Property Manager sent a bill for 7K + for smoke damage in unit

9 Replies

We've rented from the same property management company since 2006, and were in our last unit for 7 years.  Smoking was not prohibited, in fact when we specifically asked if there were smoking/non-smoking units, we were told they had no non-smoking units.  We had no problems with the management until the most recent property manager took over.  Happy to give more background, but suffice it to say we got off to a bad start and it's been downhill ever since.   I firmly believe that this manager has a personal grudge against us as a result, and we were given a 5 day notice to vacate for violating the "noxious odor" section of the lease.  We moved, and just received (at day 31 after move out) a certified letter stating that we had $7100 worth of smoke damage in the apartment "pending additional charges to be determined".   

Happy to give more details of all the issues we put up with while living here just to avoid having to deal with the manager, but really wants some perspective from the landlords and experts here.  This amount seems completely ridiculous for the unit in question.  What options do I have to fight this?  I'm in Louisiana.

I can't tell how strong the odor and where it came from. I had several tenants through the years on vacating had such issues. It's mostly South Asian tenants and their cooking. At times, the odor was so strong you can smell it walking in the main entrance into the lobby.

There's been some discussions here on remediating it with chemicals. In my case, after steam cleaning the carpets, and a fresh coat of paint, it was mostly gone after the painting and all gone some weeks later when I came back to check with new tenants in place. In your case with a management company, get an attorney to write them a strong letter.

My tenants got the full deposit back as I normally do this after each tenancy anyway.

When I was a tenant, a had an apartment and my deposit was withheld with some BS excuse. I wrote and called with no success. I bought and moved to a condo, and when my closing attorney wrote them a demand letter, I got the refund in a week.

I watch court shows on TV where landlords try to keep deposits with pictures of garbage left behind and damages, and usually the judges are not sympathetic attributing it to wear and tear. I never seen one on odors and would be curious on how they can prove it. Here, I think they hope to cite a large claim hoping you keep quiet and let them keep the deposit.

I forgot to ask, did they mention this issue in your move-out walkthrough report, and if so, what did it say?

@Penny T. What sort of "damage" are they claiming. After a 7 year tenancy there will be wear items that will need to be replaced but, as a tenant, those are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the owner.
(267) 520-0454
Originally posted by @Frank Chin :

I forgot to ask, did they mention this issue in your move-out walkthrough report, and if so, what did it say?

There was no final walk through.  There was a "smoke remediation  specialist" sent in a week prior, who came in for about 90 seconds, taking 3 photos of the AC intake unit, air vent and hallway carpet.  He wrote a report that sounded like it was dictated by the manager   (because it made reference  to things he couldn't possibly know).  He described the apt as "neat and clean", and the smell of smoke as "moderate".

Originally posted by @Jason DiClemente :
@Penny T. What sort of "damage" are they claiming. After a 7 year tenancy there will be wear items that will need to be replaced but, as a tenant, those are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the owner.

 There are no details.  The letter states move in date (which they have wrong by 4 years), original deposit of 475.00, then total deductions of 8000 (which they also added wrong, they added 100 nonrefundable  pet deposit and 7000 Nicotine Smoke Damages to arrive at total of 8k), with an asterisk stating *Pending additional  charges to be determined.  

There is a cover letter that states:

"Attached is  the  security deposit statement. There is extensive  damage in the apartment  that exceeds the  deposit  and your apartment  is still  being  assessed.  Please note this is not your final bill.  We will  provide  additional  information  as repairs  are made and expenses are determined."

Originally posted by @Penny T. :
Originally posted by @Frank Chin:

I forgot to ask, did they mention this issue in your move-out walkthrough report, and if so, what did it say?

There was no final walk through.  There was a "smoke remediation  specialist" sent in a week prior, who came in for about 90 seconds, taking 3 photos of the AC intake unit, air vent and hallway carpet.  He wrote a report that sounded like it was dictated by the manager   (because it made reference  to things he couldn't possibly know).  He described the apt as "neat and clean", and the smell of smoke as "moderate".

 Sounds from the report that a steam cleaning of the carpets, and an complete paint job would cure the issues. That certainly would fall under wear and tear that Jason mentioned. You mentioned it's not even a non-smoking unit. I don't know the landlord tenant laws if your state, but you can check if they notified you in a timely bases. The report of the apt, as neat and clean and moderate smell of smoke does not rise to the level of damages IMHO, and even considered legal notification.

Originally posted by @Frank Chin :
Originally posted by @Penny T.:
Originally posted by @Frank Chin:

I forgot to ask, did they mention this issue in your move-out walkthrough report, and if so, what did it say?

