Landord/Security Deposit issues

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First post. This is the back story. Moved into a condo last year. Lease was a year and then it was month to month. My gf and I rented from a first time landlord who only rented the condo bc she could not sell since the complex was under litigation with the contractor for a shoddy job on the deck's and siding. (Condo was built in 2006) Obviously there were other issues as well such the sliding doors not sealing, and just other corners were cut but whatever that isn't my issue.

Bring us to the real stuff. We performed a moving out walkthrough with the landlord. This was a checklist for her which we both initialized which noted any issues she had with the apartment. Based on this we fully expected to get most of the deposit back sans like maybe 150$ for some basic dings and stuff on the walls and for her cheap blinds which broke.

Come a week later I get a nasty email from her inferring to additional damages which she wants to charge for. In the email she keeps mentioning how the carpets had to be replaced and her quote was 1500 (750sqft). The issue here is weird. We had already discussed with her prior (phone call) regarding the rugs. We had a puppy who made a mess and the cleaning product used left marks on the rug. We didn't notice until we had Stanley Steamer come in and do a full rug cleaning that the spots stuck out. We notified her and she said not to worry since she planned on replacing the rugs anyways. They are original from the construction so are 6 years old and they are the cheap kind. During the walkthrough she and her husband clearly saw the rugs and once again stated no big deal since they will be replacing them. On the checklist she marked the rugs as OK with no notes regarding anything. Now in her new email she mentions that she didn't didn't realize the extent of the rugs and feels as if we had it professionally cleaned sooner she would not have to had replaced the rugs. I feel like she is trying to use this is leverage to charge us for the following..

Dishwasher- $150. Dishwasher was clogged. I reported this to her in a previous email and she told me it sometimes does that and to run the disposal for a while. I had to remove a food catcher myself and get out some items. We didn't press her on really fixing it as she had her wedding and honeymoon. Whatever we will agree to this charge since we used it and obviously must have clogged it up.

Bathroom tiles- $450 She says that after installing brighter lights in the bathroom she noticed a crack in three bathroom tiles. This was not mentioned on the walkthrough and I have not acknowledged this at all. All I know is that nothing was ever dropped in the bathroom. There crack is in front of where you get out of the shower. I guess I need to lose weight? We had a previous issue with a leak which damaged part of the wall which was half fixed before but there was no negligence on our behalf that damaged this. My father says most likely it was just the cheap materials used finally wearing down. I obviously want to argue this as I am not paying for this as it isn't noted on the walkthrough at all. If the crack was so big why wasn't it noted?

Cleaning fee: $250 In her email she mentions that the place was dirtier than she realized and she had to hire out a cleaning service. She provided quotes and all that jazz. I disagree with this however. My gf spent plenty of time cleaning the apartment and wiping everything down. I don't even understand this at all. It was a 750sqft apartment. There was nothing noted about cleanliness issues on the checklist.

So I am not sure how to respond to her. Obviously we know it was our fault with the rugs however she is going to be selling the condo and I am sure her plan all along has been to replace the original rugs. Especially when she told us multiple times including the walkthrough that was the plan. I feel with the way she has worded it she is trying to use that as leverage in case we argue these additional charges.

What is my plan here? I am thinking offering her $300 of it or see her in court. Or should we just take it and chalk it up as a loss?

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That's the thing. I don't see anywhere in MA laws that will give me x3. I want to sue them for as much as possibly for b... (more)

Stanley124 (Dec. 18, 2012 @ 4:50p) |

I'm not trying to be a butt head. But if you read the pdf linked earlier about MA tenant laws (as I am now) there are bi... (more)

panmet69 (Dec. 18, 2012 @ 5:40p) |

I think the security deposit laws allow for UP to 3x damages. However I think in this case where it's a difference of op... (more)

henry33 (Dec. 18, 2012 @ 9:05p) |

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Do you have a copy of the walk-through form that you both initialed?

Yes.

I'm thinking with a signed release, you shouldn't have to do anything that isn't noted on the signed release.

She sounds like an inexperienced landlord, I doubt she would take you to court.

I'd just explain that after the walkthrough release was signed, you felt that was the end of your responsibility in the matter. 1) You already spent all the extra money you had moving to your new place and 2) you can't be for certain any damages reported after the walkthrough weren't caused by someone else.

