws vary from state to state, in general, 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 instance, hurling toilet paper or smashing pumpkins on the driveway are both exasperating and messy nuisances, but rarely cause permanent damage. Although the mess is not your tenant’s fault, unless you are already taking care of yard maintenance for them, they will need to be resourceful and clean up the mess themselves.

Nevertheless, if the prank results in property damage, particularly 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 innocent enough, these pranks can result in damage to the exterior surfaces of a house. If the vandalism has gone even out of hand to include broken windows, damaged trees or shrubs, or even spray paint, however, it is unreasonable to expect a tenant to bear the burden of the repair costs. Most landlord insurance policies will cover vandalism that results in severe property damage, but you will need to decide 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 removing toilet paper from the roof or a tall tree), it is a good idea to help them with this or hire someone to do it for you. There are an estimated 36,000 deaths and more than 164,000 injuries attributed to falls from ladders in the United States each year. By letting tenants conduct cleaning or repairs that would require 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 around 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 an excellent time to check your insurance coverage to double-check that you will be covered in the event that Halloween shenanigans do end up causing property damage.

Though these are not hard tasks, they are time-consuming, and as they say, time is money. To help keep your property safe and vandals at bay, think about hiring a Smithfield property manager to keep an eye on things for you. At Real Property Management Dominion, we can assess the aftermath of any Halloween mayhem and help you distinguish and plan out 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 757-395-4274.

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