Need some advice on security deposit

11 Replies

Hello biggerpockets...the lease on the my condo is coming to an end on July 31, 2018..i was just recently at the condo with my real estate agent and photographer (to get it ready to list) and notice this black soot throughout the condo (on the walls, ceiling, kitchen cabinets, trim, windows, etc). i asked my tenant about this and he said it was caused by the air conditioner (central air) in december...he said they were doing work on the roof and something they did up there caused this black soot to spread throughout the condo...the condo needs to be completely repainted...i was just at the condo today and tried to clean some of it up but its not coming off...

i do not believe my tenant for the following reasons:

1. why would they wait 6 months to tell me 

2. why is the soot randomly throughout the rooms and not concentrated by the vents

3. I removed the vents and reached into the duct and there was no black soot.

4. also i smelled weed in one of the bathrooms but i am not sure if weed or any drugs could create a mess like that.

I think they are not telling me something bc they dont want to pay to repaint the interior...what can i do about this? how can i take there security deposit?

Any information or advice would be helpful (and yes i took photos of the walls and ceiling and vents)



@Gregory Massi

I think you have a legitimate reason to hold their deposit just on the basis that they failed to report the issue for 6 months alone.

Keep the photos. If the tenant decides to take you to court. You can show how there is no black soot in the vents or concentrated by the vents.

Hopefully you have stipulations on the lease about tenants not reporting problems on time.

@Gregory Massi

I honestly never heard of it and I had to do my own research on it just now. However, it looks like ghosting on walls takes time to appear. Your tenant said it was work that was done (more than likely a very short period of time). I would hold the security deposit anyway. You failed to report an issue that damaged my property.

@Gregory Massi

I would ask condo board if other units had any similar situations or complaints. In addition, the tenant can report it to their renters insurance agent and see what happens. 

@Brian Adzadi i just reread my lease and i dont have any specific stipulations in the lease about reporting issues but in one paragraph is states, "in the case of fire or other damage not caused by the tenant, tenant shall give landlord immediate notice of the same."  i think this situation applies to this..

@Carl Fischer i will reach out to the board and see if there has been other complaints..

But regardless, can i take a security deposit for failing to report issue? also what if my tenants do not allow me access to paint this? i am started to get anxious now as the lease is coming to an end july is the prime time to list..

Thanks for all the input so far!

You can’t keep the deposit because they failed to report it. But you can use the deposit to pay for cleaning/repainting. It’s not wear and tear, so it can likely be repaired with their money.

The only time I saw black residue on walls was from a flip I purchased with a not venting correctly oil furnace. The oil smoke came up through the vents and coated everything.

Washer everything down with TSP, primed with Kitlz, and repainted. (But needed a good painting regardless.)

Good luck!

@Gregory Massi

Yes you can keep the deposit and worst case you go to court and explain to a judge magistrate the situation and at worst you have to give it back.  I doubt the tenants will go to court if they’re at fault. 

@Mike McCarthy Thanks for the info! there are a few companies in the area that offer services for removing smoke/soot/ash from the home..have you or anyone you know used one of those services?  i wonder if i use that service i can avoid having to repaint everything..

Hi Greg! This sounds like smoke damage to me. At the apartment complex where I worked we often saw this in the homes during our turnover period (we always just repainted the entire unit). I would assume that they smoked in the unit, so you could most certainly take the cost of painting out of their security deposit. Keep the pictures you took as evidence in case you have to go to court. 

Just an update - I had a fire cleaning service look at the unit and they said this was caused internally..most likely from the tenant using the fireplace and not opening the flue...the total cost to clean and paint will be about $5k which is more than the $2.8k  deposit..i am not sure how to go about this...they are being a pain about people coming over to address the condo and the lease is ending july 31...i was thinking about offering them the following options:

1. Leave two weeks early and i will only take their deposit, or

2. Let them pay for the services to clean and paint the place (while they are living in it) and allow them to stay until lease end date..will reimburse their deposit if they did a good job.

If they refuse both then i guess i will have to bring them to court. What are your thoughts on this??