I would do what you said since you have the a copy of walk through. That is the whole point of a walk though, so neither party can come back later and try to nickel and dime each other. 300 seems like a fair estimate for 6 year old rugs.

You'll want to research your state/local landlord/tenant laws. You'll also want to review your lease (in which you cannot waive your rights provided by state/local law). In many states, there are restrictions on what can be charged (for example, landlord must prorate carpet replacement over X number of years - or prorate based on estimated carpet life), unless landlord can prove negligence cannot charge tenant for maintenance item (dishwasher), must provide receipts for any work done, etc.

If receipts are required, the landlord would have to prove that she hired/paid a cleaning crew.

Also, have you responded to or acknowledged (phone response, etc) her email? Does your state/local law require the landlord to send you a Security Deposit statement within a certain period of time? If the LL is required to send you a statement, an email is probably not sufficient - so if you don't acknowledge any notification from the landlord, and she doesn't send you a statement (with receipts if required) in the designated period of time, she may not be able to charge you anything at all (and may in fact owe you damages for not being timely with her notification).

I can tell you, if you're in California, I wouldn't negotiate with her. She would have 21 days from move out to provide you with a Move out Statement of Security Deposit documenting all charges with receipts (since total charge is over $125). Without that statement, you are entitled to a full refund of the deposit (and possible penalties). Even if the LL does properly notify you of with a Deposit Statement/receipts, you'd have strong standing in small claims court with documentation of your walkthrough. In addition to that, even if if it was brought up during the inspection: most/all of the carpet expense wouldn't be permitted due to proration (would probably be responsible for entire cost of sub-floor sealing if charged due to pet damage though), dishwasher charge probably wouldn't be permitted since you already documented a previous issue that she never resolved.

On the tiles, that is way too much money to replace 3 tiles. Additionally, her argument is it was too dark to see the cracks until she put in brighter lighting. My counter-argument is: if those were the same lights that were installed when you moved in (initial inspection) then how could you be expected to have seen/documented the cracks when you move in (i.e. they were probably there when you moved in but you also didn't see them due to the lighting). Of course, this is assuming that you really didn't cause the cracks.

Please be sure to update this thread with status updates.

Cleaning fee is hard to avoid - she will claim it was professionally cleaned before you moved in and needed to be done again to restore to the same state, unless you have a receipt from a professional cleaning service you are likely out of luck on this one. The only way to avoid this one is to take pictures of the state when you move in, did it looked professionally cleaned?

On the carpet - I dealt with this exact issue in small claims court. Landlord wanted full replacement cost for a 8 year old carpet. Judge split it down the middle and I had to pay 50% (since he withheld this money from my deposit he had to pay interest, court costs, and got a court judgement on his credit report as well). For a 6 year old carpet, unless you have pictures of wear from before you moved in, I'm guessing you'll end up paying 50% here too.

Dishwasher - As long as you document the actions you took to get her to fix it, I don't think you have any liability for this.

Bathroom tiles - I agree with your assessment. Unless she has before and after pictures that clearly show the damage from your time there (which I doubt), this one will be hard to prove in court.

You have not received your deposit yet correct? Does the amount she is claiming in damages exceed the deposit?

I'd keep everything in writing from now on if possible in case this does end up in court (assuming she keeps your deposit regardless of your offer).

Also do some google searching of a tenant resource in your state, I know Wisconsin has one (http://tenantresourcecenter.org/pc/) I've used it a couple times when I had some issues with a landlord, they are very helpful and know the landlord/tenant laws very well. If you can send a response back to the landlord listing the laws she's violating you'll see her attitude change very quickly.

We have not received any deposit back. The total deposit is $1200. Everything is in writing going forward. In a previous email she sent she brought up the issue with the rugs which is the first time it has been in writing. I have not acknowledged it at all. On the walkthrough there is NO mention of any issues with the rugs. I am cool with paying for the dishwasher. It was our fault for not pushing her on it when it started to have issues. She was in the process of getting married and honeymoon and we just kind of let it slide and next thing you know we are moving out.

So the cleaning fee is $213 to be exact. Should we just offer $300-$400 and see what she says or play hardball and only say okay to the dishwasher, and any items on the walkthrough sheet such as a little paint here and there as well as some cheap $20 WalMart blinds.

We are in massachusetts.

Thanks for all the posts so far. This is the first time I have had to deal with a landlord like this.

civ2k1 said:   You'll want to research your state/local landlord/tenant laws.

