Tentant is disputing Claim against tentant security deposit

9 Replies

Tentant was late on rent (last month of lease) sent a 3 day notice to pay rent or vacate. I received a letter from her during that time (she moved out 8 days before the end of lease)  with the house keys, garage opener, and receipt from the steam cleaner and a fifty dollar check that she advised I should use that w/ her security deposit as the deposit wasn’t the full amount of rent.  She advise she could not make the payment. 

I did a walk through the day after recieveing the letter and   Notice a musty mold smell, rust & soap scum in both showers, a few scuff marks on the walls, dirty kids hand prints on the lower corner  end of one wall, broken towel bar, one broken blind and fleas. 

I did require a pet deposit of $300. The pest control company I used only charged me $130 w/ a warranty. 

As the tentant and I corresponded back and forth after I advised w/ an invoice of the issues including having to retouch the paint do to a few  scuff marks I was putting a claim against her deposit ($1100.00) She advised I should use the remaining $220 from the from the P.Deposit to replace the single blind and towel bar as the hardware was already in place. 

My last letter I threanted to send her to collections and take her to small claims court. I also advised if we had to go to court I would sue her for a month of lost income due to having to spray for fleas. 

To be fair... her move-in  checklist does show soap scum/rust, mismatch paint, dirty baseboards, mold smell. 

Question: Would I have a good shot of winning this case if I take her to small claims for $1100.00

Thank you in advance! 

It's a little hard to understand what you're charging her security deposit for, but if you're trying to charge her for the musty mold smell, rust & soap scum in the showers, or retouching the paint due to a few scuff marks and/or the dirty kid hand prints on the walls that you mentioned, then in my opinion you would have zero chance of winning in court.  Not only are those things typically considered normal wear and tear, but even worse for you is that you say they were all listed on the move-in checklist. 

The only things I could see her being responsible for are replacing the broken towel bar and window blind (maybe $100 total for both, at the most) and treating the fleas ($130 according to you). 

STOP!  

If it's a FL property, you need to go to the county website and print out the form that allows you to keep the deposit to be used for loss rent, repairs, etc.

Then send the form by Certified mail to her new address (if known) as well as to your rental property address, giving notice of your intensions to keep the deposit for loss rent and repairs.

QUESTION: did you pull a 3 bureau credit report on this girl before you entered into a lease with her or because she seemed like such a nice person and/or was very pretty, you didn't require one?

If you did pull credit, and if her credit was half way okay (and if you won't be inadvertently hurting children), go for the jugular! (figuratively speaking) 

Do not let her get away with harming you financially as a landlord.  Make a laundry list of all the damages and costs to repair and take pictures.

Then file in small claims court (up to 5,000 + all court costs including costs to have her served) and have her served at her place of work by the Sherriff's dept.

If the Sherriff dept. can't locate her to serve her, they'll let you know, so you can then hire a Process Server company.  They'll track her down like a bloodhound and will serve her.  Then add that cost to the total as well.

This is exactly why Investors need a "LOW JACK" in their LLC name:

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/552/topics/560954-fl-mortgage-broker-attach-a-low-jack-to-your-llc-name

 

  

Let me share a couple observations based on what you've provided.

1. You shouldn't have a "back-and-forth" conversation with the tenant. Inspect, charge, and send a final statement in accordance with the law. It sounds like you've gotten emotional over this and have lost all sense of reason.

2. The tenant attempted to do the right thing. She couldn't afford the unit so she moved out, paid to have the carpets cleaned, and gave you enough to cover the rent for that month. When the tenant tries to do the right thing, you should take that into consideration.

3. Her move-in checklist identified "soap scum/rust, mismatch paint, dirty baseboards, mold smell." The tenant was kind enough to overlook these things. Why are you holding the tenant to a higher standard than you hold yourself?

4. A "few scuff marks" would be considered ordinary wear-and-tear. The towel bar and blind can be replaced for under $100 and the handprints could be cleaned with a couple minutes of your time and some warm, soapy water. What are you getting so wound up about? Where's your loss? Where's the evidence this tenant did you wrong?

5. You told her to get out and she complied. In fact, she moved out eight days before the lease terminated and she ensured rent was paid for that entire month. Legally, she is the rightful occupant of the rental until the end of the month but she handed it over to you early. This gave you an entire week to treat for fleas and get it ready for the next tenant. How do you justify charging her for a month of vacancy?

You gave the tenant notice and she complied. She cleaned the place and missed a couple things. The deposit was sufficient for covering the unpaid rent, the flea treatment, and the minor issues she was responsible for. Despite her trying to do all the right things, you're still threatening to sue her?

I think you're being completely unreasonable and your complaints are unjustified. You admittedly hand the tenant a less-than-perfect rental and then hold her to a higher standard. Everything I've read here says the tenant is trying to do the right thing and you are being vindictive. 

I appreciate the honesty and yes I ran her background. She had great rental history and credit.  The issue I’m having w/ the musty mold smell from the carpets is when she had the carpets cleaned and officially vacated, she also turned the power off as the carpets dried leaving a musty mold smell. She should have at least left the power on so the carpets could dry properly. 

I could not reclean the carpents until the fleas were gone and that took about three weeks. That is the reason I’m wanting to sue for a month of lost income. 

I also noticed looking back on the lease as she was there for two years... it say nothing as to how she should have left the home. In addition to my original post, I had to deep clean interior, clean inside and outside of all windows tracks and sweep out garage. I sent her an invoice however if I take her to court will I have to furnish the actual receipts or will the invoice constitute proof?  

I would let this go. Even if things do go your way and you get a judgement they’re pretty hard to collect on. I think it will cost you more in the long run to pursue this. I know it stinks but it’s part of the business.

@Julie Ann ,

Sounds like this renter did you very wrong and you will get justice in Small Claims court.

And if she has good credit, she'll likely show up and will agree to pay and settle in mediation, before the case even goes as far as a trial.

If not, a judgment on her credit for ANYTHING that has to do with housing will haunt her when trying to rent or purchase a home and will GROW in amount until she pays you for the damage.

You just need to stay strong and focused.  

@Nathan G. Is completely right on all points! You are being completely unreasonable and are looking for ways to nickel and dime this tenant over. She left early she tried to get the carpets cleaned she gave you an extra check, good lord what else do you want lol. I wish those were mine and other landlords bad tenants!

Legally you are permitted to deduct only the cost of materials and contractor fees from tenant deposits. You may not charge for your own time as that is considered by th ecourts as part of th ejob you are receiving rent payment for.

How much is your time worth?  

Collect all your receipts, copy all 'back and forth' (wrong--shouldn't be discussing) correspondence with the ex tenant, photos of the property, ledger of the rental, trip to court, filing fees, court costs, stress and maybe some lost sleep the night before the hearing.

Let it go.  

If you get a judgment, tough to collect.  If the judge throws the case out, you've lost in a big way.  

Learn a lesson (you figure it out) and chalk this up to an inexpensive class in the school of Landlord/Tenant.  IMHO, if this happened to me, I'd consider myself lucky, happily move on, and consider having the next tenant pay first, last, plus security.

Keep moving forward!