As a property owner, what are my rights against a negligent property manager regarding damage to my rental house?

I have a rental property and hired a property management company to look after it. In the contract, they are supposed to check up on the house once a month.The report comes back every month indicating that everything is fine. Now, a year has passed and the lease is up with the current tenant. When I did the walk-through with the agent, I found out that there is motor oil stain all over the garage floor and the driveway (contract does not allow tenant to work on their card in the garage). We got an estimate to have it cleaned but the estimate exceeds the deposit. The agent is now refusing to fix it and he is not making the tenant fixing it either. Is there anything I can do?

Asked on November 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor


1) You can sue the tenant for the cost to fix; a tenant is responsible for any damage he/she did to the premises, particularly so when he/she did so in violation of the lease.

2) If the property manager was, as you suggest, negligent or careless in discharging his/her responsibilities, you could sue the property manager as well.

Best is probably to sue both, to maximize your changes of recovering money.

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Motor oil stains can occur without a tenant necessarily working on the car at the property.  As to your contract, if you have not specifically defined what the management company is to inspect and look at or if the condition evaluation is vague or could be construed as you leaving it up to the management company, the management company would prevail and won't have to pay you any damages.  As to the tenant, you would have to prove the tenant caused damage to the property and oil stains in a garage may not be considered damage per se or even on the driveway. The problem here is clarification. You may wish to review your current contract and revise for future purposes.

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