Landlord advice needed

Okay, here’s the situation. While in graduate school, I rented a house with two other women. We paid a $1200 security deposit when we moved in. After graduating in May, I moved four hours west to Asheville. The landlords live in Maryland. They did not do a final walk-through with us before we moved out. They did not return the security deposit. After much hassling from all three of us tenants, they finally did a walk-through at which none of us were present. They recently sent one of my old roommates a letter stating not only would they not return our security deposit, but that we owed them $500 for repairs.

They gave her an itemized list of repairs. Some made sense–carpet cleaning to remove pet stains, for example. Others are more debatable–they gave us verbal but not written permission to paint the house and are charging us for repainting it. Others are simply not true–that the house was left in filthy condition. A few others also fall under the “normal wear and tear” clause, IMHO, holes left by nails, etc.

Short of going to court, which I really don’t want to do, what are my options? Is it reasonable of me to ask for copies of the receipts for repairs? How can I challenge their assertions that the house was left filthy? It’s not like I took pictures before I left. Should I just give them 1/3 of $500 and forget about it! Help!

Pay the money and be glad you got off easy.

You have just been the recipient of a learning experience.

Here’s what you should have learned:[ol][li]When you move in to a rental property, take a careful and detailed inventory of everything that is wrong with it. Do not be generous. If the carpet has not been shampooed recently (by recently, I mean it should still be damp), note that the carpet needs cleaning. If there are stains in the cooktop’s burner pans, note that the oven and cooktop need cleaning. If the toilet does not literally smell of bleach, note that the bathrooms need cleaning. You get the picture.[]Take photos of anything that even remotely resembles damage, neglect, or disrepair. This includes stains on the floor. Mildew in closets. Bent gutters.Anything.[]Mail the original copy of the list and the photos to your landlord certified mail, return receipt.Mail a the return receipt and photocopy of the list to yourself, certified mail. When the envelope arrives, store it with the negatives, a second set of the photos and another photocopy of the list in a safe place. Do not open the envelope.[/ol][/li]You are now thoroughly protected from pissy landlords who like to milk their tenants. If the landlord does you right, you’re out the cost of some photofinishing and certified mail postage. If they try to screw you, you’re ready to go to war. Start by writing them a letter letting them know that you have copies of everything you sent them and proof they received it. If they still want to play rough, you’ll have all the ammo you need when you open that sealed certified mail envelope up in small claims court.

Hope this helps.

This is not legal advice, just IMHO: Do you have any other witnesses, such as friends or neighbors, who saw the condition of the premises before you all vacated? If so, get their statements in writing. I would reply in writing to the owner and firmly admit or deny the allegations. You can also tell them what they said verbally re: painting, etc. If I felt I didn’t owe them anything, and that I was entitled to my deposit (or some of it), I would not cave in. I would again ask for my depost and then file a small claims court action and see if the owner shows up. But that is moi. Good luck!

I had to read this a few times to make sense of it. But I had always wondered how you could prove that the pictures are from when you moved in and not 2 days before you move out.

The postmark on the envelope shows the date of mailing.

I agree that your security deposit is gone, whether you deserve it or not. It sounds as if the landlord won’t give it up even if you left the place spotless.

But, why pay the $500? Do you think, if you did, then you would get a good reference out of the landlord? I can’t imagine another reason to pay up besides that. Plus, it sounds like the landlord still might not give a positive reference even if you paid up. I say screw him. It’s not worth his trouble to take you to small claims, and if he did, it sounds like you would have a pretty good case.

Sorry, but unless you passed through the house waving sledgehammers on your way out, there’s no way you can rack up $1700.00 worth of damages. The landlord is trying to stick you for normal wear and tear. (A landlord would expect, for example, to paint after a tenant has moved out. If you painted the house, then materials at least should actually have come off the rent.)

Find out the tenant protection laws in the relevant state. In most states these are very strict. Write a letter to the landlord denying whatever costs you disagree with and citing relevant sections. If you feel it necessary, let them know the penalties for violating the tenant protection laws (these are often in the range of triple damages). My guess is that the landlord’s will fold – they probably have even less desire to go to small claims than you do.

If this is a tenant management company rather than private landlords, talk to the off-campus housing division of your former school and find out if there are other complaints against the landlords for failure to return security deposits.

*Originally posted by KneadToKnow *
**Pay the money and be glad you got off easy.

You have just been the recipient of a learning experience.

Here’s what you should have learned:[list=1][li]When you move in to a rental property, take a careful and detailed inventory of everything that is wrong with it.**[/li][/QUOTE]

Buddy of mine once did something like this but he walked through with a video camera… about an hour of video before moving in and another hour after moving out. He got a bill fo repairs in a previous apt and didn’t want to get burned again.

Do twice, when you move in…and when you move out…

OK, I just did some poking around on the net. I’m guessing the house you rented was in North Carolina? This is kind of unfortunate because if it was in Maryland, the landlord only has 45 days to submit an itemized damage report, otherwise you get to keep the whole security deposit. However there is a ray of hope. In North Carolina, the landlord is required to return the security deposit with 30 days. If your landlord did not return the deposit or submit the itemized list within 30 days (and I’m assuming they didn’t given your use of “recently” in the OP) then they are in violation of state law. Further, if you are willing to swear that you asked the landlords to do a walkthrough and that they were unwilling to do so because they were out of state, I would think that this would be a small claims slam dunk.

Thanks, all! Actually, Finagle, the landlords just squeaked in legally. Our lease was up on July 1 (I moved out a little early) and the letter they sent us was postmarked July 30. Weasels.

Right now I plan on writing them–via certified mail–and demanding copies of their receipts for repairs and photos of the alleged damages. Then I’ll figure out how to proceed. I appreciate everyone’s advice.