Greedy Landlord - need advice please

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Hello, I have been living in my apartment for 8 years, and have seen three landlords come and go. My current lease is up in May, however, we were recently notifiied we had to move because of work, and so I have to move out a couple months before the lease ends. I had wanted to "do the right thing", and so offered to continue paying my landlord rent for the remaining months. However, the landlord demanded that we forfeit the security deposit (equal to about 125% of the monthly rent), pay the remaining months, pay half the cost of putting in new carpet (estimated at almost $1500 for the whole job), as well as any other things she may find needs fixing. At that point, my wife pointed the state law pertaining to security deposits, and furnished a written agreement for how to proceed (we offered to continue paying rent only in the event that a new tenant is not found before the original end date of the lease, and asked that our deposit be returned, minus repairs, in the event that the landlord is unable/unwilling to find a new tenant). That seemed to anger our landlord more, and now the landlord is demanding we pay all the aforementioned expenses in full.

Please advise.

Thank you!

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dcg9381 (Jan. 14, 2013 @ 2:39p) |

If you pay less than the rent, she can begin eviction which will be a real mess, in which she's in the right. No need t... (more)

StevenColorado (Jan. 14, 2013 @ 5:43p) |

The landlord made two offers. One for half carpet and one for full. That is what OP needs to have documented. Those are ... (more)

062703 (Jan. 15, 2013 @ 10:42a) |

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What's his reasoning for these penalties when the end result is nearly equivalent to you moving out at the end of the lease?

Overly nice. Here in TX, the landlord is obligated to try and find a new tenant. You only would owe the back rent until the place is occupied again, so your offer of fulfilling your obligation is both ethical and more than advantageous to the LL.

I think the "usual" lifespan rental carpet is less than 8 years, so I'd also say that you don't owe a dime there... Unless the carpet was replaced during your tenure.

Do
Personally, I'd give notice, indicate that you're going to pay rent until he/she finds a tenant, and request a walk-through (via registered mail). Document move out condition via video/photos. Include a forwarding address (registered mail).

In TX, the LL would owe you up to 3x your security deposit + any rent after the unit was occupied again. So, I'd simply let the LL go past 90 days on the security deposit and/or wait until the unit was re-occupied. Shouldn't take long. Then I'd file in small claims for 3x your deposit and any remaining rent after the unit was occupied.

Again, this is specific to TX, so do your own research on the rules in your state.

She really hasn't given one. She just said the carpet needs replacing, and it must seem logical to her since we are the last tenants

good advice so far. my only advice would be: don't be too nice to the landlord. why would you? its an arm's length transaction you are engaged in. moreover, its clear she isn't going to be too nice to you.
you sound like you are good at doing research. find out what your legal obligations are, and perform them. do nothing more or less.
dcg is right, absent lease terms that outline your responsibilities in the event of a prospective breach of lease, contract law controls. state contract law will probably require you to pay rent until the lease ends. but the landlord must actively try to get your place rented, at which time you would no longer owe rent. you could help the process along, by listing your apartment on craigslist, and putting the prospective renter in touch with the landlord. if the renter is credit-worthy and not a slob, the landlord must relieve you of your responsibility. if there are two vacant units, yours and another, the landlord must fill your unit first. if the landlord puts the new renter in the other unit to collect rent from both of you, then you can make the argument at trial that the landlord did not mitigate his/her damages and you owe rent up until the point that the new renter moved in.

Thank you. The carpet was replaced by the previous landlord, but that was over 5 years ago. We looked up the laws in our state, and it sounds like they are a bit different from yours, but we also found a depreciation schedule of carpet on the IRS website stating that carpet depreciates significantly after 5 years. I don't see how she can hold us responsible for the cost of new carpet, but wanted to see what others thought.

right. try to be reasonable, show her the depreciation schedule. explain that the fact that nothing lasts forever in mint condition does not mean you damaged it. explain that you are not responsible for wear and tear caused by gentle normal use over 13 years. if she bitches, explain that you may be entitled to triple damages plus attorneys fees (if this is true, look up what remedies are available in your state). let her know you have lots of attorney friends on the internet
sounds like she just thinks you're a sucker. explain in polite terms that you aren't. she will find some other tenant to pick on who is a sucker.

