• FreeAdvice has a new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, effective May 25, 2018.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our Terms of Service and use of cookies.

Security Deposit Issue

Accident - Bankruptcy - Criminal Law / DUI - Business - Consumer - Employment - Family - Immigration - Real Estate - Tax - Traffic - Wills   Please click a topic or scroll down for more.

cyndy-ann

Junior Member
What is the name of your state? Upstate New York

We rented a house for three years and took very good care of it. It was a brand new house that the builder was unable to sell because the selling market was bad at the time in our area.

Last November, the landlord had his secretary call to say he was showing the house (to sell). We allowed the showing and even went to look for other properties to rent in the area but came up with nothing. When I told the landlord that we couldn't find anything else and that we were still legally under his rental contract until August, he threatened to evict us. To make a long story short, his attorney was contacted by him, the attorney talked with my husband and we stated our case as well as provided him with a copy of the lease to which the attorney came back and told us we were right and that we were in a binding contract with the owner until August 31, 2005 and that the owner could no longer have the house shown for sale. The owner was mad, obviously and took every opportunity to be negative towards us.

Fast forward to August. We moved out and cleaned the house spotless. Neighbors helped us with the cleaning and moving and commented on how lucky the owner was that we took such care of his property. All nail holes were filled in by us wherever we had pictures hung, curtains hung, etc... I shampood the carpets (minus the stairs going to the upstairs because my machine was too big for the stairs and I didn't have time to sponge-clean them - they were not stained, just needed to be shampooed)...

When we moved into the house there was no landscaping done around it. It was new construction with grass planted front and back. I planted shrubs and parennials at our own cost during the time we lived in the house. It looked very nice. The owner often commented how shiny the hardwood floors were and how nice the gardens were... The walls obviously, after three years and two toddlers in the house, needed to be repainted. It was normal wear and tear. We have neighbors to vouch for us.

The last day of our lease (August 31st) we asked the owner to do a walk through with us. He was very rude. The basement has leaked off and on due to two cracks in the foundation as well as a leak under the sink that he had repaired a year after we moved in (approx). He went into the basement and made comments about the water marks on the basement foundation. That's not our responsibility! We have had to throw things out because of water damage (old computer, etc)... The owner would not talk with my husband or make eye contact with him when my husband reached his hand out to shake hands with him when he entered the house. He said that he was going to charge us for shampooing the carpets and painting the walls!

Nowhere in our lease agreement does it say we have to have the carpets professionally cleaned on exit or even that we had to fill in the nail holes (we filled in the holes out of courtesy and it just seemed the right thing to do)...

After the owner viewed the house he argued with us about the security deposit saying he was going to take this and that out of it (shampooing carpets, painting). I reminded him of the landscaping I had done around the property at no cost to him. To that he claimed that was all HIS property and that he owned the shrubs, etc. I picked out everything, purchased it all, planted it all and tended to it all at our own expense during our three year stay there. The owner then left the property. He built a house right next door so all he did was walk back to his house. Stunned, we just stood in the garage, not believing the words that were exchanged and how rude the owner was to us after we took such good care of his property (he even agreed with me when I told him that during his walk through the house). At this point, I decided I was taking my favorite plant outside the front steps (a rose of sharon bush I planted) because I knew he was going to dig it up and plant it in his yard anyways (along with other things I planted in the yard). That's beside the point. My point is he came out with his camera and took pictures of me and my husband digging up MY bush and taking it with us. He also told us we were trespassing and taking "his" property. I responded with "We are indeed allowed to be on this property until midnight tonight and if I want to take MY plants with me, I will..." I took care to make sure the hole the plant was in was filled in and that it didn't look messy. Then we left...

Yesterday we received an invoice and a partial return of our security deposit. This is what he charged us for...

Repair holes in walls throughout the house ($175.00)
Repair holes in window trim from removal of blinds ($155.00)
Paint trim on windows, 13 windows @ $10 each ($130.00)
Clean stains on carpet stairway ($100.00)
Paint walls in all of house fo rabove normal wear ($300.00)
Repair large hole in garage wall, drywall and tape ready for paint ($85.00)

The total he charged us was $945.00 and he returned $505.00 of our $1450.00 security deposit

He also said at the bottom of the invoice
ALL ITEMS INCLUDE LABOR AND MATERIAL
"THERE IS NO CHARGE YET FOR REMOVAL OF SHRUBS"

[
list]
[/list]

***The garage did have a small hole that my husband and the neighbor across the street patched and re-spackled (it was the size of a small saucer). This came about when my husband was backing into the garage and his mirror hit the sheetrock. The garage has never been painted - it was just sheetrocked and nailed up.

