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rated:
State is CT.

Cliff-notes Version:
1. Broke apartment lease 4 months before lease end.
2. Responsible for rent till new tenant moves in, or lease end - whichever is earlier.
3. Landlord wants 3 months to clean up the apartment and put it back on the market - costing me 3 months of lease.
4. Landlord also indicated he will charge me a lot of money for the cleanup ($1000+).
5. To me these seem unreasonable. I suspect retribution from maintenance head for escalating some previous maintenance issues up very high.
6. How do I protect myself? 


Short Story:

  • Lease runs till June 30. We lived here for 10 years.
  • I purchased a house, moved out of the apartment on 5th March.
  • According to the lease - I am responsible for the rent till new tenant moves in. This is the only two bedroom apartment available in the complex and has high demand. So getting a tenant is not a problem as long as it is "available". 
  • The apartment complex manager told me today that they will take the whole rest of March, and the whole months of May and June to clean up the apartment, put it back on the market and re-rent it - basically leaving me stuck for 3 months of rent while they do their cleanup. Also, he mentioned that we left the apartment "dirty" and we will get a cleanup bill over a thousand dollars.
  • The reason he offered why it will take them 3 months to clean up is that they have other apartments before mine, they have not started on it yet and it will take time!!
  • I offered if I can get a professional cleaner to take care of his complaints (a large amount of stickers and crayon marks on the walls, general dirt that accumulated over 10 years in some places - exacerbated by the last two weeks when we were not living in there but using it as a storage). He declined!


My side of the story:

  • Before vacating the apartment I asked the maintenance head if I should get a professional cleanup done - so that they can avoid their cleanup and can easily re-rent it! I was told - no, I can as well avoid that cost since they have to spend time on it after 10 years no matter what.
  • The apartment needs to have the walls scraped of stickers (a lot of them), de-stained for crayon marks (a lot of them), re-painted. After 10 years possibly the carpet needs to be replaced. There are mold stains inside the closets. And the kitchen oven and the areas surrounding needs a top to bottom cleaning.
  • All these are probably 2-3 days of work for a handyman - maybe a little more.
  • I am suspecting that the maintenance head is trying to get back to me for certain previous situations where they were trying to treat me as yet another timid immigrant when we had maintenance issues, and I did some stuff to get back to him he did not like. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I choose not to lawyer up even when we had my AC Unit not working for more than a year. Not sure if I need to do that now.


My goal:
1. To convince the maintenance guys to complete the cleanup as soon as possible so that the apartment can be put back on the market.
2. To make sure I don't get charged for the wear and tear that they decide to slap on to me.

Any suggestions or recommendations how to do that?

 

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rated:
Like many states, Connecticut requires landlords to make reasonable efforts to mitigate their losses. Good write-up on NOLO below.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/tenants-right-break-renta...

That said, taking 90-days to clean, rehab, find a renter for a unit that's been occupied by a family for 10 years seems on the high-end of what I'd consider reasonable. Worth a sit down with property management, if possble.

rated:
Did you already turn in the keys?

rated:
>> Worth a sit down with property management, if possible.

Yupp. That is a given - and I will try to be as reasonable as possible in my discussions with the property management.

However, it seems the manager just upped the stakes today (he was very reasonable and talking about 2-3 weeks to clean when I left the key) - and it seems things are not really going down too well for keeping things amicable.

Point to note: They have not even started working on this apartment.

The other concern is the interpretation of what is wear and tear - vs what is not. e.g. I would consider it entirely reasonable if they charged me a reasonable amount for removing the stickers and crayon marks. However, re-painting should be their responsibility since they have to do that anyway after 10 years.
Similarly - carpet is anyway replaced after 10 years. So I should not be charged for replacing that. Etc.

1. How/where to escalate if the attempt to sit down is not successful?
2. How to make sure I don't get fleeced on how they interpret damage vs. wear and tear.


>> Did you already turn in the keys?

Yes. On March 6th!

rated:
They shouldn't take 3 months to clean and rent it. THat sounds like BS. I don't know what you can do to protect yourself on that other than simply refuse to pay them. Maybe try and find them a qualified tenant on your own? If you have evidence it can easily be rented within 1 month then I can't see a court forcing you to pay for 3 months rent.


THe cleaning work shouldn't take too long. A few days tops I'd think. I would NOT be surprised if the cleaning bill is $1000. I spent ~$400 to pay cleaners for a smallish 2 bedroom that wasn't half as bad as what you describe. Cleaning companies aren't cheap. I have no reason to spend my own time doing it nor shopping around for the bargain cleaners. Tenants should clean their mess if they don't want to be billed for it.

rated:
You are correct that repainting after 10 years is wear and tear. Did they say they're charging you for repainting? You mention clean up bill of $1000+. ~$1000 wouldn't include all that cleaning & painting.

rated:
>> Did they say they're charging you for repainting?

