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Walk-thru Completed BUT

Discussion in 'Security Deposits' started by GaLandLord, Jul 1, 2017.

  1. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    I'm helping my 86-Y-O mother manage her rental property. Tenants moved out and said they cleaned the unit. If I was going to rent this place to move in there's NO WAY I'd move in with the condition it's in - frankly it's NASTY.

    I did a walk-thru with one of them. (I'm very new at this.) The tenant basically threatened me with a lawsuit if they don't get their deposit money back and told me they're within HUD guidelines for "wear and tear" because he's "managed lots of property in the past".
    Tenants actually BROKE mini-blinds that were new when they moved in (blinds are now 5 years old), left carpets stained because they overheard us discussing possibility of replacing carpet with prospective tenants (carpet is approximately 8 years old), there is mold in the bathrooms that was NOT there when they moved in (I did comment that that would have to be cleaned) , the kitchen floor is as greasy as a restaurant floor, the stove is horrible, there are streaks on the walls where some unknown liquid stained it and it won't come off, and they (who knows how!) BROKE the arm of a ceiling fan and are claiming defect of the fan. They did not retain the broken part of the fan for me to send to the manufacturer so I can't claim defect that way. They also did not return all of the keys to the unit, kept a mailbox key and played dumb when I asked for the second key (I re-keyed the mailbox today to take care of that problem....) and rekeyed the unit today as well to keep them out of the unit as they gave possession up yesterday.

    I didn't note all of the damage but tenant signed the walk-thru form. I have since added notes stating "found in review". I DID take pictures after the tenant left and plan to take additional pictures before cleaners come in two days to make sure I haven't missed anything.

    Tenant does still owe last month of electric and natural gas utility billing (they are billed to my mom) but they aren't making any effort to pay her and we have requested they do so.

    What are the odds if we end up in small claims court I'm going to have to pay they whole deposit back if I have picture evidence but didn't note specific damages on the form at the time the tenant was present?
     
  2. mightymoose

    mightymoose Well-Known Member

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    The better you document the damages and explain that they are not normal wear and tear the better the odds you can keep the deposit.
    The carpet is old enough it will probably be normal wear and tear regardless.
    If they never notified you of the broken fan or mold problem you can likely include those reasonably.
    The cleaning of the dirty, greasy, stained kitchen is likely reasonable.
    Just make sure you document each expense as well as unpaid bills.
    You can also charge for rekeying the locks.
    In the end, if they sue you they will have to show that the charges are excessive or unreasonable. The better you document the less likely they will succeed with their claim.

    Keep in mind that you need to either return the deposit in full, in part, or provide documention explaining the reason for withholding it within a certain time frame, usually 2-3 weeks or so. If you fail to do one of those things within the allowable time you could be ordered to return the deposit in full.
     
  3. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for the reply.

    I'm taking pictures to document everything completely and do plan to send documentation within the timeframe specified by Georgia law (if I remember right the lease specifies 30 days to return the deposit all or in part with an explanation of whats being withheld and why) . I'm just concerned that I didn't argue face-to-face with the guy and write it down at the time and the fact that he threatened me with a lawsuit. I really didn't appreciate the threat, but I didn't want to get into it with him then and there. I'm not planning to gouge him for the repairs, but I got the impression that he thinks he shouldn't be paying for ANYTHING.

    Another question though: is there a difference between "wear and tear" as defined by HUD and "wear and tear" for privately owned rental property? Or does it all fall under the same rules and guidelines?

    Thanks again-
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    HUD is only involved if you are renting to section 8 (or similar) tenants.

    HUD is only a quasi-guarantor.

    The laws of the state of GA apply, insofar, as the rental contract.

    There are a great many successful, prosperous landlords who don't accept section 8 (or similar) tenants.

    Let's be honest, if you rent to MOST people under a section 8 deal, you're very likely to get stiffed or worse.

    Do your mother and yourself a favor, give the person back the deposit and the matter ends.

    You've already indicated that you've documented items found after the tenant had left the unit.

    That could hurt you in court.

    However, you can stand your ground, return what you believe the tenant is due LESS any damages and repairs you must make.

    If he/she howls, you settle it in court.

    Your call, but wise up, only rent to people who can pass a stringent background check, have a solid FICO, verifiable references, good employment, and pay their own way.

    If you choose to rent to "certain" types, you'll notice you continually get screwed.
     
  5. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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  6. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks.