Can not stress the importantance of this one. For example, in Kentucky, the security deposit must be kept in a seperate account and unspent the entire time you are living there. If you take them to court and they can not prove your deposit was sitting in an account all by itself the entire time you get it all back. They can file an additional case claiming payment for damages, but they still have to give your deposit back first.
Kind of a slam dunk as most landlords do not actually do this.

Personally I would not let them get away with taking that much from your security deposit without going to court. Before you communicate with them any further educate yourself on the laws, plenty of information on the internet, hopefully you can find someone to speak with to discuss your exact situation first. Once you know what you're doing you'll have a lot more leverage.

If you're in MA, then I say play hardball. Demand a receipt for the cleaning service and refuse to pay for anything that wasn't noted on the walkthrough sheet. She will not get an extra dime from you in MA courts as they lean heavily toward the tenant. When I lived in MA, my landlord didn't even take a deposit from me because he knew he would have to give a 100% of it back if taken to court.

Only pay for the things that are noted on the walk-through report. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't hint at any other issues. She obviously underestimated the costs of being a landlord and SHE has to chalk it up to a lesson learned.

The more thorough you are, the better off you will be financially. That's how business works.

Kat009 said:   If you're in MA, then I say play hardball. Demand a receipt for the cleaning service and refuse to pay for anything that wasn't noted on the walkthrough sheet. She will not get an extra dime from you in MA courts as they lean heavily toward the tenant. When I lived in MA, my landlord didn't even take a deposit from me because he knew he would have to give a 100% of it back if taken to court.

Given that you've got a "first time landlord" I'd be willing to bet she violated some aspect of the tenant law and you should be able to get yourself a judgement for triple damages. A poster above noted about keeping it in a separate account, this is a good example of some way she might have violated the law that could get you Deposit x 3. There are required documents the landlord has to keep as well. Find something she didn't do and then go get your 3x in small claims court.

vipercon said:   civ2k1 said:   You'll want to research your state/local landlord/tenant laws.

Can not stress the importantance of this one. For example, in Kentucky, the security deposit must be kept in a seperate account and unspent the entire time you are living there. If you take them to court and they can not prove your deposit was sitting in an account all by itself the entire time you get it all back. They can file an additional case claiming payment for damages, but they still have to give your deposit back first.
Kind of a slam dunk as most landlords do not actually do this.


This. OP, you are in the best position to 1) retrieve your landlord/tenant statute or ordinance (some cities have their own, otherwise look at the state level), 2) make sure it applies to your lease (some small-time landlords may be exempt), and 3) comb through it for any gotchas you can use as leverage. You may even be entitled to double or triple damages in addition to the return of your deposit.

I'm in MA and have a few questions for you. Did you get a copy of the apartment condition statement when you moved in? Without it, it's hard to withhold money from a security deposit, but a landlord could still sue you for damages after returning the deposit. Did she credit you 5% interest unless she put the security deposit in a separate interest bearing account? She's supposed to note the bank account number within 30 days of you moving in. It sounds like it's only been about a week or so since you moved out although it would make more sense that you moved out Oct 31st, she has 30 days to return the security deposit to you along with a detail of what was withheld. You should wait til after the 30 days have expired before actually doing anything although I suppose you could respond and tell her you disagree with everything. As she's holding your deposit, I think you'd have to take her to small claims to get the balance back, she's not supposed to deduct for wear and tear which is what the bathroom tiles sounds like. If there's construction problems and the place is built in 2006, there could have been some settlement which could lead to the cracked tiles or maybe you really do need to lose some weight...

Op, this person is trying to screw you. Keep that in mind when making offers. Don't admit blame for anything, but you're willing to let her deduct $XXX from your security deposit to consider the matter settled. You keep taking blame for the dishwasher. Unless you did something to break the dishwasher, you're clearly a sucker.

I don't expect them to take any offer from you, because they want to keep your entire deposit, as they don't think you will take them to court. I wouldn't offer to let them deduct anything above and beyond the small claims court fees in your area because you may get the entire deposit back if you bite the bullet and take to court.

They made the charges higher than your deposit because:
1. Courts recognize when landlords make the charges the amount of the rent that's due.
2. They're hoping they can sucker you into additional charges.

Unless you're seriously willing to take them to court, consider your deposit gone.

hard ball it will be. I will be emailing her letting her know I don't agree with anything listed besides the walkthrough sheet. I expect she will threaten to sue for the carpets or something.