No. They did not.
Hearing $1000 + I was assuming that can't be just cleaning. But well - if that is in the reasonable range then I guess I can't really complain.

Seems my main issue is with how long they are keeping the unit off-market while I am paying the rent!!

I can try to find tenants - but the issue is I don't have the keys to the apartment and can't show it to anyone. I can document that is the only 2 bedroom apartment available, that 2 bedrooms are in high demand and are not easily available. Any creative ideas to "prove" tenants are easily available?

rated:
You have too many issues to seek counsel here, I recommend you consult an attorney asap because you will be on the hook for a lot more damages than you realize.. You shouldn't have turned the key in without getting a comprehensive clean up on your own, take pictures and hopefully have before and after pictures to show..you are correct paint and re-carpeting is not on you.. the problem with ending lease early is 1. did you just move out or do you have in writing from landlord that they are OK with you moving out on such and such date (typically atleast 60 days in advance notice, written receipt proof)

rated:
So, you didn't take picture or videos of the condition as you left it?

At this point, I'll let them make the first move to provide you with the itemized report. Paint after 15 years is wear and tear as well as good portion of of flooring, if needed. Keep all communication on email/paper.

rated:
They owe you your security deposit on April 6th (7th?> : http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/connecticut-security-depo...

They do not have 90 days to "fix your apartment" and charge it against your security deposit, while also charging you rent. http://www.jud.state.ct.us/Publications/hm031.pdf

rated:
>> So, you didn't take picture or videos of the condition as you left it?
I have pictures.
The apartment needs cleanup. No questions there. Fair cleanup bill is fine with me. I even offered to get outside companies to come in, on my dime, to do the cleanup. Offer was declined.

rated:
Sounds like you would have been better to off to have to just continued with rent and used the place as a storage facility or something.

Best of luck to you Op. I would definitely consider the only advantage/leverage you can utilize... which is witholding pay. It sounds like if you continue to do everything they say/ask they will just bend you over further.

rated:
juliox said:   They owe you your security deposit on April 6th (7th?> : http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/connecticut-security-depo... 

They do not have 90 days to "fix your apartment" and charge it against your security deposit, while also charging you rent. http://www.jud.state.ct.us/Publications/hm031.pdf

  

Yes they do owe him the security deposit refund within 30 days of move out.   Or at least an itemized receipt for what they spent 100% of it on.

I assume you mean they don't have 90 days to return the security deposit.  That is true.
There is no legal requirement limiting the time they can take to clean and re-rent while they charge him rent he's obligated to pay.     But I do think 3 months is too long for them to take.  

 

rated:
puddonhead said:   >> So, you didn't take picture or videos of the condition as you left it?
I have pictures.
The apartment needs cleanup. No questions there. Fair cleanup bill is fine with me. I even offered to get outside companies to come in, on my dime, to do the cleanup. Offer was declined.

  
Yeah if a tenant offered to hire their own clean up crew after the fact I'd decline that too.   
Too likely the cleaning would be substandard cut rate and I don't have any inclination to coordinate work with your company.   And honestly, bigger reason is I don't wanna.    If a tenant wanted to save money getting the place cleaned cheap they should have done it before vacating.  Not my problem.    I really don't like the inconvenience of having to clean up after people.      sorry but take this as a lesson to clean up rentals when you vacate rather than leaving a mess then expecting it to be cheap.   
 

rated:
Do you have to pay 3 months Plus $1000? Or Just $1000, and what about your Deposit?

rated:
Which 3 months are they charging you?

March, April & May?

I can reasonably seeing it taking until maybe May 1st to get the place rented. If they're saying they don't expect to have it done until June then thats 1 month more.

OTOH, they did say they're busy working on other vacancies. I'm not sure if the court would force them to prioritize your rental over their other work. I mean are they supposed to drop other work and make sure your apartment is rented first? Hire someone more to pay them extra to rent your place now? You're the one that broke the lease. I'm not meaning to knock OP here, but just thinking about it from the other perspective (lets say devils advocate) and whats really reasonable for them to drop everything else and handle an unplanned vacancy when a tenant breaks the lease prematurely.

rated:
The ask from the apartment complex is that I continue paying my rent before the first of the month or right after, in advance, as if I was till renting. This will continue till the next tenant moves in!

If they find a tenant moving in on June 1st, they want me to pay the rent for June as well before June 1st, and they will refund it later.

