Tenant Breached Lease, Suing for Deposit

6 Replies

I have a tenant who recently moved out. They left the property filthy and with tons of broken stuff. Deposit was $2800, and I sent a check and letter to them for $1880 after they moved out. I never heard back, and I forgot to follow up with them. On day 46 (lease says deposit must be returned in 45 days) they reached out and said I owe them the entirety of their deposit. I said no, I sent you a check already, they are threatening to take me to court. 

I did not sent the letter certified and forgot to follow up, which are clearly mistakes on my part. They claim they never received a letter, I know I sent it. I can go into a he-said, she-said argument in small claims over that. If I lose, so be it, but I paid $920 on their behalf and I don't believe I should be responsible for it. Not gonna break the bank, but I think this is as clear as day -- they are responsible for that $920.

However, more importantly, only two tenants (of four), were ever on the lease, and only one of the four tenants ever signed the lease.  And all four of them are threatening to sue. The one who was on the lease moved out of state, so if she doesn't show up to court, can the other tenant really sue me? 

Secondly, I have documented violations of the lease prior to them moving out. They had two people living their without my written approval (which is required per the lease). I let it happen in the spirit of a good relationship, but they they are trying to claim lease technicalities with me, when they've clearly violated the lease multiple times. 

So my question is -- do you think I can have this throw out because a) the person at court will likely not have signed the lease, b) the tenants violated the lease multiple times? 

Lastly, if I somehow lose in small claims, can I counter-sue over the lease violations not pertaining to the deposit? 

I am not asking for anything outrageous. I even did the labor to fix their broken stuff for free. I am just asking them to pay for the materials and expenses I paid out of pocket to cover their failures to live up to the lease. 

@Dave Meyer  

Did they cash your check? If they did then they got the letter.

I think most tenants that are threatening to sue do not follow through, not saying your may follow through or not.

I would call their bluff and see what happens.

If you have documentation and photos of the damage you should be fine.

You can always consult with an attorney.

@Dave Meyer my guess is your best argument is the three suing you don't have a lease with you and the security deposit is not their's.  They were simply guest of the tenant. Of course then the issue comes up, who did you send the returned deposit too? Did it go to the person who actually is on the lease? If that person comes out of the woodwork then you potentially have a problem again. 

I think @John Underwood nailed it. They are probably bluffing. Who is going to take their case when they don't even have a signed lease?

They haven't cashed the check. I guess the question is, should I just sent them the check for $2800, and lose the $920? They are claiming they'll sue for treble damages which I guess can add up.

Can I counter-sue for the illegal tenants? They had more than the allowed occupancy and had people living there full time (which I can prove) that never applied or were given permission (which is necessary). Can I counter sue, for what I would have raise rent for the x months they lived there? So there was an extra person, I charge $500/pp, and she lives there for 9 months, so I can counter-sue for $4500?

Hi Dave,

  You need a property manager that is firm but fair and a handyman that charges a reasonable rate.  Along with a rental checklist that states how much will be charged for each burnt out lightbulb and how much for oven cleaning etc. You can always waive that for a good tenant exiting.  When they have the expectations in advance you generally get better tenants.  Document with photos before & after.

  Your a softy to do them a favor after they took advantage of you.  So put a firm voice in your stead.  Anybody can sue anybody for anything, But being a party to the agreement does matter in a court so don't fret going fully documented.

  I have been the handyman for almost 20 yrs for a property manager in Maryland, got lots of tales of what I've seen, even 249 nail holes in one townhouse and fixed them all at the tenants expense.