I don't recall if she provided us with the Bank Account # originally for the deposit but my bet is that she had and I just don't have the paperwork for it.

vipercon said:   civ2k1 said:   You'll want to research your state/local landlord/tenant laws.

Can not stress the importantance of this one. For example, in Kentucky, the security deposit must be kept in a seperate account and unspent the entire time you are living there. If you take them to court and they can not prove your deposit was sitting in an account all by itself the entire time you get it all back. They can file an additional case claiming payment for damages, but they still have to give your deposit back first.
Kind of a slam dunk as most landlords do not actually do this.


I think I should have a macro with "You'll want to research your state/local landlord/tenant laws." It tends to be the first thing I post in and landlord/tenant thread. As simple as it may seem, landlord/tenant laws are very technical. If you miss a deadline or have improper documentation, you could lose even though you are correct "on the merits." I'm not saying this true, but: it's possible the tenant did crack the tiles, the place wasn't as clean as tenant thinks (not to pick on OP, but all tenants say "it was cleaner when I moved out than when I moved in"), the tenant did damage the dishwasher, and the carpet looked perfect were it not for the pet damage and could have lasted another 10 years. All of this is moot if the LL doesn't follow the state/local laws and the terms of the lease agreement.

Tell the landlord to pound sand for any damages not listed on the inspection form that she signed off on. You are not liable for anything she finds after the final inspection. Tell her she must refund your deposit(minus damages listed) or you will sue(and in most instances receive treble damages).

***Lesson to All FW Landlords
The landlord in this story is incompetent. NEVER do a final walkthrough with a tenant. No good can ever come from it. Either it handcuffs you to only pursuing the damages listed that the tenant signed off on(hardly anything), or the tenant will not sign off on the inspection if you find a lot of damages.
Inspect the property after they move out. Take pics of all damage you find. Send a letter to tenant with their remaining deposit(or demand letter for damages exceeding the deposit). That's it.

So her husband just called. He is a policeman and started out being sort of threatening to me and had a forceful tone. When he realized I wasn't taking it he settled down and started to discuss business like a normal guy. This call was not recorded and MA is a two party state where I am under the assumption that any recording would have to be agreed upon. We discussed all of the issues at hand and I stood firm regarding only paying for items listed on the walk through. He continually pressed the issue on the rugs as I feel like they will attempt to use this as their only leverage since they can take pictures of the carpets. I also got from the call that they did not actually hire a cleaning service but did it themselves (this is key IMO.) We left the call with him wanting to work it out and asked me to speak to the gf about a number we would be comfortable with. He called back 15 minutes later and said "hear me out" and asked me to list the following items.

Dishwasher repair (125)
Cleaning (250)
2 drawers with some water damage inside ( 50$ ea)
blinds ($20)gallon of paint and painter hourly wage ($100) ( there is a spot the size of spaghetti where paint was peeled off, and I know landlord has paint already as she stated so previously. I know they aren't going to pay someone $100 to do a touch up spot).

He said think about the whole picture and said they would be willing to split at 600/600. I told him we would think about it.I feel like that is too much. Here is what I am thinking.

I know they don't have receipt for cleaning service. The dishwasher is not on the walkthrough either as well as the rugs are listed as OK. We had a professional rug cleaning service come in which I have a check receipt for and the walkthrough has no mention of any negative rug condition.

The only things mentioned in the move out are some water damage to a drawer and some missing blinds. I am going to say no to a split and demand the entire portion of security back minus only items listed on the walkthrough. I am sure that they will not accept this and send back what they deem appropriate and I will have to sue for the rest. Whatever they with hold they will have to provide a receipt of work/goods which I know they will not have. This is where I think they will just with hold a portion or full amount for the rug. My play in court is to provide receipt of prof steam cleaning and a copy of the walkthrough with no negative comments about the rug and it listed as ok. They claim to have pictures from pre move in/move out however nothing was taken during the actual walkthrough. I appreciate all of the feedback so far as it really has helped guide the way.

IMO, you shouldn't have had any of that discussion with the husband or wife over the phone. It's a he said/she said situation now. All communications should have been in writing, sent registered.