Thank you. We feel pretty confident that we know what our obligations are, and are prepared to honor them. Our chief concern right now is that she is going to send us receipts, or possibly sue us/take us to collections, for all this work she is talking about doing on the apartment after our lease term ends. She has already given us an estimate for new carpet, and the cost is well above the amount of our deposit. Haven't been able to find much documentation or legal guidelines for tenant protection there.

She doesn't seem to have any regard for the laws that apply. We provided her with a formal written document stating that we are vacating the unit and we are trying to compensate her for 3 months' rent, and she can rent out the unit to a new tenant, in which case she will release us from any obligation of paying rent, use the deposit for repairs, and return us some portion, if not all, as long as the repairs are beyond normal wear and tear. The document clearly cited the security deposit law in our state (how it can be used, landlord cannot keep deposit just because they can, etc). The document was emailed to her, she called us to let us know that she won't be accepting that offer, and that she now wants us to pay the full cost of new carpet (she had previously demanded "only" half the cost from us).

At this point we have realized that there is no way to reason with her. And that's very frustrating.

How far away is your new job? Some leases and states have language that may allow the lease to be broken...... read up on it.

The new job is several hundred miles away. There isn't any language in our lease that mentions how to proceed in the event of relocation, nor did I come across it in our local laws, but I will do a more focused search and see what I can find. Thanks!

Lawyer up. Seriously it will cost you $300 to have a letter drafted for you and get skilled advice that pertains to your resident state tenancy laws. You hit he dbag lottery with this landlord and need to be ready.

Security deposits cannot be used to put the LL in a better position than they would have been in otherwise; it is for damages that put her in a worse position. If you spill red paint on 8 year old carpet, she is not entitled to new carpet. She is entitled only to the value of 8 year old carpet without red paint spilled on it. Brand new carpet is improving her situation.

Stop dealing with her in person and only communicate in writing. She's going to be a problem. The good news is that I have found that with difficult people, after 3 strong letters where I assert my knowledge of my rights, they usually back down. They usually just hope that they can bully you into not standing up for yourself.

all really really good advice from everyone here. not one bit of bad advice. green for everyone!

one thing I might add. sometimes it helps to get your mind around a situation by trying to figure out the psychology of the person you are up against. have you given any thought to her motivations? its pure speculation on my part, but from what you are saying, i gather that the landlord knows she is taking unreasonable positions against you. shes mad that you are leaving and taking your rent money with you.

i suspect that she might have a drug addiction, gambling debt, or just be really hard up for cash right now. when people are in desperate situations like that, they try to get money any way they can. of course, I really don't know any of this for sure.... But next time you talk with her, I recommend paying close attention to detail, to try to figure out what you are up against.

Can I play "Guess the landlord's nationality", or would that be racist?

In Cali, the wear and tear clause is 2 Years, 2 years or more means you don't pay for carpets due to wear and tear.

Edited because I was given bad advice (Which I have used against Landlords)

IN CALI
Paint is 2 Years Wear and Tear, Carpets are prorated. If the LL buys a 10 year carpet 15 years ago you are not expected to pay for it.

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtm...

CptSavAHo said:   Lawyer up. Seriously it will cost you $300 to have a letter drafted for you and get skilled advice that pertains to your resident state tenancy laws. You hit he dbag lottery with this landlord and need to be ready.

Why pay $300 for what you can do yourself? If it goes to small claims are you going to hire an attorney?

The IRS website is a good source for info. A local judge will also be familiar with carpet "depreciation" in regard to rentals. No way you're on the hook for 100% of value. 5 years might be a reasonable lifespan for the carpet.
What does your state say about returning security deposits? That's the big deal thing that might change how you deal with the LL.

In a state where you're due multiple times damages on the deposit, I'd let the LL behave badly. In a state where you're not well protected, I'd probably make more of an effort to show that the LL isn't being reasonable... but I do think you've got an unreasonable LL.

