Landlord Uses Deposit to Fix Pre-Occupancy Problems, What are Tenants Rights?

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“After moving out of the townhouse that my wife and I were renting, the landlord refused to let us accompany him on the walk through inspecting for damages. Eventually, he gave in and allowed us to walk through with him. The place was in the same condition as it was when we rented it; including the problems with leaky water pipes, pigeons, and rodents that we had informed him of during the course of our lease. He then tells us that he has 30 days to return our deposit of $750.00 to us. After talking for awhile, we agreed as long as he gave us receipts for any repairs. 30 days later we received a computer printed receipt from and by him, for $920.00 worth of repairs. The receipt included charges for damages caused by the leaks that he never attended to; cleaning up of remains and droppings from birds and rodents by a cleaning company, labor charges for yard work that he performed himself and charges for the supplies to do it with. What options do I have to fight this?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Landlord tenant law is a large, complex and ripe area of law, and the laws vary greatly from state to state. There is a lot of law which protects tenants rights, and also a lot of law which protects landlords rights. However, in your case, the simplest and probably most effective thing to do would be to take the landlord to small claims court. Hopefully you notified the landlord of the problems in writing, and the complaints in your writings correspond to the repairs that the landlord made with your deposit.

You may also want to look into reporting the landlord to whatever local or state board in your area oversees landlord tenant issues. Sometimes the threat of an investigation from a landlord-tenant overseeing agency will make a recalcitrant landlord think twice about playing fast with a tenant’s deposit.

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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