    We had a real estate agent who (supposedly) screened the tenant before she moved in (we have our doubts that was really done completely).

    This guy was brought in by the original tenant after she had been there 4 years. He was an 'add-on' - a boyfriend who wasn't on the original lease and was never mentioned in the original lease either.
    It came to light at renewal (the original term was 3 years with a one year auto renewal. Then mom signed a letter for an additional one year that added this guy) that he had apparently been around the whole time - in and out of the unit traveling to/from California. Found this out when she wrote "he knows all the neighbors" when she requested that he be included on the 5th year.
    The original tenant was divorcing her husband for this guy when she leased mom's unit. That's how he got involved in the first place - he was there from the start just not completely visible to us. Frankly I feel like he's a bully, but I suppose bullies win in court anyway.

    I realize none of this would make a difference or be admitted in court either.

    What's the worst case here? We lose the whole deposit plus court costs? If he brings a lawyer would we have to pay that too?

    Thanks for any additional clarification.
     
  7. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    If you negotiate, you lose less.
    If you think your case is a winner, you sit tight.
    People always scream, I'll sue, few usually do.

    If you are unsure, don't need the hassle, give the beggars back the deposit.

    Beware the 30 day time frame (or whatever it is in your state) that GA mandates to return the loot.

    If you are late, the scammers will scream murder, and sue you anyway.
     
  8. mightymoose

    mightymoose Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about Georgia, but very often attorneys are not allilowed in small claims.

    So long as any deductions you make are honest and reasonable you should not have any trouble prevailing in court.

    Personally I would not worry about the threats made. Even in the unlikely event they actually do try to sue, they must prove that what you did is wrong. Don't give them the means to do that and you are fine.
     
  9. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks. I appreciate your words. We went ahead today and itemized what we feel are fair and reasonable deductions including the outstanding utilities and are sending a letter (certified mail) tomorrow with the balance of the deposit. It's a little over half. Hopefully that will be the end of it, but we'll see. I'll post results here.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    When was the last day the tenant occupied the unit?

    When did you and the tenant do the walkthrough?

    I'm asking because under Georgia law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within one month after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (MEANING = tenant returned the keys and vacated the property).

    Have you reviewed the law in GA?

    Take a look, mate:
    ...
    https://www.dca.ga.gov/housing/hous...ownloads/Georgia_Landlord_Tenant_Handbook.pdf
    ...

    Page 38 addresses your situation almost perfectly, OP.
    ...
    Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §44-7-34), all landlords, regardless of the number of units
    they own, must return the security deposit within thirty (30) days after the termination of the lease or the surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last.

    If the security deposit is held because of damage to the unit, the landlord must send the tenant notice within thirty (30) days identifying the damage, the estimated dollar amount of the damage, and a refund, if any, of the difference between the security deposit and the amount withheld for damages.
    ...
    Owners of fewer than ten units do not have to follow the stringent standards set forth in 44-7-31, 44-7-32, 44-7-35 and some of 44-7-33. Laws 44-7-31 and 44-7-32 establish where the landlord is to place your security deposit. 44-7-33 and 44-7-35 say when landlords lose rights to your deposit and when they are liable for 3 times the amount of deposits improperly withheld. NOTE: these laws still apply in situations where an owner of under ten units hires someone to manage and collect rent from these units. (44-7-36).
     
  11. mightymoose

    mightymoose Well-Known Member

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    Since the tenant never returned the keys the landlord may have some wiggle room with the date if necessary, wouldn't he?
     
  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I would agree.

    The tenant's failure to return the keys eliminates any wiggle room for him/her.

    In fact, the LL could pursue additional rental charges due to the tenant's retention of the keys.
     
  13. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The last day the tenant was in the unit was 6/30/17 but they asked that the walk-thru be the morning of 7/1/17, which we did.

    Mom only owns this one rental property, and I am not paid to help her manage it.
     
  14. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Did the tenant return the keys upon completion of the walkthrough?
     