In regard to self listing on CL, the LL isn't under any obligation to detail to you *why* the apartment didn't re-rent. Thats why I say you take it back up AFTER the unit is re-occupied. Telling the LL that they've got an obligation to try and occupy it gives away your hand so to speak...

You're a very reasonable tenant... I'd be happy to rent to you.

It sounds like the LL bought the property as an investment and failed to fully consider the potential reality of no rent coming in to help with the mortgage.

Can you keep us updated with the outcome of this story? I'm really curious to know what happens and how it plays out. I'm renting my first apartment and I don't want any hassle when I try to move out. Thank you.

forbin4040 said:   In Cali, the wear and tear clause is 2 Years, 2 years or more means you don't pay for carpets due to wear and tear.

Not true. In California, tenant should never pay for wear and tear. Tenant pays for damage and cleanliness.

In cases of exceeding wear and tear paint is considered to have a life of 2 years.

Carpet is prorated based on "expected life of the carpet" (there is no specific number of years, it's up to the judge to decide unless it's already pre-specified and reasonable in the lease). Life is commonly accepted as 5-10 years (7 is very common).

So, if the paint was last repainted >=2 years ago, and carpet => 5-10 years ago, no matter the condition, the landlord cannot charge anything (proration exceeded 100%). However, the landlord could charge 100% for pet damage to the subfloor under the carpet, and for drywall damages that need repair.

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtm...

OP, it's important to check your state's laws with regard to what is considered "wear and tear", "damage", "clean" etc. Your state may have an easy to read document like California (maybe called the Landlord/Tenant Handbook), so you don't have to read the actual statutes.

juniorjam said:   It sounds like the LL bought the property as an investment and failed to fully consider the potential reality of no rent coming in to help with the mortgage.

This LL is just dumb. We've got a tenant here that's offering to pay full rent to term and the LL could simply re-lease after the tenant moves out. Doing so isn't terribly ethical, but it wouldn't break any laws and it's what the tenant is offering. I'd take that and run - big upside.

Instead the LL is getting ridiculous over a security deposit, which is well protected in many states, and is making things much much worse...

The only case where the LL is getting screwed is if the tenant was paying above market rents...

The new job is several hundred miles away. There isn't any language in our lease that mentions how to proceed in the event of relocation, nor did I come across it in our local laws, but I will do a more focused search and see what I can find. Thanks!

Thank you! Unfortunately, we have tried dealing with the LL ourselves. My wife read all the state laws pertaining to landlords and tenants, especially the Security Deposit Return Act. The written notice we gave to our LL (after going back and forth verbally and seeing that she was going to try and pull one over on us) demonstrated that we clearly understand our rights and that what she is trying to do is illegal. Her response was to say that she now wants us to pay the full cost of the carpet. She just cannot be reasoned with, and I'm starting to wonder if we do need to get a lawyer involved.

Get a lawyer. It'll be worth every dime for saving you and your wife the headaches

Get a lawyer. It'll be worth every dime for saving you and your wife the headaches

PICTURES, PICTURES, PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!

FinPat said:   Thank you! Unfortunately, we have tried dealing with the LL ourselves. My wife read all the state laws pertaining to landlords and tenants, especially the Security Deposit Return Act. The written notice we gave to our LL (after going back and forth verbally and seeing that she was going to try and pull one over on us) demonstrated that we clearly understand our rights and that what she is trying to do is illegal. Her response was to say that she now wants us to pay the full cost of the carpet. She just cannot be reasoned with, and I'm starting to wonder if we do need to get a lawyer involved.

What you are dealing with right now are just threats. You are reading your lease and local laws--that's great. This sounds like a small-time landlord so make sure the local laws apply to your situation (some landlord-tenant laws exempt small buildings). This is in Illinois? Be aware that some cities have their own local laws in addition to the state law - Chicago has a very tenant-friendly law, for example. In Illinois a landlord has to actually pay out interest on your security deposit at the end of every 12-month term, not just at move-out, and if he doesn't the penalty is the security deposit (twice the security deposit in Chicago) plus costs and fees. That's just an example of a gotcha that can provide you with leverage to negotiate. You may also have options such as bringing your own replacement tenant.

