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  1. #1

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    I dispute my former landlord's estimation of my repairs after moving out

    My jurisdiction is: Ohio

    Sorry if this is lengthy.

    Hi, I live in Columbus, OH. One month ago I moved out of a 2-bedroom/1-bathroom apartment after living there for 2.5 years. I fulfilled the lease terms and was never late on any rent payments, never called maintenance, etc. - I would consider myself a model tenant.



    The apartment complex is managed by a large local management company. When I moved out I dropped off the keys after thoroughly cleaning the apartment, at the complex office 2 buildings away. I asked them to go over to the apartment and check out with me and they refused, saying they didn't do things that way. That the company would send a person from the turnover department over to look at things later.

    I should mention that I took pictures of every room, the inside of the oven, refrigerator, etc., before I gave the keys back.

    I cleaned the apartment to what I considered to be extremely clean condition. I spent 4 hours cleaning out the oven, cleaned out the refrigerator, freezer, wiped down all the windows with Windex, wiped off the mini-blinds, walked around the entire apartment and swept with a broom where the walls and ceiling meet and the baseboards around the floor. I cleaned out the tub, toilet, etc. Vacuumed the floors and mopped the vinyl kitchen and bathroom floor, wiped out all the kitchen cupboards and drawers. I spent 2 days cleaning the place and left it in very good condition.

    My security deposit was $99, so I thought I would get probably nothing back or a few bucks back, and that would be it. Some pillows from a bed with no headboard left a small oil stain on the wall, there was some marks here and there on the walls, etc. I broke 1 slat on a set of mini-blinds. In other words I did no major damage and left the place in good condition. I even spackled over all small nail holes from my pictures.

    Yesterday I received an invoice from them stating that, above the $99 deposit, I own them an additional $165. And I had to pay it within 15 days or they would put in on my credit report and send it to collection. (I have a very good credit rating.) $265 seems outrageously high to me.

    I feel like they are taking advantage because they know that it is expensive to contest the invoice, and that no one wants the threat of a dinged credit rating.

    They charged me $175 to repaint the entire apartment.
    They charged me $55 to steamclean the carpet
    They charged me a $10 Administrative Fee

    Then they nickeled and dimed me - charged me to:
    clean the bathtub (I cleaned it)
    clean part of the oven (I cleaned it SPOTLESS)
    replace two sets of mini-blinds (I broke one slat)
    replace the furnace filter
    replace worn gaskets on the toilet?
    charged me to replace a lightbulb because the one I used was too "big."
    charged me to replace the cheap plastic handles on a closet door because "they spin and spin and don't tighten." (they never tightened the entire time I lived there.)
    I cleaned the inside of the windows, they charged me to clean mildew from the bottom of the window between the glass and the screen, when the window is open. Am I to blame that their windows don't drain the water? I rarely opened the windows.

    and a bunch of other spurious charges.

    My first question is, what can a landlord charge you for, when you move out? Remember I lived there for 2.5 years, so of course the carpet was worn in the high traffic areas, some minor wall scrapes, etc.

    My second question is, what are my options if I disagree with the charges? What if they ruin my credit rating if I contest the bill?

    My third questions is, is there a gpvernmental agency where I can ask for help or file a complaint?

    I looked the company up on the Better Business Bureau website and it states:
    "an officer of XXX Company advised our BBB office in writing that the firm would no longer respond to any matters our office sent them."

    Any tips or explanations would be appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and your help.

  2. Moderator Distinguished Scholar

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    A landlord can keep a security deposit and/or charge extra only for damages above that considered normal wear and tear after a tenant vacates a unit. The issue that seems to come up often is what is damage and what is normal wear and tear.

    The assumption is that the unit will be left in the same shape as when the tenant first moved in there.

    Carpets and carpet cleaning are frequently a big bone of contention in this area. I'd say the steam cleaning fee isn't unreasonable as well as the replacement of one blind.

    Here is what you should do; write a letter back to management, stating you disagree with the charges that you feel are unfair, that you contest the total amount of the bill but will accept certain charges and that you have pictures of the rental at move out as evidence should you need to take legal action on this matter.

    You're much more likely to get a positive response if you agree to some of these charges (i.e., the steam cleaning of the carpet and the replacement of the blind with the broken slate, for example) as opposed to demanding all of your deposit back.

    The cheapest way to get out of this is to write off the deposit.

    Will they turn over this bill to a collection agency? Likely. Large apartment complexes frequently have contracts with collection agencies for this very issue which is cheaper for them than filing a lawsuit.

    Will having a collection against you lower your credit rating? Yes. You can, if you wish, include the statement in your letter that you will pay this bill under duress only to save your credit rating but that you will follow up with filing a lawsuit in Small Claims against this management company.

    Small Claims filing is typically fairly inexpensive and doesn't require an attorney (check how much it is to file in your district) and is usually the route that these small lawsuits go through.

    The fact that you have pictures and are willing to go the legal route regarding this money may make management rethink this bill.

    I've found the Better Business Bureau to be, well, useless in most cases such as these.

    Gail

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    columbuscitizen (12-15-2008)

  4. #3
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    I would at least write the company a letter explaining that you don't agree with the charges. Just remember to specifically identify the charges you dispute, and separate them from the charges to don't dispute. Be very clear what you are willing to pay them for.
    Explain the pictures you have and what they show. Perhaps get copies and send them along with the letter so they can see what you have.
    Good communication can go a long way in many cases. Be respectful and don't throw around accusations. Keep in mind that if this goes to court, the judge will most likely see your letter.

    Best of luck,
    -Nick

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    columbuscitizen (12-15-2008)

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    Thank you for the pointers and input. Turns out my office shares a building with a law firm. (Crazy who you meet at the elevator). The attorney looked over my lease, the landlord's bill, my photos, and agreed I was being overcharged, and helped me draft a letter (all for free), which I sent certified mail to my landlord. To make sure it was received, I not only sent it certified mail, but faxed it and emailed it as well. They responded saying due to heavy volume they would respond within the next 30-60 days.

    The letter basically stated that I had photos to prove they were overcharging me, claiming the apartment was in far worse condition than I left it. That according to the fees listed on the lease, even IF I agreed with their charges (which I don't), they charged me more than the lease stated they would charge. I told them if I didn't receive my security deposit back in 15 days I would file a small claims suit against them.

    I guess I'll wait and see their response in 30-60 days and try to come back here and give an update.

    Thank again.

  7. #5

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    i live in nyc and getting a security deposit back here is really hard despite the condition of the apartment. this might bnot be "legal" but if i know the apt is in fine condition i don't pay my last months rent and tell them to keep my security deposit. i have dealt with a lot of shady landlords and this is the best way i have found to make sure i get my money back.

  8. #6
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    That's also an excellent way to face going through the eviction process.

    Gail

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    Registered User Esteemed Member

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gail in Georgia View Post
    That's also an excellent way to face going through the eviction process.

    Gail
    Agreed!

    ColumbusCitizen,
    I wouldn't wait their 30-60 days. You gave them 15, don't let up. They are probably just trying to buy more time in hopes that you drop the issue. When 15 days are up, file a small claim. Let them know you are serious and are sick of taking their crap.

    -Nick

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