Stanley124 said:   So her husband just called. He is a policeman and started out being sort of threatening to me and had a forceful tone. When he realized I wasn't taking it he settled down and started to discuss business like a normal guy. This call was not recorded and MA is a two party state where I am under the assumption that any recording would have to be agreed upon. We discussed all of the issues at hand and I stood firm regarding only paying for items listed on the walk through. He continually pressed the issue on the rugs as I feel like they will attempt to use this as their only leverage since they can take pictures of the carpets. I also got from the call that they did not actually hire a cleaning service but did it themselves (this is key IMO.) We left the call with him wanting to work it out and asked me to speak to the gf about a number we would be comfortable with. He called back 15 minutes later and said "hear me out" and asked me to list the following items.

Dishwasher repair (125)
Cleaning (250)
2 drawers with some water damage inside ( 50$ ea)
blinds ($20)gallon of paint and painter hourly wage ($100) ( there is a spot the size of spaghetti where paint was peeled off, and I know landlord has paint already as she stated so previously. I know they aren't going to pay someone $100 to do a touch up spot).

He said think about the whole picture and said they would be willing to split at 600/600. I told him we would think about it.I feel like that is too much. Here is what I am thinking.

I know they don't have receipt for cleaning service. The dishwasher is not on the walkthrough either as well as the rugs are listed as OK. We had a professional rug cleaning service come in which I have a check receipt for and the walkthrough has no mention of any negative rug condition.

The only things mentioned in the move out are some water damage to a drawer and some missing blinds. I am going to say no to a split and demand the entire portion of security back minus only items listed on the walkthrough. I am sure that they will not accept this and send back what they deem appropriate and I will have to sue for the rest. Whatever they with hold they will have to provide a receipt of work/goods which I know they will not have. This is where I think they will just with hold a portion or full amount for the rug. My play in court is to provide receipt of prof steam cleaning and a copy of the walkthrough with no negative comments about the rug and it listed as ok. They claim to have pictures from pre move in/move out however nothing was taken during the actual walkthrough. I appreciate all of the feedback so far as it really has helped guide the way.


Tell him IN WRITING that you agree to pay for damages noted in the walk through. Anything beyond that is normal wear and tear. Tactfully remind him that he is responsible for legal fees and treble damages if he goes to court and loses.

Good resources for you: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subject/about/securitydeposits.htm...
http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/consumer/housing/tenant-and-landlord/l...

Selected Case Law

Castenholz v. Caira, 21 Mass. App. Ct. 758 (1986). "A landlord who accepts a security deposit and fails to comply with the deposit requirements of G. L. c. 186, Section 15B (3) (a)," is liable to the tenant "for the return of the security deposit pursuant to G. L. c. 186, Section 15B (3) (a)." "If the landlord refuses to acknowledge his error and return the deposit, thus forcing the tenant to employ legal process to vindicate his rights, the landlord will be liable for treble damages, interest, costs, and attorney's fees."

Dolores v. Gustafson, 2009 Mass. App. Div. 267 (2009). Clearly explains the distinction between Castenholz and Taylor. Where "the full security deposit was not returned within 30 days of the termination of the tenancy,... the penalty provisions of s.15B(7) are controlling..., irrespective of whether the defendants made a timely return of the plaintiffs' security deposit when notified of their error."

Mellor v. Berman, 390 Mass. 275 (1983). "An award of treble damages for improper retention of all or part of a security deposit is not conditional on a finding of bad faith or wilful violations by the lessor."

Taylor v. Beaudry, 75 Mass. App. Ct. 411 (2009). Returning a security deposit after more than thirty days have passed since the end of the tenancy, but before litigation, does not get a landlord off the hook for triple damages. The "Castenholz framework is inapplicable to a landlord's failure to return the tenant's security deposit within the specified thirty days." In Castenholz, the tenant's demand for return of the deposit was the triggering event. In this case, "The statutory obligation to return the deposit is clear, as is the time within which the deposit must be returned. Equally unambiguous are the consequences of failing to comply with that deadline."

Taylor v. Burke, 69 Mass. App. Ct . 77 (2007). Placing the money in an out-of-state bank does not conform to the statute

The husband showed you what's going on. First he tried to bully you. When that failed, he tried to be "reasonable". He's trying everything to weasel out of the agreement.

Send them a letter, return receipt requested, in which you reaffirm that she had told you not to worry about the dishwasher, etc. Enclose a copy of the walk-through agreement. State that you want ALL of the deposit returned except for the items which were mutually agreed upon per the checklist.