There was no final walk through.  There was a "smoke remediation  specialist" sent in a week prior, who came in for about 90 seconds, taking 3 photos of the AC intake unit, air vent and hallway carpet.  He wrote a report that sounded like it was dictated by the manager   (because it made reference  to things he couldn't possibly know).  He described the apt as "neat and clean", and the smell of smoke as "moderate".

 Sounds from the report that a steam cleaning of the carpets, and an complete paint job would cure the issues. That certainly would fall under wear and tear that Jason mentioned. You mentioned it's not even a non-smoking unit. I don't know the landlord tenant laws if your state, but you can check if they notified you in a timely bases. The report of the apt, as neat and clean and moderate smell of smoke does not rise to the level of damages IMHO, and even considered legal notification.

 The carpet was at least 8 years old (wasn't new when we moved in), and had been  through 4 flooding events from the upstairs apartment, never having been anything more than wet vacced afterwards), so it was likely  due for replacement  regardless.  The replaced the carpet in the other affected  Apts after those tenants moved.  Their head construction  guy, who was supposed to assess cost of repairs  based on the report previously  mentioned, told us everything  he was seeing was water damage that had never been  properly  repaired, and he found mold in the closet next to the AC and in the air vents.  And he  gave the maintenance  man very cross looks when he found that our smoke detectors  had never been replaced after they were damaged and removed from the flooding incident.  Management  never mentioned that report, nor did we get a copy of it when the notice to vacate came later that day.

@Penny T. I would request a detailed estimate of charges. They have to have some details to come to the $7000 estimate. I'm not a lawyer or giving legal advice, but Louisiana tenant law RS9:3251 states "A.  Any advance or deposit of money furnished by a tenant or lessee to a landlord or lessor to secure the performance of any part of a written or oral lease or rental agreement shall be returned to the tenant or lessee of residential or dwelling premises within one month after the lease shall terminate, except that the landlord or lessor may retain all or any portion of the advance or deposit which is reasonably necessary to remedy a default of the tenant or to remedy unreasonable wear to the premises.  If any portion of an advance or deposit is retained by a landlord or lessor, he shall forward to the tenant or lessee, within one month after the date the tenancy terminates, an itemized statement accounting for the proceeds which are retained and giving the reasons therefor". So the timeline is critical.
(267) 520-0454
Originally posted by @Penny T. :
Originally posted by @Frank Chin:
Originally posted by @Penny T.:
Originally posted by @Frank Chin:

I forgot to ask, did they mention this issue in your move-out walkthrough report, and if so, what did it say?

There was no final walk through.  There was a "smoke remediation  specialist" sent in a week prior, who came in for about 90 seconds, taking 3 photos of the AC intake unit, air vent and hallway carpet.  He wrote a report that sounded like it was dictated by the manager   (because it made reference  to things he couldn't possibly know).  He described the apt as "neat and clean", and the smell of smoke as "moderate".

 Sounds from the report that a steam cleaning of the carpets, and an complete paint job would cure the issues. That certainly would fall under wear and tear that Jason mentioned. You mentioned it's not even a non-smoking unit. I don't know the landlord tenant laws if your state, but you can check if they notified you in a timely bases. The report of the apt, as neat and clean and moderate smell of smoke does not rise to the level of damages IMHO, and even considered legal notification.

 The carpet was at least 8 years old (wasn't new when we moved in), and had been  through 4 flooding events from the upstairs apartment, never having been anything more than wet vacced afterwards), so it was likely  due for replacement  regardless.  The replaced the carpet in the other affected  Apts after those tenants moved.  Their head construction  guy, who was supposed to assess cost of repairs  based on the report previously  mentioned, told us everything  he was seeing was water damage that had never been  properly  repaired, and he found mold in the closet next to the AC and in the air vents.  And he  gave the maintenance  man very cross looks when he found that our smoke detectors  had never been replaced after they were damaged and removed from the flooding incident.  Management  never mentioned that report, nor did we get a copy of it when the notice to vacate came later that day.

In that case, looks like you have a strong case if it goes to court. I replace my carpeting every 10 years or so depending on when tenants vacate. So yes, the carpet was due for a replacement even without flooding.

Often flooding and molds creates it's own odors. If they have a listing of repairs to be done, after 7 years, it's overdue. You have a good case as you are not the cause of the flooding or resultant mold.

I don't know if you have or is required to carry renter's insurance. Seems to me someone living under such circumstance should have notified the PM, and if so, you may get after them for moving expense, and even damages to your property. And if you did, what happened may be retaliation.

On them legally notifying you, if you received it on the 31st day, by certified mail, they may have barely met the deadline, or maybe not. As Jason said, the timeline is critical. Being that you're not the cause of the damages, you can start by demanding your deposit back, or have an attorney do it.

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