I'm very upset about this man taking the money out of our security deposit because I feel it was unjust. We also have pictures of the exterior of the house showing no landscaping when we moved in... pictures of the landscaping we did at our own expense (shrubs and parennials) and a video of the whole interior of the house on the day we moved out....

Please advise me. Do we have a just case? I'm so sorry this is long, but I feel it was necessary to point out everything I stated.
Thank you for any advice you can send me.

Cindy C
 
Last edited:


Well, there's little doubt that the guy sounds like a big jerk! Sour grapes, it seems.

The first thing that jumped out at me:
-Is there anything in the lease that SPECIFICALLY prohibits him from selling the house? If there's not he actually could have sold the house - even before you lease expired. The new owner would have simply been purchasing the lease (and you as tenants ;) )along with the purchase of the property. Properties that are rented, with leases in place, are sold all the time. It's a moot point now - I just thought I'd mention it.

If you have any evidence (probably something more than just your neighbors as witnesses - although that will help) about the condition of the house you may be able to make a case against him and get the rest of your security deposit back. It does sound like he's covered his bases, so you'll probably have to come up with something substantial. NOT saying he was right or wrong for the deductions (I have no idea), but if he's only charging $300 for the painting of a whole house it won't look to the judge like he's out to screw you. That's a very reasonable amount.

Carefully read through the entire lease. Like for example, he may be in the "right", legally, about you removing the rose bush. Generally leases state that any "improvements" need to be left behind. I don't blame you for taking it, but the fact that the guy is acting like a horse's patoot isn't going to get you very far with a Judge, probably. What does it say about damage, damage deposit return, improvements, etc?

Good luck.
Karla in Amarillo
 

cyndy-ann

Junior Member
The lease is very nonspecific. As far as the selling of the property during the lease, it didn't even mention that... The owner's attorney called my husband and told him he was right, after reading the lease, that the owner had no right to sell the house while we were in a contract and the attorney told his client to stop...

There is nothing about shrubs or anything like that because there was nothing planted when we moved in there... Nor was there any talk about me doing any planting until later when I asked permission and he said I could (verbally)...

About the filling in of the nail holes, repainting or any carpet shampooing prior to moving out, nothing is mentioned there either. When we were looking at places (townhouses, etc) to rent before we found our current house, most of the places were repainted and carpets were shampooed when tenants moved out and the previous residents were not responsible. Wouldn't it have to say in the original agreement what is expected when a tenant vacates the property for him to charge us? Isn't a security deposit for damages that are done by a tenant as opposed to general clean-up (repainting after three years is pretty normal for anyone owning a house) ???

This man is obviously just trying to put the last screws to us. Honest, we were model tenants and very well respected in that development and I'm just crushed by his bad behavior...

Thanks for your reply.
 
cyndy-ann said:
The lease is very nonspecific. As far as the selling of the property during the lease, it didn't even mention that... The owner's attorney called my husband and told him he was right, after reading the lease, that the owner had no right to sell the house while we were in a contract and the attorney told his client to stop...
That kind of gives me a chuckle, because it sounds like his attorney gave him incorrect advice there.

cyndy-ann said:
There is nothing about shrubs or anything like that because there was nothing planted when we moved in there... Nor was there any talk about me doing any planting until later when I asked permission and he said I could (verbally)...
Yeah, it wouldn't mention shrubs, specifically. It would be a clause relating to improvements made by tenants.

As for the rest...........it's a very common disagreement between tenants and landlords. In a court case (which is what you'll have to initiate if you want to attempt to get any more for it) it will come down to who has the most evidence and who the judge believes - or what the judge perceives to be normal wear and tear.

Like I said, the guy sounds like a real tool. He's obviously mad because you stopped him from selling when he wanted to (again - that's his own stupid fault for listening to bad advice.)

It's a toss up whether or not it's worth it to pursue at this point. On principle, I can see where you'd want to. But monetarily, not sure what the outcome would be.
 

Find the Right Lawyer for Your Legal Issue!

Fast, Free, and Confidential
data-ad-format="auto">
Top