The "cleanup bill" would apparently come off my security deposit, and is unrelated to the rent I will pay (pre-pay).

rated:
They have all the right to ask for 3 months if it isn't rented. (After they use up the Security Deposit)
The 'Cleanup bill' after 10 years? Within 30 days of you leaving they must give you an itemized list.


http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/tenants-right-break-renta...

http://www.ct.gov/dob/cwp/view.asp?a=2247&q=299050

rated:
Why didn't you clean up before giving the keys? Who puts stickers on the walls of a rental property. Probably have brat kids. Pay up now. You deserve it.

rated:
First - industry standard is generally to turn an apartment from one tenant move out to move in ready condition within 2 weeks. I could see during a busy season maybe an extra week or 2). 3 months is excessive.

Not sure on CT law, but in CA most judges consider 7-10 years a reasonable lifespan for a carpet. Replacing a carpet after that would be at no cost to tenant (however sealing the subfloor due to any damage that penetrated to the subfloor would be on the tenant.

Again, in CA: paint is usually considered to last ~2 years. A regular repaint after that would be at no charge to the tenant. However, tenant would be responsible for any prep work needed due to damage (drywall repair, scraping stickers, primer due to crayons/stains/different colors/odors).

Not knowing the exact extent of the damage, ~$1000 doesn't sound unreasonable. However, 3 month turnover is completely unreasonable.

If this is managed by a management company, go above the property manager to the regional manager or corporate office and complain about the turnover time. That's really the only issue you can complain about at this point. Other than the management company, your only other recourse is a lawsuit. While a 90 day turnover time is unreasonable, not sure how much leverage you'll have in a CT court - depends on how tenant friendly they are.

rated:
juliox provided two helpful links above. In a quick read about returning deposits, I did see the part about having 30 days. Forbin4040's second link addresses the requirement of an itemization within 30 days. However, in your special case, you need to figure out if the 30 days actually begins when you move out or exactly when. Additionally, I didn't see how much your deposit is so don't know if $1000 will eat it all or if there will be some remaining.

One tact you may consider is not mentioning the deposit or the itemization to them before the appropriate 30 days are up or even at all until necessary. Perhaps a lack of an itemization by the appropriate deadline would be considered by the courts to mean that no damages can be withheld from the deposit. Additionally, a non-return of the balance of the deposit can be subject to doubling. See pages 9/10 of the rights and responsibilities link.

As far as them delaying on the process to prepare to re-rent your apartment, I agree with someone above who suggested an attorney.

Are you planning to pay them a month's rent on April 1 (or April 5) or is it being taken from the deposit as suggested above? If writing a check, I would reconsider and make sure exactly what you owe them when. I realize the lease says you are responsible until rented or lease end. However, I don't know what "reasonable effort" really means as far as the law goes.

Cleaning is expensive but consideration needs to be made for your 10 years living there. Again, as there are many variables and this potentially involves several thousand dollars, I would sit down with an attorney for a couple of hours to discuss your rights. It could very well save you a lot of money!

rated:
osaka75 said:   
Cleaning is expensive but consideration needs to be made for your 10 years living there.

  
I agree with most of what you say except this.  Cleaning (my opinion and CA law - not sure about CT) shouldn't really have a "wear and tear" provision.  The length of time living somewhere should not factor into cleaning charges.

Landlord has every right to expect the unit returned as clean as it was when provided to the tenant.  Wiping down window sills/tracks, cleaning windows, wiping counters, cleaning soap scum in the shower are all normal cleaning items that should be done periodically by the tenant during residency.  So whether 10 years or 6 months, if tenant is reasonably clean during their tenancy, the move out cleaning should be no big deal.

rated:
civ2k1 said:   Landlord has every right to expect the unit returned as clean as it was when provided to the tenant. 
 

No. Not after 10 years. the useful life for pretty much everything inside a rental is less than 10 years. 

OP - do you have the same carpet from when you moved in? they CANNOT charge you for that. they are depreciating it on their taxes, rest assured. they cannot double-dip and charge you for it too. LOTS of landlords do this (i do NOT - i think it's shitty) but that doesnt make it acceptable.

rated:
>> OP - do you have the same carpet from when you moved in?

Yes, I had the same carpet upon move-out from when I had moved in.

Any links to a detailed guidelines will be highly appreciated as to what is considered a reasonable wear and tear item, vs what is considered a "damage".

 

rated:
puddonhead said:   >> OP - do you have the same carpet from when you moved in?

Yes, I had the same carpet upon move-out from when I had moved in.

Any links to a detailed guidelines will be highly appreciated as to what is considered a reasonable wear and tear item, vs what is considered a "damage".

