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Re: unfair move-out charges

Posted by T. Romito on January 29, 1997 at 11:26:17:

In Reply to: Re: unfair move-out charges posted by TenantNet on January 28, 1997 at 19:00:41:

: : 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.

Thanks so much for you assistance. I have a couple of more questions.
Following your response, I again called the landlord and asked them to
itemize damages for me. I should have mentioned in my first message
to you that I bought a house in Dec 96 before my lease was up in June 97. The
cancellation fee in my lease states that I am responsible for 1 1/2 month's rent or
actual damages, whichever is the lesser amount. It does NOT state that cleaning
is considered damages. The landlord stated that since I moved out in Dec 96,
instead of June 97, that they consider those cleaning costs damages
because they did not budget for those costs until the month my lease was
supposed to be up next year. She then gave me their lawyer's name and
number. Now they will have "extra" money in their budget for next year
since they charged me for the cleaning this year. So it seems to me they
are getting away with having me pay for their cleaning costs. Can they do
this under these circumstances even though there is nothing in writing in
my lease stating that cleaning is considered damages if I cancel my lease?
By the way, they rerented the apartment quickly and charged me also for
the 10 days of "lost" rent as part of damages, which I have no problem
paying. Do you think they "got" me legally on this budget nonsense issue?

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