Tenants of 7yrs wants full deposit back.

72 Replies

Tenants of 7yrs leaves this month and is already requesting full deposit back. I explained that I had 30 days to do the accounting.  

How do you guys handle these?
It was like that when we moved in.
That was from the weather not us.
That wasn't me, I didn't do that.
It broke over time not my fault.
I don't know how that happened.

Any advice or thoughts would be great, thanks!

We do a move in video and report-tenant signs. Inspections every 6 months-tenant signs. Move out inspection- tenant signs. You can't do a move out inspection until after everything is out. 

Seven years is pretty long tenancy lots of regular wear and tear I would think and do you know the condition from 7 years ago?

@Luke Davis In Califonia there's strict rules we have to follow when it comes to charging a person for items upon move it. With that being said I would treat this as any other move out, taking into consideration the laws placed in your area. Personally, when I had to deal with long-term residents who were moving out I wouldn't let their demands or their he said/she said stuff.  

@Luke H. I would handle it like a business, firm but kind. If the tenants think nothing was damaged or worn out during a 7 year stay there crazy. I was a tenant for 10+ years in numerous properties and learned real quick you rarely get a full deposit back. Heck in college we got screwed 9/10 times and my roommates were great. At one point we were charged for gutters falling off the roof. That landlord was clueless to property management. Good times.

@Bjorn Ahlblad , I have pictures from move in, plus we always do in interior paint, it had refinshed floors, new tile, new blinds, new ceiling fans...Yup, normal wear and tear versus damage is the big question here...

@Luke H. There’s no hard and fast rule about what’s damage vs wear and tear. But could you stand in front of a judge and explain why you charged them $$ to fix/replace whatever it is because it’s damage?

You can also look at IRS depreciation schedules. For example, carpets are depreciated over 5 years. So worn out carpet after 7 years is probably wear and tear, but big stains, rips, etc could be damage. Scuffs on the walls, wear and tear. Crayons or big holes, damage.

Broken door handles, those are a bit grayer... don’t be scared to deduct anything reasonable, but dint go crazy.

@Luke H. Perfect! You are in great shape I would inspect (with the tenant) as soon as they are out. Depending on jurisdiction you have either 15 or 30 days to produce an itemized list of damages and the balance of the deposit. The fact that the tenant is squawking already could mean the there is something waiting under the couch?

The condition of the property should be documented at move-in, with a signed report and pictures or video being an added bonus since it's almost impossible then to argue.  Once that's done, here's how I handle those questions:

1) It was like that when we moved in. - We go by what's in the documentation/move-in condition report.

2) That was from the weather not us. - It needed to be reported to us as maintenance issue (unless it was something that isn't readily observable)

3) That wasn't me, I didn't do that. - We go by what's in the documentation/move-in condition report.
It broke over time not my fault. -

4) It needed to be reported to us as maintenance issue (unless it was something that isn't readily observable)

5) I don't know how that happened. - I don't either, but It needed to be reported to us as maintenance issue (unless it was something that isn't readily observable)

As you notice, I basically have two standard answers: 1) If it's not in the condition report it's your responsibility regardless unless 2) It was due to NORMAL wear and tear (dirt, grease, grim, smudges, rips, tears, gouges, holes are NOT NORMAL...that's abuse and/or cleaning).  And if something broke due to weather/wear and tear, we expect it to be reported.

Btw, I don't argue about security deposits. If anyone asks I respond, "We refund the security deposit in accordance with the laws and timelines of the State."

Don't allow them to pressure you.  They're looking for a softie.  7 years is a long time, but that doesn't mean they get to destroy stuff.  In our last house, we had "builder's grade" carpet that we got brand new when we moved in and it lasted for 18 years without being peed on, puked on, torn, stained, or destroyed.  All you saw was light foot traffic patterns where we talked....that was it.  Some tenants have the idea that carpet should be replaced every 3 years, which is why most of our placed no longer have any carpet!

How much is the security posit? If they stayed there seven years and they’re moving out without owing you back rent count yourself blessed. 

If damages go beyond the scope of normal wear and tear. You are doing everything right. Be sure you had pictures to show how the house looked prior to them moving in. Then check once they move out and if their are damages have a vendor check them out and bill for it. This will go against the deposit. Be sure to check the deadlines and you are good to go. 

@Luke H.