You're in a MUCH better position than she is. She's required to return your SD or pay treble damages. The longer she and her husband play games, the closer she comes to the deadline to return the SD.

He said she said doesn't do anything in court. They were trying to broker a deal. I got some information from them now I know they don't have a receipt for cleaning and they will try to use the carpet as leverage.

Thanks for the MA links. I read those earlier as well. I am just going to decline the offer and demand security besides the two items on the walkthrough but will expect receipts for those items. (if they withhold money and don't provide receipts I believe that favors me big time) I am not going to mention anything with the law. The guy was a prick on the phone and told me I need to read up and how we are responsible blah blah. He also had to mention he was a cop and has lawyer friends who will take the case for free. I feel like it is pretty cut and dry here. I provide the court with the walkthrough with no mention of the damages she is looking for and let whatever decision come of it, so be it.

Stanley124 said:   He said she said doesn't do anything in court. They were trying to broker a deal. I got some information from them now I know they don't have a receipt for cleaning and they will try to use the carpet as leverage.

Thanks for the MA links. I read those earlier as well. I am just going to decline the offer and demand security besides the two items on the walkthrough but will expect receipts for those items. (if they withhold money and don't provide receipts I believe that favors me big time) I am not going to mention anything with the law. The guy was a prick on the phone and told me I need to read up and how we are responsible blah blah. He also had to mention he was a cop and has lawyer friends who will take the case for free. I feel like it is pretty cut and dry here. I provide the court with the walkthrough with no mention of the damages she is looking for and let whatever decision come of it, so be it.


Definitely understand your approach. It is very reasonable, and probably how I would go about it too. Don't go over your initial estimate of $100-$150. It sounds like that is all the damage that can be attributed to you, beyond normal wear and tear.

op just curious what would you estimate is actually the amount of your damage? I dont mean what you or the LL might win from the other over a technicality... What do you think it would cost to put the place back the way it was when you were first shown the place?....blinds, cleaning(what would YOU charge to clean the apartment), dishwasher, carpet. anything else?

Stanley124 said:   So her husband just called. He is a policeman and started out being sort of threatening to me and had a forceful tone. When he realized I wasn't taking it he settled down and started to discuss business like a normal guy.

IMO, At this point, I start to play hardball. Notarized letter saying you only agree to to the signed walk through inspection (Enclose a copy), and demand receipts for the repairs.

If they don't return your deposit, small claims, collect triple damages, ??? profit.

You don't have to figure all this out now. Basically the landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit and the phrase normal wear and tear excepted is pretty standard. You can try and make your case that the carpet wear was normal wear and tear. You can also speak with the husband and mention items like 93A which calls for triple damages plus attorney fees. My guess is that you won't get triple damages as the items mentioned are really egregious. You also didn't mention if you got an apartment condition statement which is normally required before you can deduct things from the security deposit. As a landlord, to avoid litigation, I'd probably just return your security deposit and just sue you for those items in small claims court if I felt really strongly about it. You can also mention that you can get a free attorney from the housing court so it's fine with you if their free attorney wants to waste their time on the case. Landlords typically don't get free attorneys. As for receipts for the repairs, I don't think they're actually required because the security deposit has to be returned in 30 days, that would mean repairs have to be made in 30 days, it's either actual damages or estimates.

So here are your points:

Chapter 93A, (no?) apartment condition statement, free lawyer from housing court, normal wear and tear.

The real way around this would have been not to pay the last month's rent and tell the landlord to just take it out of the security deposit. A weasel way to do it, but not uncommon, there's not much a landlord can actually do in that instance aside from giving you a 14 day notice and then waiting another 2-3 weeks for a court date and by then you're out. Although if the landlord wanted to press it, the tenant is still responsible for court costs.

Kudos to you OP for actually going after this. A lot of people would just hand over the money to avoid the situation.

henry33 said:   You don't have to figure all this out now. Basically the landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit and the phrase normal wear and tear excepted is pretty standard. You can try and make your case that the carpet wear was normal wear and tear. You can also speak with the husband and mention items like 93A which calls for triple damages plus attorney fees. My guess is that you won't get triple damages as the items mentioned are really egregious. You also didn't mention if you got an apartment condition statement which is normally required before you can deduct things from the security deposit. As a landlord, to avoid litigation, I'd probably just return your security deposit and just sue you for those items in small claims court if I felt really strongly about it. You can also mention that you can get a free attorney from the housing court so it's fine with you if their free attorney wants to waste their time on the case. Landlords typically don't get free attorneys. As for receipts for the repairs, I don't think they're actually required because the security deposit has to be returned in 30 days, that would mean repairs have to be made in 30 days, it's either actual damages or estimates.

