Post # 1
I am irate right now. We found out about a week ago that our landlord took half of our security deposit ($350 of the $700 we put down), and we finally got the list of charges today.
They charged us $300 to repaint the walls and the remaining $50 for “oven, stove, tub, and sink,” which I’m assuming must be to clean those items, since they weren’t damaged or broken.
I can’t believe it! We scrubbed the place down completely, so it was absolutely spotless when we moved out. And we went through and spackled all the nail holes in the walls where we’d hung pictures.
My understanding is that they can’t charge you for normal wear and tear, like discolored walls or staining on porcelain. I lived there for 3 years, so OF COURSE they’d have to repaint!
I tried to call them, but they will only go through email to “resolve disputes” so that everything is on paper. So I’m just waiting to hear back now…
Does anyone have any advice? I know $350 probably doesn’t seem like a lot, but we are both grad students on a VERY strict budget (we have no student loans) so every penny matters.
Also, I didn’t take any pictures when we moved out! Ugh, I feel so stupid now!! Everything just looked SO perfect, I never dreamed anything would happen with the security deposit.
Post # 3
Small claims court is probably your only recourse. Depending on the landlord/tenant laws where you live, they may need to show photo proof of the damage to be able to take the money (that was true of my apartment in Texas). There are a whole host of technicalities when it comes to security deposit returns in most places. Look up your local city’s rental law page. They may stipulate things like how many years you have to live someplace before charges for repainting are invalid, etc etc. Your landlord is banking on the fact that you’ll walk away without fighting them, so go at them with all you’ve got!!
Post # 4
@howsweetitis: I lived in an apartment a few years ago that had several reviews online about them not giving security deposits back but it was a nice building and very conveniently located. We pretty much went in expecting not to get our full security deposit back, but it was still ridiculous their excuse.
I spent a lot of time scrubbing and cleaning everything, the apartment was spotless. When FI dropped off the keys the maintenance guy even told him the aparment looked great. They mail us half the security deposit back with a list of everything they spent hours cleaning, that the bathroom and kitchen were filthy, and there was cat hair everywhere. Um, no. Not true at all. But we didn’t bother doing anything about it because this apartment was pretty much known for doing whatever they could to not give the full deposit back.
Post # 5
This happened to me once, because I trusted the little old lady who was the caretaker, and I moved out without doing a walk-through inspection with her, and having the checklist signed off on. Never again.
Now I would insist on a written inspection upon move-in, and a written inspection prior to turning the keys in.
Post # 6
If you can’t get this situation resolved this time around, which you may not, take it as a learning experience and ALWAYS do a walk-through with maintenance before you move out. Force them to point at the things they’re going to have to clean and then tell you how much they expect it will cost. Get it all in writing. I learned this one the hard way as well after an apartment complex charged me like $500 to replace all the carpets. The carpets needed a steam clean, sure, but they were NOWHERE near bad enough to need replacing. They just fleeced me.
Post # 7
@howsweetitis: I’m a landlord, and it pisses me off because this kind of crap that some of them pull give us all a bad name.
THEY should be able to provide YOU with pictures of the damage that required repair beyond general wear and tear. Send them a certified letter disputing the refund amount and listing your reasons. Ask for proof. Try to find some legal language from your state as to the definition of “general wear and tear” to accompany your letter.
DO NOT CASH THE CHECK. Cashing the check is implied acceptance of their settlement.
In the end, if they’re not willing to work with you, you might need to file a small claims suit against them for the additional $350. Courts usually tend to side with the tenant in these types of disputes unless they can prove that there was intentional damage to the property.
Lastly, I do want to note that a lot of my tenants who claim to leave my properties clean actually leave them pretty trashed. I have had to charge for additional cleaning costs (above wear and tear) because of excessive mold in the bathroom, caked on food on the stove-top, spilled food/liquid in the refrigerator…etc. Anything that required additional time for my cleaning people, I will charge for. But this is very rare and only in special cases where it appeared that they had not maintained the property for years.
Post # 8
@crayfish: Do you think I should basically threaten small claims court right away? Or should I try to negotiate with them first?
Believe me, I am so ready to take this company down! I would go to small claims court 50 times if I had to, lol.
Post # 9
You could try to argue with them about it, but you might just chalk this up to a lesson learned. I would demand a walkthrough with the landlord anytime you move out in the future, take pictures, and have you both sign a checklist detailing the problems found.
