If tenants trash an apartment and then move out, can the landlord file a criminal compliant for vandalism?

UPDATED: Jun 24, 2015

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If tenants trash an apartment and then move out, can the landlord file a criminal compliant for vandalism?

I own a rental property. The tenants that lived there said they were breaking the lease and moving so I gave them the remaining 3 weeks they paid for to clean up and move but told them they would not receive security back for breaking lease. They ended up moving out earlier than the 3 weeks but left everything they didn’t want and also scattered trash and junk all through house, even outside stuff (waterhoses and cement blocks) and a door knob was broken. I already know I am going to take them to small claims court to make them pay rest of lease and costs to clean all their mess but is their anyway I can get them arrested for vandalism or something for what they have done?

Asked on June 24, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

In theory, the intentional destruction or damage to another person's property is a crime. In practice, it is very unlikely that the authorities would bring charges and a criminal action for leaving "everything they didn't want and also scatter[ing] trash and junk . . . and a door knob was broken." That is not to say that you cannot contact the police, file a police report and ask to press charges--but you need to prepare yourself that with very little physical damage (from what you write, it was mostly mess), and that damage arguably caused accidentally or carelessly (one could easily imagine accidentally breaking a doorknob), the authorities will most likely consider this a "civil" dispute, not a crime, to be resolved through a lawsuit.

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