Can landlord take me to court for damages?
Yes, he can. Anyone can sue another legal adult he thinks has caused him harm, and law suits for financial disputes are extremely common. Anyone can sue for violation of the terms a contract, like a lease, too.
Landlords have stronger cases than many plaintiffs when they sue tenants for damages. Almost all leases tell tenants that they must pay for damages, and the tenant has signed an agreement that he will. Therefore, he will get nowhere wil challenging the landlord’s right to charge him.
Tenants often do succeed in court by disputing whether they caused the damage, whether the damage is significant, or if the amount the landlord is charging is reasonable.
If the damage was caused by the tenant’s negligence, misuse, deliberate effort, or any such fault of his, he must pay the depreciated current value of the asset or for its placement or repair.
Assuming that your damages exceed the amount of the security deposit and you fail to pay when invoiced, absolutely. Being a tenant is not a license to damage another person’s property without consequence.
I’ve taken photos for landlord friends so I’ve seen some massive damages. In fact, one tenant so destroyed the property they were in that it had to be red tagged and torn down. I documented another case along with an independent appraiser where the damages added up to around $11,000. The security on this apartment was just $950. You better believe the landlord sued.
Years ago Small Claims had a $500 limit. Back then a landlord might go get a judgement or might just use their insurance. But insurance companies have gotten tighter about paying claims over the years (they’ll pay if they have to, but they might then drop you). At the same time, the Small Claims limit has gone up to at least $5,000 in many states (maybe all). That means you can recover a larger amount of damages.
the landlord must reasonably prove that the tenant did the damages, that what was done can’t be considered normal wear and tear and that the damages weren’t pre-exiting. (After AND before pictures folks! After the fact doesn’t disprove a tenant claiming it was like that when they moved in.)
However, rent laws ussually vary from state to state so you better consult local lawyer before finalising anything.