 

  I hope ruffles isn't your landlord. He expects a 10 year old carpet to look like the day it was installed.

rated:
Bump!!

You guys are getting softer :-d

The primary reason I posted this in FWF is that this is a landlord-heavy site and hence I will get to know how a landlord would think in this situation! I, as the other side, would obviously be partial and think they are being unreasonable. But I need to know what a landlord it thinking and prep for it if I am to go down a pissing match on this.

So far, only Jerosen made a rather timid attempt at playing a devil's advocate and KingOfSpades made an appropriate, FWF worthy, nasty remark :-D...

rated:
Bottom line is you broke the lease.  They could sit on it until the end of the lease without putting any effort into renting it and it doesn't matter.

Why did you think you would be able to break the lease and not be on the hook for the remainder?

Sure, you might get lucky and avoid a month or maybe two of payments, but there certainly is no burden on the landlord to put any effort at all, let alone extra effort, in finding another tenant.

I am not a landlord and don't rent, so this is just one old man's opinion.

rated:
solarUS said:   
civ2k1 said:   Landlord has every right to expect the unit returned as clean as it was when provided to the tenant. 
No. Not after 10 years. the useful life for pretty much everything inside a rental is less than 10 years. 

OP - do you have the same carpet from when you moved in? they CANNOT charge you for that. they are depreciating it on their taxes, rest assured. they cannot double-dip and charge you for it too. LOTS of landlords do this (i do NOT - i think it's shitty) but that doesnt make it acceptable.

  
For items beyond their useful life its wear and tear and OP does not have an obligation to pay for it.    You shouldn't need to clean the carpet since its in need of replacement.

However not everything in a rental is worn out and replaced every decade and most of the interior still needs to be cleaned.

Even though the walls require painting that doesn't mean that its OK to leave stickers or holes all over them.   Thats not normal wear and tear and takes extra time to remove or repair.
 

rated:
ChinaRider said:   Bottom line is you broke the lease.  They could sit on it until the end of the lease without putting any effort into renting it and it doesn't matter.

 

  This is 100% wrong.  

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights...
Fortunately, in most states landlords cannot simply sit back and wait for the term to end, then sue you for the months you weren’t there. They must take reasonable steps to rerent the place and credit that rent to your debt. This duty goes by a mouthful of words—“the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.
The court can even ask for proof of advertisement to prove that the landlord did "reasonable" effort to re-rent.

rated:
If the landlord has unrented units, and they are possibly identical, I would think that would pass the smell test if this unit stayed unrented for 3 months.

rated:
There is generally a legal requirement for landlords to rerent a place as soon as possible.    
But theres no hard fast rules on how fast is reasonable.      I don't think anyone can point to a law that says they "must" rent it faster than X months.   THough I think everyone here is in agreement that 3 months isn't fast enough.   So this really only gets settled in court.   OP's only real leverage is to simply not pay the rent demanded.   That would put OP In default on the lease.   The landlord can then sue.    It would then get decided in court.     I'd bet that its likely that if this is a property management firm running a sizable apartment complex that they'd sue to collect the rent.    If they have a reasonable enough argument for why it took 3 months then OP might lose.    Landlord does have the lease on their side.  So really the only question is whether or not the 3 month timeline is reasonable or not.

Just my opinions.

OP could offer to pay a lump sum of say 1.5 months rent for an agreement (in writing) that landlord will release them from the lease.

 

rated:
ZenNUTS said:   
ChinaRider said:   Bottom line is you broke the lease.  They could sit on it until the end of the lease without putting any effort into renting it and it doesn't matter.

 

  This is 100% wrong.  

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights... 
Fortunately, in most states landlords cannot simply sit back and wait for the term to end, then sue you for the months you weren’t there. They must take reasonable steps to rerent the place and credit that rent to your debt. This duty goes by a mouthful of words—“the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.
The court can even ask for proof of advertisement to prove that the landlord did "reasonable" effort to re-rent.

  
Usually you're right but the key words there are 'in most states'.    There are exceptions and maybe ChinaRider is in one of those states.    

Didn't someone say that FL didn't require landlords to rerent?  I can't remember for sure.

 

rated:
>> If the landlord has unrented units, and they are possibly identical, I would think that would pass the smell test if this unit stayed unrented for 3 months.

1. There is no other 2-bedroom apartment available in the complex. This is a large complex - with 300+ units (I am guessing the exact number - but it is big).
2. One person submitted a rental application for rent starting 4/1 right in front of me. Remember, the Leasing Manager was very reasonable earlier, and my only trouble was with the maintenance supervisor. I am guessing that guy (who signed an application for the lease starting 4/1) lost interest after the leasing office started telling it will not be available in time.
3. (word of Mouth ) I have been told by another person that he asked for a 2-bedroom availability starting 5/1 - since his lease ends on 4/20 - and he has been told no availability!