  15. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    They returned two door keys, only one mailbox key (I had rekeyed the mailbox in December 2016 and documented that I gave them TWO but they denied getting two), only returned one storm door key (I think I had given them two of those as well but don't recall and can't find my notes on that one), and there were two adults and two teenagers in the unit so I'm relatively certain there were more than two copies of keys. I did state in the letter I'm sending tomorrow that we're keeping a re-key fee that's allowed in the lease.
    The deposit was $1000 and here's what we're keeping and why, FYI. Let me know if this sounds unreasonable:
    1) Electric Bill for 5/30-6/29/2017 billing period in the amount of $81.36. This was requested to be paid by 7/7/2017. It has not been received to date so I am deducting this amount from the security deposit.
    2) Gas Bill for 5/15-6/21/2017 billing period in the amount of $39.48. This was requested to be paid by 7/1/2017 and has not been received yet. It is now late and a late fee of $10.00 as stated on the bill is due. Gas bill plus late fee for a total of $49.48 on this item.
    3) Additional estimated gas bill to cover billing period of 6/22-6/30/2017. This bill will not be received until approximately 7/30/2017. I am estimating the prorated amount of this bill to be approximately $11.84. I determined this amount by dividing the previous month’s bill by 30 days (the billing period) and multiplying back by 9 days in the remaining unbilled period.
    4) Upstairs hall fan light cover. Returned to me broken. I have been searching for a replacement and have not located a match yet, but it appears this item will be around $15.95 plus 7% tax for a total of $17.07.
    5) Upstairs bedroom fan blades and arms to replace one that was broken. All blades and all blade arms must be replaced. Estimated cost is $15.97 plus tax for 42” blades and $16.97 plus tax for arms for a total of $32.25 (7% tax rate in Roswell). In researching this and in my own personal experience I have never had a fan blade arm break, and since the broken arm was not retained I am unable to claim “defect” with the manufacturer as you stated.
    6) Approximately $50.00 to repair wall damage for numerous large nails and where it was indicated to me the fan blade hit the wall in the upstairs bedroom. Large nails were not to be used in the unit per the original lease.
    7) $75.00 rekey fee for townhouse as stated in the original lease.
    8) Additional cleaning for kitchen, bathrooms, front door entry way, windows and sills, and back porch. I am having these areas cleaned in the next 5 days and anticipate an additional charge above a normal fee due to the condition of these areas. I estimate at this time the additional charge to be somewhere around $100.00 above the cleaner’s original estimate. Per the lease the premises were to be maintained “in the neat, clean and sanitary condition free of trash and debris.”
    Item Number Amount

    1 $81.36
    2 $49.48
    3 $11.84
    4 $17.07
    5 $32.25
    6 $50.00
    7 $75.00
    8 $100.00
    Total to be withheld
    $417.00
     
  16. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    They dropped them in the drawer the night before the walk-thru and locked the doors on the way out. I had texted them and said that would be OK because I didn't expect they would want to do a walk-thru the next day. They did *not* return all of the documented keys and acted like they didn't know anything about the keys I requested when I asked about them - specifically a second mailbox key. I changed the mailbox key yesterday after the walk-thru to insure there aren't any issues with our future tenants and their mail.
     
  17. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    That seems fair to me, but I've never been a mooch, a leech, a parasite, a beggar, one who mooches off the "gubmint" dole, a ne'er do well, a layabout, a deadbeat, a scammer, or one who leads his life trying to get something for nothing.

    I'm sure your tenants will take issue with your "cyphering", because anything less that 10 Benjamins isn't enough.

    That said, send the check (less the deductions), let them howl because you affixed on the reverse of the check above the endorsement block : PAYMENT IN FULL.

    Also put on the face of the check in the memo area: RETURN OF DEPOSIT with accounting as payment in Full.


    Douglas Whaley: The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver
     
  18. GaLandLord

    GaLandLord Law Topic Starter New Member

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    We put did in the memo "Payment in full - Security Deposit - (address of property) - less deductions for utilities & damages" so we will see what happens.
    I guess if they cash the check that's acceptance of our offer?
     
  19. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    That is the prevailing legal wisdom, mate.
     
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  20. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    If this helps (as a landlord in Georgia)..
    Georgia tends to be a very landlord friendly state. The threat from the tenant out lawsuits is often just a lot of hot air. What you withheld from the security deposit certainly appears reasonable and would hold up in court should these tenants threaten to sue. And, of course, you sent the information and their remaining security deposit well within Georgia's required time limit.
    Will your mothers former tenants be happy about what you kept out of the deposit?
    No.
    Will they threaten?
    Probably.
    Unless you receive an actual notice from the court that they have filed a lawsuit (typically through Magistrates court) ignore these threats. Don't respond, don't argue and if they call with them, block their numbers.
    And just between you and me, someone winning a civil lawsuit doesn't mean they'll ever actually see a penny of this judgment.
    Gail
     
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