Were they not good tenants? Wear and tear is normal after 7 years. I’d expect to pay back the direct deposit unless there is obvious damage that would not count as normal wear and tear. Definitely expect to paint entire house and refinish your floors. Expect to deep clean or change carpets or damaged floors if cheap laminate.

These are normal wear and tear to me.

Treat it like any other move out keeping in mind they were there for 7 years, so there will be more wear and tear.  If they leave the place clean and there aren't holes in the walls, dirty oven, garbage or similar; I'd probably give it back AFTER they have moved out, returned the keys and you've done the walk through. 

the big question is what is normal wear and tear?  I dont know about Texas, but Oregon lays it out.  We also can only charge tenants un depreciated amounts for replacement if damaged items.   So for example if the house has a 20 yo fridge and the tenant breaks it I cant charge them for a new one. I could charge them to get it fixed tho. 

the best thing to do is find  local rental owners association or multi family association and see what is best practices in your area.....

If a tenant has been there for 7 years I would expect a lot of things to fall into the "normal wear and tear" category which will keep you from being able to deduct for them. Whatever you do don't do any kind of post move out inspection until after the tenant has fully vacated. 

It's a business but renters often try to manipulate private Landlords as if it were a relationship.

Stick to your guns. Tell them you have XX days. You will follow your processes and return whatever they are owed within the timeframe allowed in accordance with the law.

Communicate in writing. Keep it short and professional. Don't engage in arguments or repeated requests. Tell them once, tell them clearly, then move on.

@Luke H. If they left the place reasonably clean and completely empty, I would give them back their full deposit as quickly as possible.

After 7 years I am assuming you are going to have some turnover costs above the norm, however remember you have avoided them the last 7 years.  I would expect a new paint job, if there are some minor scrapes or nail holes I probably would just let it slide, holes or crayon are another story.  If you have carpet and there are any issues 7 years is a good life, if they weren't new when they moved in bonus for you but count yourself lucky if you don't have to replace them.  After 7 years they may feel entitled after all the money they paid rent but be firm that it needs to be clean on moveout, especially the bathrooms and kitchen.  If everything is in good order they will be receiving their money back and the better the condition the faster they will get it back since you won't have to get any bids.  I don't know if the excuses you list are ones they have given but my favorite is I didn't do it, well neither did I but I'm assuming someone you allowed in the house did.  If they are rushing you hold your ground, once it is returned you are going to have a hard time getting it back and they may be hoping you miss something.  On the other end just because you have 30 days doesn't mean you need to use it if you know you are going to give it back.  

We always remind tenants that "turning in their home" is no different than, "turning in their lease vehicle".

Doesn't matter how a windshield was cracked, dents/scratches happened, they will be charged for it.

Tenants will try to rush you to get their money back, trying to do so usually leads to you missing something.

@Luke H.

There have been multiple well thought out responses albeit of a vague and generalized nature based on the limited initial information provided. Can you be more specific on the exact issues in order to foster more specific opinions on each point.

Good Saturday!
Thank you to everyone for your responses! There are so many details to the last 7 years here, but wanted to keep it brief.  Special thanks to @Erik W. and @Nathan G. as that is the direction I plan to take, I've been doing this for sometime, but always open to learning and your responses get me to the next level.

I have given people back their full deposit, usually the house returns in a 'used', but 'good', 'very clean' condition. Very few of those indeed. 

Cheers to land-lording during this tough time of Covid!

Texas code does not list specifics as to what can be deducted.  What you do need to adhere to is the timeline to refund and/or account for the deposit within 30 days of the property being vacated, keys returned AND forwarding address given.  The clock does not start until all of these criteria are met

As far as deductions,  my best advise is to deduct only damages that you are prepared to defend in court

@Luke H.

My advice, 7 years with little to no problems. Give back 100%. Don’t be greedy and nickel and dime unless there is a major concern. I believe in karma and good things will come if you put food things out. Also why leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth just to keep $200 of a$1XXX deposit.

Do why you think is best.

After 7 yrs - they should not expect a full deposit. 

That said, if I had a solid tenant for 7 years (assuming they were not a problem tenant), just refund it for the good vibes. 

But I get that we don’t do this for “good vibes”, so the firm but kind approach by @Jaron Walling makes the most sense. 

Originally posted by @Thomas Greer :

After 7 yrs - they should not expect a full deposit. 

The longer they've lived in the rental, the more lenient I am with charges.