I’ve been screwed over by 2 landlords in the past trying to charge me for problems that were their responsibility, so even though my current landlord is great, I am going to do a walkthrough when we move out.
Post # 10
@ExcitedScaredBee: Thank you! This is really helpful, and a great list. I’m going to research certified letters now, and also ask them for proof.
I just got an email from them claiming that I “patched the walls with drywall” which is why they had to charge me to repaint. This is totally nuts. I spackled over the nail holes from hanging pictures! Like, 6 tiny little spackle spots.
And they confirmed that they did charge me to clean the oven, stove, tub, and sink.
The craziest part is, they’re completely renovating that apartment–no one will be living in it for at least a year. So it’s not like they’re keeping any of the things that they charged me to “clean” anyway!
Post # 11
@Groominator: This company doesn’t do walk-throughs. They refuse to do them, even if you ask. 🙁
Post # 12
Look up housing laws in your city, see if you can find out what is considered normal wear and tear. Some holes are ok, but really large ones or a ton I can see that they might object. (Obviously in the future take pictures!) Look into whether there are low cost or free groups that might help you with this issue like a local law school.
Also, see if this is fairly standard charge for them, if they do this to pretty much every tenant that moves out.
I have only been charged a fee once out of 6 different apartments, $300 of a $1600 deposit. In part it was valid (ex had hung up a heavy pot rack in the kitchen that was a big hole to fix). In part it was not (he wanted to charge bc ex put some items like old shoes out for trash a day early and he felt he had to bring them back into the apartment and bring out again on trash day, which was silly and not worth the sum he charged. And there were some thing I had already fixed – I asked him to confirm the apartment was ok before the lease was up at the end of the month and he told me the the ex left behind a piece of furniture, so I was able to get him to let two friends inside the unit to move it outside for trash day. So I shouldn’t have been charged me for the removal. (I had already left the city.) Notice a theme here…yes, the ex…
In any event, I got lucky, because by law he was required to provide an itemized list of items he wanted to deduct for within 30 days, or I could go after double damages for the deposit of anything he couldn’t prove. (Basically it shifted the burden of proof in addition to raising stakes with the x3.) I patiently waited out the 30 days before I asked for my deposit back. He sent the partial check. I told him he owed me the full amount or he had to go to court for the rest (and I could sue for double), but that I really just wanted my deposit back and sent him the applicable law. He sent the check and a snarky note I was in the right profession (I was in that city for law school). During all of this I DID NOT CASH THE CHECK. DO NOT CASH THE PARTIAL CHECK IF YOU ARE FIGHTING IT – this could be deemed as having accepted their payment as payment in full.
But go talk to your own lawyer, I’m not your atty nor (likely) licensed in your state…
Post # 13
You have to look in your lease agreement to see what they can and cannot charge you for but typically it’s at their discretion. Even if something was up to your standard of clean, it might not have been up to theirs. Honestly, to me it wouldn’t be worth the time, effort and money to go to small claims court. You’ll probably be out $100 just go file. Lawyers aren’t cheap either, if you plan on hiring one.
ETA – also check your lease agreement to see what it says about filling holes. My last apartment I lived in was very clear about NOT filling any holes in, which I thought was very odd. I had tons of holes, left them unfilled as instructed and didn’t get charged.
Post # 14
- Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL
@howsweetitis: Without pictures of the before and after it will be difficult to prove your case. Did you review the check out sheet with your landlord before or upon move out so you could have the chance to make the “repairs” yourself? That check out sheet can be helpful in proving your case as well. But next time make sure to take before and after photos so you can use them to refute claims made by your next landlord.
Post # 15
@MrsWBS: Wow, good idea! I just checked the lease, and it says nothing about holes, filled or otherwise, so I think I’m in the clear there. That would have been frustrating!!
The lease explicitly says they can only charge for painting if the damage to the walls is “in excess of normal wear and tear” and I know that hanging pictures is NOT in excess of normal wear and tear.
Post # 16
@kay01: Thanks for this! It was more than 30 days before I received the check, though I think I got it on the 32nd day, so presumably they sent it before/at the 30 day mark. I’d be curious to know if the x2 applies in my state!
It looks like some Googling is in order, and definitely talking to an attorney if I can’t get this resolved. What a mess! Why didn’t I go to law school again?!