former tenant sends lawyer letter over security

6 Replies

So, long story short, I am confident that my with holding of a portion of the security deposit was correct and accurate, and that it was done in the lawful time frame. 

I get this letter saying really a bunch of nothing, asserting that I willfully with held the security so now I owe them double security and if I don't pay them by X date they are authorized to file suit in Vermont SUPERIOR court.

So, can they actually take this to the superior court as even if they were to tack on lawyers fees I can't imagine it would make it past 5k?

As it is a letter, and there is literally no way in hell I am giving that awful person 2800 dollars, I am thinking I will just ignore it, if they actually file suit I will just answer that, unless someone has a good idea otherwise.

I think it would have to be small claims and they wouldn't be entitled to lawyers fees and this is just a big scary lawyer lie, but I am interested in what other more experienced people think.

Hi @Lee L. - you should have explained to the former tenant why you kept part of the security deposit- cleaning fees, unpaid rent, late fees, etc. Hopefully, you took pictures of any damage and/or have bank statements or other corroborating documentation regarding late rent and unpaid late fees. If you can back it up in a court of law, I wouldn't give them a dime. And if they drag you into court, just be honest and forthright. If you're in the right, you shouldn't be penalized for it.

I get letters like that sometimes too. I find that lawyers use very nice paper, generally, so the other side of the letters can often be used in your printer. That's highest and best use for it, IMHO 😁  

@Lee L.   In VT, you can still sue in Superior court if the amount is less than $5k, although they encourage you to use small claims for that.

Just make sure everything is thoroughly documented and you have proof you sent the deposit return within 14 days after the end of the lease.  

You can always use your attorney to send a letter back, probably wouldn't cost more than $100.  

Good luck!

-Tom

I did all of that. 

The thing is they aren't arguing too hard about what I with held for, although they dispute it, but they are arguing lack of timely return and that it was willful, which is a bit of a gray area. Burden of proof on willfullness falls to the accuser and the post mark on the envelope I sent to her shows that response was timely.

The lawyer, if it really is one, has heard one side of the story. I would sit down immediately and type a letter documenting the deposit, damages and expenses as well as a copy of the letter you already sent the tenant which explained your reasons for apply the deposit to remedy the damage.

@Lee L.   If they're arguing over "lack of a timely return" - did you mail the itemized list and remaining deposit return within 14 days from the end of the lease?  That's what it comes down to.  Even if you can't get the work down before the 14 days, you should be getting estimates and deduct based off the estimates.

Originally posted by @Tom S. :

@Lee L.  If they're arguing over "lack of a timely return" - did you mail the itemized list and remaining deposit return within 14 days from the end of the lease?  That's what it comes down to.  Even if you can't get the work down before the 14 days, you should be getting estimates and deduct based off the estimates.

I did exactly that. The lawyer is mostly trying to say that I didn't have the right to hold any money for damage that the tenant claims was done by icicles, but I discovered the damage in July after she moved out, so not an icicle in sight, she didn't call me or take pictures, and I think it was a dent caused by a car or a heavy object and she is lying. Either way I don't believe I am required to take the tenant at her word. Also her moving truck parked on my septic, because she took the stakes out that I put in to stop people from driving on the septic, so I had a camera run in the septic in case it had been damaged. Lawyer alleges malfunction has to occur for it to be legit, but I had a broken septic pipe previously that was revealed during routine maintenance even though the septic was still functioning ok so he is just wrong about that. I get that it is not a usual concern but she intentionally created that question and if there had been a problem I need to know immediately not at some future date when I could no longer hold her accountable.

The kicker is that the lawyer has the nerve to ask for twice the deposit as he has accused me of willfully withholding her deposit. I don't think he actually has any sort of case, he is just trying to scare me. I have legitimate issues caused by the tenant and I addressed them within the bounds of the law, but this whole thing is so irritating because I get this condescending communication from someone who is short on facts and evidence so is trying to hike up the scare factor, meanwhile the tenant has been a total nutcase from start to finish and she first dragged her realtor into this threatening me and I found that so inappropriate because her realtor has the business that plows our road and she shouldn't get involved and take sides because we are also paying customers, then she drags this lawyer into it, and I am thinking that SOMEONE should be talking sense into her instead of feeding into her crazy and entitled behavior.