getting security deposit back in South Carolina

17 Replies

Hello,

I am trying to get my security deposit back. I cleaned the apartment very well upon move-out (I've spent a lot of time cleaning and left it in probably better condition than in when I moved-in) and there was no damage (the rental agency doesn't even claim damages in move-out charges list).  I also provided cheque for professional carpet cleaning to them.  I have made photos/videos upon move-out so I believe I can win the case as there is nothing that I didn't pay or violated etc. 

But I have no idea which charges are legal and which are not... which forms to use to submit the case to small claims court. Actually never been to the court before so don't know where to start.
I already tried to settle the issue by phone/email.

The the rental agency listed the following charges in move-out inspection form:
1) Apartment cleaning
2) Turn on water for cleaning (city charge)
3) Stove drip pans replacement

I don't agree with any charges and believe that at least the 2nd charge is simply illegal, but how to prove it in the court?

Are these charges legal in SC?

Are there other ways to get deposit back from  the rental agency besides small claims court?

Any even very basic advise will be useful for me. Please don't assume that I know smth b/c it is very common. Thanks!

i worked at an apartment complex for a couple of years but i have never heard of the second charge. Why would you need to turn on the water for cleaning? Shouldn't it be turned on already. Anyways the other two are legit but if you've taken care of these issues then you should receive your full deposit. If you have video and photos then you could probably speak to an attorney and get a professional opinion.

Hope you're.able to get your money back.

Good luck.

What is the amount that is being charged for each of the line items?

Hi Stas: First, you need to check the Civil Code for your State as it should have a list of items that can be legally deducted from your security deposit. I'm pretty sure you will find that turning on the water will not be on that list, and it sounds as though you are being honest regarding the cleaning you did before you moved out. The drip pan item is something that is a bit of a grey area. Check your lease carefully for any clauses covering the condition of the apartment and take note that if it states any items that are not legal according to your State Code, the Code will generally take precedence in court. The best way to proceed is to take your landlord to Small Claims Court; here in CA that is quite inexpensive and you don't need to have a lawyer represent you. My best guess is that once the Judge sees how organized you are with all your evidence, he/she will know you are a conscientious person and not just trying to get something you don't deserve. At worst, you could lose and be out the fee for Small Claims, but at best, you will win and your landlord will be forced to return your deposit PLUS all your court fees. Go for it...I believe you are in the right here so you have no reason to be intimidated. Best of luck!

That sounds like pretty minor stuff cost wise... did they keep the entire deposit? I believe the City of Columbia water department charges a reconnect fee so you were probably required to give the landlord notice of when it was to be turned off so that they could have it put back in their name.  That may be what that is about. As for cleaning, I've seen a lot of apartments that tenants claimed were clean where cleaners had to go back in and it could be for a variety of reasons.  The landlord should have given you a specific set of instructions on what they expected.  As for it being cleaner than when you moved in, hopefully you had some sort of move in checklist or inspection where you documented where it was dirty.  I'm not sure about the drip pans. 

Originally posted by @Maggie Tasseron :

Hi Stas: First, you need to check the Civil Code for your State as it should have a list of items that can be legally deducted from your security deposit. I'm pretty sure you will find that turning on the water will not be on that list

Hello, that you for your reply. My internet access is limited, so I cannot reply as often as I would like, sorry.

I found Civil Code about security deposit for South Carolina (SECTION 27-40-410):

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t27c040.php

There is nothing said about how clean should the apartment be upon move-out and doesn't have a list of items that can be legally deducted from your security deposit. Is this the Civil Code you are talking about? Or could somebody point me to the appropriate document?

Originally posted by @Daryl Williams :

i worked at an apartment complex for a couple of years but i have never heard of the second charge. Why would you need to turn on the water for cleaning? Shouldn't it be turned on already. Anyways the other two are legit but if you've taken care of these issues then you should receive your full deposit. If you have video and photos then you could probably speak to an attorney and get a professional opinion.

Thank you for your reply! The thing is that water was in my name while I was leaving at the apartment, so I had to turn it off upon leaving. I gave a move-out notice to the rental company, which has clear water turn-off date with their signature.  Since you have so much experience, are you familiar with South Carolina law where I can determine what can be charged and what not?

Is there a legal document for South Carolina that clearly says to which condition should be apartment cleaned? I am ready to go to a court, but don't know what exactly do I need to prove there and therefore will have no chance especially that I am not a native speaker.

I am poor therefore cannot afford to go to a lawyer much, otherwise why I would ask for help from random people on the internet?;) 

Originally posted by @Chris DeTreville :

I've seen a lot of apartments that tenants claimed were clean where cleaners had to go back in and it could be for a variety of reasons.  The landlord should have given you a specific set of instructions on what they expected.  As for it being cleaner than when you moved in, hopefully you had some sort of move in checklist or inspection where you documented where it was dirty.  I'm not sure about the drip pans. 

I recently met my former neighbour from the same building and same rental agency, she said she moved out BEFORE the end of the lease, left her apartment in complete mess and even with damages and she was not charged for anything! But she is a native American.

Therefore I believe this has nothing to do with how well I cleaned the apartment. They simply know that I am not native speaker, recently in US therefore don't know the law and  hence its going to be easy to cheat me. 

So to sum up the current state is: I have sent certified mail to them and ready to go to a court in case it does not help but still have no idea how to build my position.

I think more or less clear is only for with stove drip pans: the law says a landlord cannot charge for normal wear and tear, hence they will have to prove that all 4 pans are in need of replacement and still it is going to be prorated depending on average pans life and cost, which is also can be disputable. Am I right?

