Landlord-Tenant dispute/security deposit refund

11 Replies


Hoping I can get some advice for a landlord tenant dispute in regards to the security refund on my rental property. After the tenants moved out I did a walkthrough and the place was filthy (tenant’s said they paid a cleaner $180 to clean the property but it was not clean at all). I will ask for a receipt from them but I just got the place cleaned again. I also noticed 2 drawers were missing from the refrigerator and they said they were not missing when they left the place. The lease was only for the rental property but I also own the 2 adjacent parcels and I said they can be used during your tenancy but I have the right to revoke the usage at any time (plan on building 2 houses there). Well they used the space and built multiple gardens that will now need to be removed and there are some chairs and a workout machine/pull-up bar that was left as well. I estimated (didn’t get a confirmation on the amount) that it would be $325 to have their stuff removed. They are saying the lots were not in the lease so they are not responsible for it. It is clearly their trash so they should be liable for removal correct? They are also complaining about other charges but I will supply receipts for those from the contractor that completed it.

Also, if there is a dispute like we are having and the security deposit isn’t refunded prior to the 30 day timeline what happens? I actually never had issues like this in the last 15 years of renting.

Thanks for the advice

@Shawn Underwood  

First, don't bother asking for their receipt for the supposed cleaner. It makes no difference - you found the unit in unkempt condition and have to pay someone to clean it, so that's what the tenant will need to reimburse you for via their deposit.

Hopefully you have messages or emails about their use of the side-lots. My argument would be that it is a verbal lease as confirmed by their possessions being left there, regardless of the written lease for the apartment.

If you don't pay back the deposit during the statutory timeline, that will depend on your local laws/ordinances. Here in Chicago you could be royally screwed. In other areas nothing more than liable for the disputed amount.

Landlord/tenant laws on security deposits and abandoned property may be very state specific. I am not familiar with PA, but in California, a landlord should return the security deposit less any deductions within the specified time (21 days here).

I strongly suggest sending the itemized statement with deductions and copies of receipts within your state's timeframe. If the tenant disputes it, that is for another post.

Regarding the abandoned property, again look up what your state dictates. In CA, it can be very difficult to handle personal property the right way, especially if the value is $700 or more.

And I believe Matthew above covered your other questions well. Good luck!

@Matthew Olszak thanks Matthew. I couldn’t find emails about the usage of the side lot. Everything appears to have been verbal with the one tenant that used them for gardening. The tenant who said they shouldn’t be responsible for it actually joined the existing tenant at the end of their first year lease

@Hubert Kim we have 30 days to return in PA so I will have to return it today. I looked up PA law and it does say for abandoned property that doesn’t really have value it is trash and we can charge for disposal of that trash. Throwing out items of value is a different story. But the. Again I’m not a lawyer in PA. Thanks for your feedback.

No need to have a discussion. Write up the list of deductions and send back the remainder. It’s not a negotiation. PA does not require you to send receipts as well, but it probably doesn’t hurt.

As far as each item - could you stand in front of a judge and prove that each item was in good condition when they moved in and bad condition when they moved out? If so, you’re good to charge them for it. Remember, you don’t need to prove it to the tenant, only a judge (if they happen to bring a claim, which is probably unlikely since it does sound like they actually did that damage).

Oh, PA doesn’t require it, but at this point I’d definitely send certified mail. Confirms it was sent and that they received it.

As Mike said, this isn't a negotiation; give them and itemized list and refund the remaining amount.  For the vacant lots, one thing to think about is did they maintain them (ie save you the cost of keeping them tidy) while they rented the house?

@Mike McCarthy   Thanks.  I have a lot of pictures but not everything.  you can see based on the pics the property was well taken care of.  I will reply to that's not a were the deductions and I will provide the invoice that I received.  They paid rent via Venmo so will return using that.  I never even received a return mailing address from them.

@Theresa Harris They did maintain it sometimes (in the summer when they grew vegetables) but I don't believe they were happy when I cut down the trees in the lot (had to they were just really overgrown and not manageable).  Regardless, they shouldn't have an expectation that I will remove their trash.

@Shawn Underwood you are doing the right thing hiring the cleaning and work done, so you can provide third party receipts as proof. Ideally if you have before and after photographs, that is good additional proof. Photos of missing drawers, things that were not cleaned, the gardens and trash. The point is any proof that can be used if it goes to court.

Everything you state charges for sounds reasonable too me. Return their deposit, minus these fair deductions.