The Battle for Our Security Deposit, Part I

I believe there are people in this world who live to take advantage of others in any way they can, and unfortunately for us, our former landlord fits the bill.

She has decided that any resemblance of decency, goodwill, responsibility and even care for the law is simply too much to ask when it comes to her tenants.

But that’s water under the bridge and not something I want to re-hash, or so I thought.

Our Latest Adventure

You might recall that our 2012 goals moved us from our old apartment to our in-laws last December. Our lease had expired months before, so giving notice to vacate was a fairly simple and straightforward process of calling up our property manager and dropping off a formal letter in the mail.

On New Year’s Eve, we bid goodbye to our home of two years and dropped off the keys.

For 45 days, things were at an absolute stop, until we finally got our deposit check in the mail last week. Unfortunately, about 85% of our deposit was missing, justified by what was labeled a “deposit itemization form.”

It outlined, in skimpy detail, all of the “damages” that we were apparently responsible for. Things that our landlord refused to fix the entire time we lived there (apparently, only to charge us when we moved out…).

Itemize This

While the rest of my day was ruined, it is my unfortunate landlord that will be upset when all is said and done.

You see, Florida only permits 30 days to make claims to a deposit, or the landlord forfeits any rights they might have to it. That’s good, because trying to fight their ridiculous “itemized claims” would have made me laugh in court. Instead, I can just cite the appropriate statues and call it a day.

Seriously, I’d really like to try out my courtroom skills. I think I’d be good at the whole “preponderance of evidence” thing.

What’s Next?

I sent a nasty-gram in the form of a certified, return-receipt letter to my landlord and the property manager last week, making it fairly clear that I expect my money in 2 weeks or less, or I’ll start wasting everybody’s time in the legal system.

The moral of the story? Suddenly, this has become a very good extra reason why we’re buying a house.

Update: Read about how this story ends in Part II of our Battle.

(photo credit)

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9 thoughts on “The Battle for Our Security Deposit, Part I

  1. My guess is that they do this as a matter of course, and hope that a good chunk of people don’t bother coming back for a fight. Which, sadly, is probably the case. Looking forward to part 2. I hate stories about crappy landlords.

    1. A family member lived in the same building and moved out at the same time, so we’re dealing with the same issues. I think you’re probably right, which is a shame.

  2. I had a landlord try to keep my deposit because they claimed I had a waterbed & it had damaged the bedroom carpet. They also tried to claim that several “girls” from the college confirmed the presence of the waterbed, too.

    Apparently, I was a “player” & didn’t even know it.

    Later, I found out this was a standard tactic of this particular rental company. I mean, what college guy was going to argue with them & deny they were a studly “ladies man”? Me…with my fiance (now my wife) by my side…that’s who!

    I felt sorry for that property manager. I always wondered if they tried that on anyone after me.

  3. I’ve had to go through the small claims process once before, Wojo — although it was to recover a $500 deposit for a puppy I never received. In my case, the dog breeder who tried to rip me off wouldn’t blink until I finally served her with court papers. Only then did she finally back down and give me my money back.

    Hopefully, your landlord will not make you go through the expense and hassle of filing, but if he does it will still be worth it.

    1. I hope so too; the fees for filing come to about 50% of what I’m actually trying to recover, and though the courts would most certainly award me the expense if I win the case, it’s still a big hassle to have to go through.

  4. Unfortunately I believe this practice is commonplace. My husband and I had a recent similarly aggravating experience. When we moved into our apartment in Canada, the walk-through was very casual, but I was assured the place had been professionally cleaned (it had not.) It turned out there were many items not readily obvious at a quick walk-through (dirty kitchen cabinets and dog hair in every crevice) that were nowhere close to clean at move-in, so I spent an entire day scrubbing before we could move in. Unfortunately I did not complain to management about this. One year later just prior to moving back to the US, we read online reviews that they were much more strict at the move-out inspection. We took this very seriously and left the apartment cleaner than when we moved in, only to discover several hundred dollars deducted from our deposit. I was furious and wrote them an email stating this, but in the end we didn’t feel like fighting with them from across the border (sigh). They probably just pocket the cash instead of hiring a cleaning company and repeat the process with the next unsuspecting tenant.

    When we moved into our new apartment in the US, I made note and took photos of every possible minor issue to the extreme that the lady in the office looked horrified when she saw the list. I explained that I’d recently been burned and wanted to be more careful this time.

    1. I think photos & a list at move-in are a great practice. I wish we had been more serious at our move in as well–you never know what you’re going to face when you have to move out and how your relationship with the landlord changes as you live there, so it’s best to be prepared!

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