Renting an apartment or house can be a brutal, draining and exhausting experience. Some landlords are so sketchy about money, maintenance, even just speaking with them can give you the creeps.
Here’s one story about a landlord trying to keep someone’s security deposit as they are moving out to cover “cleaning expenses.”
Keep in mind different jurisdictions have different rules about rental leases and ending a lease, so be certain you’re acting within the law when you fight your landlord for your security deposit back.
About 10 years ago my landlord died. Or at least the person who owned the place we were renting. The property managers had been delightful, but whoever inherited wanted to sell, so the house was for sale.
Enter a jackass–we’ll call him Jack–who decides to buy the place. Now ours was the top floor (ie: attic converted into a suite) of a house, less than 35sq meters (375sq feet). The bathroom was literally where the stairs up to the top floor used to be. The place was tiny.
Jack came to check out the place, as you should before buying a place. He had one of those blue-tooth earpieces in and I can’t even remember if he even acknowledged us. He spent about 30-45 seconds in our suite.
Next time we hear from him is about a month later, apparently he’d bought the place. He stops by to give us a notice of rent increase, effective in 6 months (legal minimum). From $485 to $795. The place is not worth that much.
We say nuts to that and decide to buy a house, since WTH it’s not much more per month (surprise to anyone who’s never bought a house: it _was_ more than just mortgage payments). We give him all the required notice to move out. We move, and clean the place up really well. Mind you, when my partner moved in it was not especially clean (and we happen to have the move in inspection which mentions this).
Jack decides to try to scam us for $80 of our damage deposit for ‘cleaning.’ He doesn’t provide the required forms, just says, “I’m going to hold $80 from your damage deposit for cleaning.”
We respond with: Um, no. You’re not.
Jack (assuming we need the cash for our next damage deposit or bills and will settle for anything): Take this or I’m going to keep your whole deposit.
So he decides to just keep the whole deposit ($485).
I file paperwork with the rentalsman: who unsurprisingly, after their investigation, rule in my favour. He’s ordered to refund the whole deposit. But Jack decides, not to pay. And the rentalsman doesn’t have any enforcement powers.
So I have to go to the local sheriffs office. They can send a legal demand letter for the deposit + costs. But it will cost me $100-150 (I forget) up front. Sure go ahead.
Jack decides to ignore the sheriff’s kindly letter.
Sheriffs say that they can start proceedings to recover the debt + costs, but I again have to pay up-front: about $250, and it might take quite a while.
I guess most people quit at this point. Being out of pocket ~$700, throwing more money at the problem and maybe having to wait months didn’t appeal to them. And there’s also a chance you never collect.
I chose to pay the sheriffs. They sent another, less friendly letter to Jack. But here’s the best part: now that they’re recovering a debt, they’re going to recover on ALL of the outstanding judgements against him. And apparently he has tried this shit before.
They send him another couple letters: pay up or else.
Jack chose else.
Then they seize title to Jack’s giant white SUV (I can’t remember what it was, but not a cheap one). They didn’t physically take it away or anything, but they gave him 30 days to pay all the judgements against him or they would take it and sell it at auction.
Somehow he all of a sudden found the money. My share: $485+$150+$250=$885. The other people who’d registered judgements, but not paid to start the collections processes were about $5,000 more. I can’t remember how long the whole process took, at least 6 months though.
The Final Word
Know the rental and lease laws for where you live. They can vary from state to state, and even city to city.
And, most importantly, know let a bad landlord walk all over you. Stand up for you, and your money, so you don’t get ripped off by your landlord.