Tenant Lawsuit-Michigan

8 Replies

I'm having a tenant bring suit against me.  At dispute is $180 of a security deposit withheld because of unmowed lawn when they moved.

The security deposit was $1300, I withheld $400.  There was damage to the carpet which I charged $200.00.  I was attempting to be reasonable, though I had to replace the living room the whole area's flooring (15x25) I did that with laminate flooring at 1.29/sq ft. Also, the home was left unclean, and we had some holes in the wall from hanging. Also the carpet was unclean.  The unmowed lawn we do not have photos, however, I have a VM from a neighbor saying they moved out and the lawn was uncut.  This VM was 1-2 two days after they moved out.  He said he cut the grass which we paid him for about one week later.

Also, the tenants lease ran through August 31, I allowed them to move out one month early without penalty. They vacated August 3rd they said. I know we had the keys August 5th.

So this is where it gets interesting.  The neighbor said there was going to be a fine, thats why he cut it. I though he said the City had fined me. The City was out he saw them then he cut the grass and called us. So I reported a fine to the tenant I asked the City for docs "they said they would look".  So I told the tenant of the violation, turns out no violation. I cut the check for $900 on Sept 2.  On Sept 6(Labor Day) I get an email threatening lawsuit if they don't get their deposit back along with the $180.  So I don't respond because now we are playing the legal game.  Check is cashed  Sept 7 for $900.00

So how do I fix this situation, we had paid $200 for someone to clean the property, we fixed the wall damage, and we had to replace the floor.  We couldn't fix the damage to the carpet without replacing the whole house which is 900 sq ft(estimated $2/sq ft installed), which is why we decided put down laminate on just the affected room. Plus we paid the neighbor $80 for mowing the lawn.

Mind you this Helicopter Mom situation. The tenant isn't driving this situation, The Mom is.  There were issues during the leasing process, and I wanted to walk away, and she threatened lawsuit.

My Goal is to always stay out of court, but at this point I need to make a decision am I ready to go to blows with someone over $180.

I know the 36th District Court very well and how it operates. 

Charging for clean up will be tossed out  of court unless you have photo's of furniture left behind and 40 bags of trash.  I don't care how dirty the walls are or the tub is, or  the stove or floor.  Too bad so sad for us landlords.  I have a blog on here somewhere showing all my carpeting and floors after move out.  Disgraceful, but that's being part of a landlord. 

Carpet replacement:  Do you have photo's.   Stained by bleach, embedded oil stains, red pop?   Usually depreciation of carpeting is a percentage each year to be deducted from the price of the carpet when you purchased it.   But usually tossed out unless you have the above damages.

Mowing the grass:  That's part of getting the property ready after move out.  Unless it looked like a jungle and handn't been cut in 6 months, tossed out.  

New landlords have a tendency to want to charge for everything, and even though I think we should be able to, the courts feel differently.  I was taken to court one time because the grass in the alley behind the house was over 1 1/2 inches high.  $3600.00 fine.  I fought it in court and won...but just barely.  36th District Court.  

So the holes in the walls (which would only take a few patches according to your photo's may be allotted to you, but since they are small holes, I doubt it will stand up in court.

Also do you have a C of O  (Certificate of Occupancy)  If not you won't win no matter how much proof you have.  And believe me, tenants check this out before going to court.  

Eat the $180 unless you want to spend ALL DAY IN COURT and chaulk it up to a college education in Landlordling.  Really.....that's how we learn and adjust to the real facts of being a landlord.

Nancy Neville

All good stuff to know, but this property is in Madison Heights, MI with 43rd District Court.

Who threatened you a lawyer or the mom? I assume the mom, I would ignore the email as well as other emails from her until they contact a lawyer or a small claims suit is filed. More then likely they will get bored and move on. Keep your before and after photos for as long as you are alive.

I would settle the the 180$ with them, and walk away with a smile. Life is too short to waste on BS and idiots.

I am debating at the moment suing a dead beat tenant that I had to evict, and left owing over 2000$, and even then, I am not sure its worth my time and energy to go after them.

I think if you have proof of damage to the carpet, walls, etc. in the form of photos, have a receipt (or a copy of a cashed check for paying to cut the grass), I'd respond to the email and let them know your explanation. We actually, have a page on our web site that outlines all the charges after the move out. We also have a policy that we adhere to (can also be found on our website), so there is no excuses from the tenants.

We have been threatened a couple of times, even by our tenants friends who are attorneys, but the money you are talking about are so small, that it's not worth for anyone to mess with. Your tenants threats are just a temper tantrum. As long as you have followed your state's policies for itemizing the return of the security deposit and you have your proof, I think you are safe and good to go.

Good luck.

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It depends on how much you value your time and/or if you have been to court before. There is value in learning how your local court works and this could be an easy inexpensive way to get your education. If you lose you could be out $180 plus court costs but you probably will not lose outright and you seem ready to concede the $180 anyway. If the tenant sues you, you will not have to pay a filing fee. The case will probably be heard in small claims court. The judgement could go either way--might split the dispute down the middle. If you lose in small claims court you can appeal for no added fee because the tenant brought the suit. If the tenant doesn't show up to either hearing you win. 

If you go to court make sure you ask for everything you may be entitled to. Since they vacated on August 3rd they are liable for all of August rent if your lease is month to month or rent is paid in monthly increments. Did they leave any water bill unpaid? You could end up getting paid to go to court.

Of course, the tenant may not ever file if it will be difficult for them to attend court.

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