A lawyer is not a bad idea. Yes, you can do all this yourself, but a lawyer's letterhead gets attention.

Thank you. We think they are more "small-time", but from what we have read of the laws, they apply to us (there are about 20 units in our building). Unfortunately, the interest on the deposit only pertains to buildings with at least 25 units so we lost on that. We did go to our local municipal office, though, and inquired about the laws. We were assured that the local laws are the same as those at the state level.

I know that supplying a replacement tenant ourselves would help our case, but, honestly, I would feel pretty bad about knowingly putting someone else in this situation.

Maybe I missed it, but I can't find the state and city your apartment is in posted anywhere here. (I do see Illinois posted in one of the responses, but I don't see where that info came from.) You've got hundreds of people reading this, many of whom are excellent at doing legal research and others that have had plenty of experience dealing with landlords, but laws vary enormously from state to state and without location information anything posted here may not even apply to you.

As far as wanting to "do the right thing" is concerned, the right thing to do is to pay whatever the local and state laws and then your lease require of you and not a penny more. You've paid for every second of the time you've spent in the apartment and the landlords have likely made a significant amount of money from your occupancy in 8 years. Paying any more that is required of you is simply giving the landlord a gift.

JayMatt19 said:   Get a lawyer. It'll be worth every dime for saving you and your wife the headaches

It depends on what your time is worth. It sounds like this is going to small claims, and with a little documentation it's a slam-dunk.
If you hire an attorney and you LL relents, you're out those fees... Which means you're out money. I don't consider that a win.
You can have a lawyer take it to small claims and your LL won't fare very well, but there is no guarantee that the court will grant legal costs, which may far exceed what you're arguing about with the LL... (ask an attorney what it would cost to actually show up in small claims and argue it for you)

On the other hand, if small claims grants you your deposit, back rent, and legal fees, that will really put the smack down on the LL. Again, we assume the LL has money to pay out... As getting a judgement and getting restitution are two different things.

nwrain said:   Maybe I missed it, but I can't find the state and city your apartment is in posted anywhere here. (I do see Illinois posted in one of the responses, but I don't see where that info came from.)

He never said Illinois directly, but he mentioned the Security Deposit Return Act which is an Illinois statute.

FinPat said:   
I know that supplying a replacement tenant ourselves would help our case, but, honestly, I would feel pretty bad about knowingly putting someone else in this situation.


Landlords trying to withhold security deposits isn't new, it isn't rare, and it's part of life. That's why you need to document EVERYTHING when you move in and out, the laws are pretty clear on carpet/paint depreciation, and why would you want to pay rent for a place you're not living at?

Sublease it(if your lease allows and/or the landlord allows), break the lease(legally), or pay for a place you won't be living and consider it part of the cost of relocating for a new job(a lot of companies paying relocation expenses will cover breaking a lease).

At the end of the day I know I'd try to get off the hook for several months rent, that said sending an email isn't the best way to notify the landlord legally. Send snail mail, document the laws you believe cover the security deposit, and wait for the landlord to have broken the law by either not providing sufficient proof of what the security deposit was used for or for withholding your security deposit.

I lived at a place for 8 years, the carpet was never replaced, and we were ideal tenants(always paid rent on time, no parties, barely lived there so the place was as pristine as we moved in as), the landlord still tried to withhold all of the security deposit(two months rent) until we proved that he couldn't withhold it for worn carpet and we had a check in our hands as soon as we sent certified mail pointing out that he would have to pay us 3x our deposit if he wanted to play hardball.

On the flip side after watching shows like The World's Worst Tenants and having been in the rental business, a LOT of the time it isn't normal wear and tear and the damages are excessive...

Wear and tear is WHY you are paying rent. This will apply to carpet and paint. Return it in same condition minus wear and tear. Landlord should replace carpet and paint every 2 years if they want it back in new condition.

