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Re: unfair move-out charges

Posted by TenantNet on January 28, 1997 at 19:00:41:

In Reply to: unfair move-out charges posted by T. Romito on January 28, 1997 at 15:52:46:

: Shortly after vacating an apartment I had occupied for 3 years in Virginia,
: I received a bill from the landlord demanding I pay $270 within 30 days or
: I will be turned over to a collection agency. The cost was for apartment
: cleaning & painting and carpet cleaning. The carpet had been cleaned just
: 6 months prior and I had cleaned the apartment before vacating (except for
: mopping the floors). I was told by the local Consumer Protection Agency
: that if the landlord takes me to court, they will most likely win, stating
: those cost to cover "damages". The apartment HAS NO damages, only normal
: wear and tear. It was my understanding that they cannot charge me for
: normal wear and tear. Without resorting to a lawyer, is there a legal
: document I can present to the previous landlord stating that I am not
: responsible for those "maintenance" charges? How can I find out if I am
: in fact correct on this matter? I'm not sure if going to an attorney will
: cost as much as just paying the actual expense. I feel this is just
: another case of a greedy landlord trying to scam money.

You're right, and I assume you didn't get your security deposit back either.
Many landlords do this thinking the tenant won't fight back. If you're not still
in Virginia, it may be harder for the landlord to come after you. Another thing
(too late now) the next time is to withhold the last month's rent to "recover" the
security deposit. The owner can still come after you and this may technically
violate the lease, but then the shoe is on the other foot. This is not without risk
as you could, if damages are proven and depending on your lease and case law,
be obligated for the owner's legal fees if he wins. But it does have it's advantages
as it means he must come after you which is not always that easy.

We always suggest that you make sure there is no damages, that you leave the place
clean, that you take photos and have a witness and if possible ask the owner to
walk through the place with you before you return the keys and have both parties
sign a statement as to what is (and what is not damaged). Even the offer if the owner
refuses, goes a long way.

As for your situation, normal "wear and tear", i.e., cleaning, painting, carpet
cleaning and the like are NOT damages and are not covered by the security deposit
and are certainly not things that he could come after you for. But the reality
is that in many places the courts are hostile to uneducated and easily intimidated
tenants, and they often ignore the law. You might wish to consult with a lawyer
and possibly the lawyer could send a letter to the landlord which might send a
message that you are prepared to fight (if you are) if the owner starts a court action.
The lawyer should demand the owner come up with an itemized list of "damaged items".
Sometimes this will scare them off.

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