So no - it does not pass the smell test by any stretch of imagination. Point is, how do I "prove" it to the satisfaction of any authorities that I plan to escalate this to in future.

rated:
With 300 units they very well could have 10-30 vacant units at any given time. With limits on staffing time/resources they could have a backlog of 1-2 months to get those units cleaned & repaired.

rated:
Wait and see what happens with your deposit. If they go over 30 days and/or don't give you the interest you deserve on the Deposit then they could owe you double the deposit (plus the interest). You might have leverage there to push them to reduce the 3 months' rent.

rated:
>> With 300 units they very well could have 10-30 vacant units at any given time. With limits on staffing time/resources they could have a backlog of 1-2 months to get those units cleaned & repaired.

That is very possible. Many one bedrooms are available. Problems with one bedrooms is that the health code limits how many people can live in them - so only a small sub-section of the rental population (couple with no kids, bachelors sharing rooms, etc) can rent them - hence there are usually a lot of them available all the time. The scenario is usually very different with two bedrooms.

But you raised a couple of important points:
1. From management's perspective rentals are slow and they can easily prove that - for one bedrooms, which they have trouble moving.
2. Resource constraint can be shown by the maintenance to argue that 3 months is reasonable! What do I bring up against that? Can I counter that? Do I need to counter that?

rated:
How much of your $ do they have right now?

If they want more $ from you and you are willing to let go of the deposit. Then it's on them to prove their case. It maybe worthwhile to have a lawyer draft a letter in response to their accounting of the move out just to show that you are serious and willing to face them in court.

Long time ago, we had a tenant wrote us one of those threatening letter thinking that will scare us, being "fresh off the boat". Big surprise to him when we wrote back detailing how much more $ we can get out of him if it comes to court. Never heard back.

rated:
puddonhead said:   >> With 300 units they very well could have 10-30 vacant units at any given time. With limits on staffing time/resources they could have a backlog of 1-2 months to get those units cleaned & repaired.

That is very possible. Many one bedrooms are available. Problems with one bedrooms is that the health code limits how many people can live in them - so only a small sub-section of the rental population (couple with no kids, bachelors sharing rooms, etc) can rent them - hence there are usually a lot of them available all the time. The scenario is usually very different with two bedrooms.

But you raised a couple of important points:
1. From management's perspective rentals are slow and they can easily prove that - for one bedrooms, which they have trouble moving.
2. Resource constraint can be shown by the maintenance to argue that 3 months is reasonable! What do I bring up against that? Can I counter that? Do I need to counter that?

  

You've offered to clean it.    They refused.    
You could also offer to help them find a tenant.
You've got evidence that there are people who want 2 beds and they would have no problem renting it if its ready.

If their defense is that it really would take them 2-3 months to clean, repair and rent it because of their time and resource constraints then your counter argument is that you've offered to help speed it up and they just refused that so they didn't even want to speed it up.

 

rated:
>> If they want more $ from you and you are willing to let go of the deposit. Then it's on them to prove their case. It maybe worthwhile to have a lawyer draft a letter in response to their accounting of the move out just to show that you are serious and willing to face them in court.

My rent was < $1500. They have 1 month's rent + interest - probably less than $1500.

I have already paid the rent for the month of March before leaving the apartment. I was fully expecting them to take a couple of weeks to clean up. So it seemed a foregone conclusion that I have to pay whole of March when I left on March 5th.

If someone, today, offered me a deal that they will keep my security deposit and get this lease off me - let me just say that may be a very compelling offer.

Problem is - if I don't pay April rent before 4/10 - then I will be in breach of the lease agreement as long as there is not another tenant that has moved in before 4/1. It also seems CT law supports this practice.

In that scenario, I am worried about the credit hit. I earn more in CC bonuses per year than 3 months rent!!

Skipping 36 Messages...
rated:
meade18 said:   Best comment I'll read all day!
bbr said:   Edit to add: Please don't group me in with Ruffles, he gives us all a bad name. My ideology is more closely aligned with Solar.
  
So are you saying that when a nasty tenant leaves behind a bag of clothes that smell like cat piss, you just throw them away? You don't take them to Goodwill for a volunteer to sort through (and then throw away) just so you can get a $50 tax deduction? 

https://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1559830?showmessage=19822357


 

  
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Also, taking the tax deduction in that situation would be illegal - though I'm sure you'd never get caught (deduction should be your cost or market value, whichever is lower - in this case $0). You would save on garbage fees though.

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