If yes, how do show the average life of pans in the court? With price is should be easy I could bring a picture from some shop.

Originally posted by @Stas Vernon :
Originally posted by @Maggie Tasseron:

Hi Stas: First, you need to check the Civil Code for your State as it should have a list of items that can be legally deducted from your security deposit. I'm pretty sure you will find that turning on the water will not be on that list

Hello, that you for your reply. My internet access is limited, so I cannot reply as often as I would like, sorry.

I found Civil Code about security deposit for South Carolina (SECTION 27-40-410):

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t27c040.php

There is nothing said about how clean should the apartment be upon move-out and doesn't have a list of items that can be legally deducted from your security deposit. Is this the Civil Code you are talking about? Or could somebody point me to the appropriate document?

 Hi Stas: I just Googled Landlord Tenant Act South Carolina and it led me to the "South Carolina Code of Laws", which would be what here in CA is called the Civil Code. These all vary from state to state but you should find what you need there. Best of luck and please feel free to ask if you need any more information.

hi stas, like Maggie said the SC Landlord tenant act would be your best source of info. I knowvat the last place i worked they would give vacating tenants move out packet.and in there would be a document which lists everything that needs to be cleaned and what the charges would be for each one if they weren't. They would also do a funal walktrough with the tenant and go over every item to ensure that they did in fact clean how they were supposed to. 

replacing stove drip pans costs what, $8?

Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum :

replacing stove drip pans costs what, $8?

 That's what I was thinking, too.  Not to mention that should be an item replacement considered normal wear and tear.

I would love to hear the amount of security deposit that was withheld.  

Originally posted by @Stas Vernon :
Originally posted by @Chris D.:

I've seen a lot of apartments that tenants claimed were clean where cleaners had to go back in and it could be for a variety of reasons.  The landlord should have given you a specific set of instructions on what they expected.  As for it being cleaner than when you moved in, hopefully you had some sort of move in checklist or inspection where you documented where it was dirty.  I'm not sure about the drip pans. 

I recently met my former neighbour from the same building and same rental agency, she said she moved out BEFORE the end of the lease, left her apartment in complete mess and even with damages and she was not charged for anything! But she is a native American.

Therefore I believe this has nothing to do with how well I cleaned the apartment. They simply know that I am not native speaker, recently in US therefore don't know the law and  hence its going to be easy to cheat me. 

So to sum up the current state is: I have sent certified mail to them and ready to go to a court in case it does not help but still have no idea how to build my position.

I think more or less clear is only for with stove drip pans: the law says a landlord cannot charge for normal wear and tear, hence they will have to prove that all 4 pans are in need of replacement and still it is going to be prorated depending on average pans life and cost, which is also can be disputable. Am I right?

If yes, how do show the average life of pans in the court? With price is should be easy I could bring a picture from some shop.

 How much of the deposit are they keeping?

Originally posted by @Randy E. :
Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum:

replacing stove drip pans costs what, $8?

 That's what I was thinking, too.  Not to mention that should be an item replacement considered normal wear and tear.

I would love to hear the amount of security deposit that was withheld.  

I have to assume that somebody from the rental office finds this thread, therefore cannot post exact values here as it will make too easy to identify that I am their client. Can give approximate numbers though. They charged me OVER 25$ for drip pans and about 250$ total.

Paranoid much?

For what it's worth, next door in Georgia Lowes charges $5 and $6 EACH for drip pans so yes, a set of four might cost $20-$25 to replace.  You'd actually argue over this amount (and yes, I charge tenants if I have to replace these because doing so typically means to range and under the pans have to be cleaned)?

You're NOT going to find a law specifically listing each and every break down of what a landlord can take out of a security deposit in South Carolina.  If you disagree with what was kept from your security deposit you typically write what is known as a "demand" letter, demanding what you believe you are fairly owed from your deposit and giving management a certain amount of time (say, two weeks after they receive the letter) to return these funds to you.


If no satisfaction then you consider a lawsuit for these funds.  Such lawsuits are typically handled through Small Claims (or your states version of such) as they involve relatively small amounts of money in dispute.  Your photographs you made at move out (the court may not agree to view your video's if these require additional electronics to be set) would be your evidence to dispute any claims of damages management may make.   Filing for this court is relatively inexpensive and if you've never attended such a hearing you can always attend a few prior to yours to see how they are run.


Gail

Originally posted by @Gail K. :

You're NOT going to find a law specifically listing each and every break down of what a landlord can take out of a security deposit in South Carolina.  If you disagree with what was kept from your security deposit you typically write what is known as a "demand" letter, demanding what you believe you are fairly owed from your deposit and giving management a certain amount of time (say, two weeks after they receive the letter) to return these funds to you.

Yes, already send it. Waiting for their reply


If no satisfaction then you consider a lawsuit for these funds.  Such lawsuits are typically handled through Small Claims (or your states version of such) as they involve relatively small amounts of money in dispute.  Your photographs you made at move out (the court may not agree to view your video's if these require additional electronics to be set) would be your evidence to dispute any claims of damages management may

Can I bring my notebook and use it in a court for showing video?

make.   Filing for this court is relatively inexpensive and if you've never attended such a hearing you can always attend a few prior to yours to see how they are run.

So all small court hearings are open and I can attend any? Would be great help to prepare.

Just watch a few episodes of judge Judy. There's always something landlord-tenant in there.
Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum :
Just watch a few episodes of judge Judy. There's always something landlord-tenant in there.

Is it really how it goes in small claims court?

Seems like a show rather. 

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