So here are your points:

Chapter 93A, (no?) apartment condition statement, free lawyer from housing court, normal wear and tear.

The real way around this would have been not to pay the last month's rent and tell the landlord to just take it out of the security deposit. A weasel way to do it, but not uncommon, there's not much a landlord can actually do in that instance aside from giving you a 14 day notice and then waiting another 2-3 weeks for a court date and by then you're out. Although if the landlord wanted to press it, the tenant is still responsible for court costs.


We paid security and 1/2 months rent up front. Didn't see any issues arising as she was always reasonable etc.

RealEstateMatt said:   Tell the landlord to pound sand for any damages not listed on the inspection form that she signed off on. You are not liable for anything she finds after the final inspection. Tell her she must refund your deposit(minus damages listed) or you will sue(and in most instances receive treble damages).

***Lesson to All FW Landlords
The landlord in this story is incompetent. NEVER do a final walkthrough with a tenant. No good can ever come from it. Either it handcuffs you to only pursuing the damages listed that the tenant signed off on(hardly anything), or the tenant will not sign off on the inspection if you find a lot of damages.
Inspect the property after they move out. Take pics of all damage you find. Send a letter to tenant with their remaining deposit(or demand letter for damages exceeding the deposit). That's it.
I do not have issue with doing a walk-through upon move out, though I somewhat agree with your points. There is such a thing as good faith, and the mutual inspection should be done.... providing the tenant the opportunity.

I do confirm/document, via email, the specific date and time agreed upon. If tenant doesn't show up, refuses to sign, I still have done my inspection. You may be surprised that people will be agreeable, and a good portion of those that aren't will sign along with...that they refuse or don't agree. You would only be considered handcuffed if you don't spend the proper amount of time to do a thorough walk-through. I have little concern about any disagreement, as I hold the security deposit. If it is not agreeable then they have to sue me, and most people wont sue on something that they know they did, and just don't like the fact that they have to be responsible and pay, which can be their initial reaction. My last two tenants... one had about $850 (85%) claimed for damages, and other cut me a check for 1k, at the time of inspection, in addition to the security held by lease.

Any issues/damages that dont require immediate repair or affect habitability I don't address until move-out. You'd never find me commenting on or responding to inquiries about damage, other than maybe a thanks for letting me know.

There is both incompetency on the landlords part (80%) and not willing to take responsibility (rugs) on the tenants part (20%).

i never do move-out walkthroughs with my rentals either. partly because i'm too busy, partly because i stand to gain nothing from it, and it isnt mandatory.

that said, i consider myself VERY fair when it comes to estimating damages. i take "broom clean" to heart. rest assured, far more landlords get screwed by Tenants than the opposite.

to the OP - i think you are on the right track with your plan. it's just what i would do. and no, they dont have to give you receipts, but if they plan to have any shot in court they will bring them (or fabricate them...or get that work done after you threaten to sue)...your LL sucks btw, gives the decent ones a bad name.

Be sure to list any specific laws that may apply to your situation in the email you send if possible. If they know you've done your research they'll certainly know you're serious about this.

OP, the best thing you can do is DO NOTHING.
Do not communicate with the LL.
You have already told them your position over the telephone - i.e., "that you are thinking about it"
If the LL calls again don't answer.
If you answer say your busy, can't talk and hang up.
If you feel compelled to talk then tell them that you are waiting for the return of your security deposit except for those items listed on the walk through sheet that are properly documented - and then hang up.
Do not discuss anything with the LL.
Do not try to justify your position.
Do not offer any advice.
Do not admit ANY fault.
Less is more.

Start interviewing lawyers to confirm that MA allows you to recover legal fees (as KAT009 has said above) and that you might be entitled to triple damages.
Once you confirm what your legal rights are you can then (after 30 days) be a pr!ck and go for the jugular; or just use your new found knowledge to gently entice the LL to make you whole without raking them over the coals.
Give the LL a reasonable time to send you your check (1-2 weeks).
If no check is received or if an insufficient amount is tendered in the time frame allowed, then contact the lawyer of your choice and let the lawyer do what lawyers do.

PS. If you were the LL instead of a tenant I would be offering different advice.

