Can You Go To Jail For Damaging Rental Property?

Property is not only limited to housing, and so rental property can range from important things like a car, TV, smartphone, etcetera. All of these things can be considered to be property because they belong to someone or are bought under someone’s name. So can you go to jail for damaging rental property? Damage to rental (or borrowed) property without the consent of the owner can lead to serious criminal charges. Without concluding the base of the article in the introduction, let’s find our more.

Table of Contents

You Can Go To Jail For Damaging Rental Property

Damage to property whether rental or otherwise is considered to be a criminal offense. Regardless of how minor the damage may be, if the owner of the rental property can prove that the damage was caused by malicious intent. But of course the criminal punishment will depend on how extensive the damage on the rental property is. Even if you just risk damaging someone’s rental property, you are liable to facing criminal charges from the law. The borrower or tenant of the rental property is responsible for any damage that is caused after they borrow or move into the rental property. It is important to note that there are some exceptions to this rule/ law however.

  • Overtime things tend to wear out or corrode, therefore it is in the best interest of the borrower to know the extent of their part in the damage caused to the rental property. In most cases however damage to rental property or the punishment by law thereof can depend on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor (a crime usually punishable upon conviction by a small fine or by short term imprisonment) or a felony (which in contrast is a serious criminal offense which is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or by death.) So you can go to jail for misdemeanor damage to a rental property, if the rental property is valued at $25 or more. In which case you would have to pay a $500 fee to be released from jail.

How To Fight A Damaging Of Rental Property Charge

For you to be jailed for damaging rental property, the owner or borrower needs to provide the following; documentation in the form of video or imagery showing that the rental property was in fact damaged, that the damage was intentional and not accidental and that it was done without their consent because property owner’s will often file a charge of damage to a rental property to be able to get a claim from the insurer of the property.

  • So to make matters easy for you, if the rental property’s owner cannot provide some or all of the information listed above then the damage will be perceived by the law as preexisting.
  • In some cases the rental property’s owner may show sympathy such that they don’t even decide to press any charges. But in other cases the damage caused doesn’t really add up to much so it is not considered to be damage at all.

Present Some Evidence

  • If you did not damage the rental property on purpose it should be fairly easy to prove. If you haven’t showed any signs of aggression or haven’t damaged the property in the past then it would be clear to the authorities (sometimes even the property owner) that it was an accident or mistake.
  • If the rental property was already damaged when you got there, you should provide the evidence to back this claim. The evidence can effectively be a picture or video.
  • If the rental property owner told you to damage their property (perhaps hoping to claim from their insurer) then you should be able to prove this, whether via recording, messaging or email, etcetera.

Hiring A Lawyer

If any charges are brought against you then you absolutely need to get a lawyer before things get bad or escalate. Criminal damage or ‘vandalism’ charges can be very serious to the people who are accused of them, so it is important to get someone on your side who is professionally qualified to help you deal with the situation at large. They may successfully defend you such that you are the one who ends up getting compensated for an already  less than stellar rental property. You should know your rights and keep in mind the condition of the rental property before you began using it, you should always document less than stellar rental property on arrival to avoid any false accusations.

More Things You Can Do

  • It would be best not to let a situation like this escalate or reach the authorities, therefore if you damage someone’s property be sure to let them know your fault or mistake in the matter and rightly offer compensation for the damage sustained. If the rental property already has some damage to it, immediately let the property owner know so as to avoid false accusations down the line.
  • Court can be very draining (both physically and financially) therefore it would be better not to let it get to that point. Talk to the property owner to reach a consensus on the damage to the property and what to do next. Usually if you tell them to take the value of the damage ( if you are responsible for the damage) off your bill they will rest the case.
  • However do not be taken advantage of. You should know when you’re being exploited by the rental property owner.


If you damage someone else’s property intentionally, which they worked hard to buy then you are definitely going to jail, that should not come as a surprise. However there are ways to avoid such a fate and most are listed above. The rental property’s owner needs to be able to prove that you intentionally did harm to their property but that can be very hard to do. The best advice is to take good care of the rental property as if it were your own (even if you do pay a lot to use it) without question because at some point you are going to have to give it back to the owner.