If you put holes in the wall or pour 1 can of coke on the carpet and did not clean it up or burn the counter table with hot pan, then you are responsible for the damage.

Clean the stove, microwave and fridge.

Always have a copy of your move in Inspection. Note even minor marks on the carpet/paint etc. DO THIS at you NEW apartment as well. Always keep a copy of this report.

Always inform the landlord to come and do a walk through before you vacate with Date and time and in writing and always keep a copy. Then hand over the original keys.

If the landlord won't follow the law the only option is small claims. Just tell her, either you follow the law or I will see you in court. As already mentioned, if you have the correct documentation it is a slam dunk.

I have been both a tenant and landlord.

I had the same thing done to me when I was in my first apartment. I ended up getting screwed... Never got my 2 months security back, even though apartment was in exact same condition as I rented it in.

As a landlord, years later, I only held security once when there was real damage to the apartment. The tenant did not even complain about the security.

I would stop paying rent and tell landlord it is hard for you since you had put 2 mos down on your next apartment. Tell them to keep the security as payment for the next two months.

They will probably not sue them for eviction since that takes a while, and they have almost no basis for any other suit if the apartment is left in good condition.

Good Luck!
SteveG

Just remember this... you owe her more money at this point than she owes you. Use that to your advantage.

Play along with her... have her document all of her demands (as unreasonable and possibly unlawful as they are). Do your best to negotiate... document all of your correspondence. If you still can't get her to agree to what she legally obligated to do (like return your security deposit), simply don't pay the rent after you move out. Let her keep the social security deposit. She'll probably make threats, but with everything documented, I'd be willing to take that chance.

I know this isn't the 'right' thing to do... but it's usually the best way to deal with a bully...

sgogo said:   
I would stop paying rent and tell landlord it is hard for you since you had put 2 mos down on your next apartment. Tell them to keep the security as payment for the next two months.

They will probably not sue them for eviction since that takes a while, and they have almost no basis for any other suit if the apartment is left in good condition.


I think this is bad advice:
1) It flips who is in the right legally.
2) The OP may need a "paid on time" reference for another place. Right now the OP can prove it.
3) It puts the LL in a position to follow up and sue successfully.

Deposits are not interchangeable for rent.

I'd just move and don't pay anymore rent. Take pictures of everything before you vacate and let the landlord you're moving and turn in the keys. The landlord has an obligation to mitigate damages, meaning she must use reasonable efforts to re-rent the apartment; if she doesn't, then a Court would take that into account in determining her damages. She's entitled to be made whole, meaning no better/no worse than if you fulfilled your obligations under the lease. If you're moving hundreds of miles away, the landlord shouldn't be able to sue you in small claims Court because the Court wouldn't have personal jurisdiction over you.

As for the carpet etc., a tenant isn't responsible for normal wear and tear, so unless you (or a pet) trashed the carpet, she probably doesn't have a valid claim. The other comments about depreciation are correct - she's not entitled to new carpets at your expense. If the carpets are at the end of their useful life, then the landlord has to replace them as normal maintenance.

If you did continue to pay rent through the end of the lease, so she'd have to leave the apartment vacant until then.

S

Skipping 29 Messages...
dcg9381 said:   062703 said:   FinPat said:   
I may have missed it, but make sure you have documentation of the pay half of the carpet offer and the offer for you to pay for the entire replacement of the carpet. This will be very forthcoming of the landlord if you choose to take this to small claims.


The landlord isn't taking anyone to small claims the way things stand. The way things stand she's keeping all of the rent (to be paid) and 100% of the deposit (already paid).

Either you have cash in hand and you might get sued or you're out cash and will have to sue to recover it. Those are your two choices.

Documenting the "half carpet" and full rent offer might work the other way - the judge could say that this is what the OP "agreed" to and put that in motion. If I was to go to court on this, I'd want to follow state law, which is likely very much below what the OP offered the LL.


The landlord made two offers. One for half carpet and one for full. That is what OP needs to have documented. Those are the kinds of things that lead to treble damages.



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