So here's the calculus based in the logic of "What is all this really worth? Or are you just stroking your ego about being in the right?":

- You have an offer on the table to give up $600 and forget about the whole thing.

- You *could* go to court, and risk ending up with anything from a 100% judgement in your favor, to having to pay for stuff you shouldn't be responsible for. You incure actual risk in this course of action. You could have to give up more.

- No matter what the outcome in court, the *best* you can hope for is the *incremental* difference between $600 and $0, or $600. It's not very likely you'll end up with treble damages IMHO as you have very little to document the landlord's conduct. ~maybe, but I wouldn't count on it.

So what you're really thinking about is this: "How much grief are you willing to go through for $600, admittedly *your* $600 .vs. what is the value of being done with this and getting on with your life? Lawsuits are fun until your cause starts to go a little sideways and the judge gives you the wakeup call to settle reasonably. In your case likely $200 - $300? Anybody's guess but I think that's a likely outcome +/- $100.

So if you think I'm full of it, then by all means issue a final formal written demand (certified mail!) and wait until the time period puts your landlord into the wrong side of the law, then go to court. But you should at least consider that the money is currently gone (what we call a sunk cost), so engaging in a fight in court is really an investment of more of your precious time and emotional grief. How many hours will this take? If you really think hard about it you'll find you're already into this to the tune of 5-6 hours minimum (also a sunk cost BTW, you can't get it back), and you'll end up investing another 10-12 hours, minimum, in your fight, probably requiring time off work to do so (what does that cost you?). Admittedly $60 bucks an hours ain't bad, but if you consider that that is the best you can hope for, and it might end up getting you more like $30/hr, or less..... Maybe that $600 settlement looks a little less sucky even though it definitely isn't fair.

Just challenging everyone's thinking. I have no doubt that you're in the right. I'm just a pragmatist and applying wholistic FW logic.

Guys, you're all missing a critical piece of MA landlord/tenant law. When your lease passed the 1 year mark, the landlord was required to send you a statement of the accrued interest in the escrowed security deposit account. If you received no statement at the one year mark, you are entitled to your entire security deposit to be returned immediately.

I don't have time to dig into the MGL to find the verbage for you, and I'm not a lawyer, but it was pretty easy for me to find that one when I needed it..

Cleaning fee can only be upheld if it was somewhere in the lease, if not.. its your word about "clean" vs theirs when you get in front of the judge

juliox said:   Guys, you're all missing a critical piece of MA landlord/tenant law. When your lease passed the 1 year mark, the landlord was required to send you a statement of the accrued interest in the escrowed security deposit account. If you received no statement at the one year mark, you are entitled to your entire security deposit to be returned immediately.

I don't have time to dig into the MGL to find the verbage for you, and I'm not a lawyer, but it was pretty easy for me to find that one when I needed it..


Great catch! See, that's the value of knowing your state/local laws. Who could have anticipated an odd requirement such as sending a statement of the accrued interest in the escrow security deposit account? Probably not OPs first time reluctant landlord.

juliox said:   Cleaning fee can only be upheld if it was somewhere in the lease, if not.. its your word about "clean" vs theirs when you get in front of the judge

OP also has the inspection report where the landlord didn't document any cleanliness issues. MA is a pretty tenant friendly state, so I'd think (though IANAL) there is a greater burden/responsibility on the LL to prove damages.

juliox said:   Guys, you're all missing a critical piece of MA landlord/tenant law. When your lease passed the 1 year mark, the landlord was required to send you a statement of the accrued interest in the escrowed security deposit account. If you received no statement at the one year mark, you are entitled to your entire security deposit to be returned immediately.

I don't have time to dig into the MGL to find the verbage for you, and I'm not a lawyer, but it was pretty easy for me to find that one when I needed it..

Cleaning fee can only be upheld if it was somewhere in the lease, if not.. its your word about "clean" vs theirs when you get in front of the judge


looking this up right now!

Skipping 19 Messages...
Stanley124 said:   That's the thing. I don't see anywhere in MA laws that will give me x3. I want to sue them for as much as possibly for being pricks though.

I think the security deposit laws allow for UP to 3x damages. However I think in this case where it's a difference of opinion over what's normal wear and tear, you probably won't get 3x awarded by a judge but would probably just get your money back. You could also sue under Chapter 93A which covers unfair and deceptive business practices and that also allows for 3x damages.



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