My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: California
Here's the situation:
My wife and I moved out of our 1-bedroom apartment last month. With notice of intent to vacate we included a request to have a move-out inspection conducted without our presence (I was relocating to a new city and couldn't make it to an inspection), but requested a list of the repairs that needed to be fixed so that we could hire someone to fix anything that needed it.
My landlord never responded to our request, nor did she provide an itemized move-out inspection. This month, prior to the 21 days required to return the deposit, she sent a certified letter stating that she was keeping our entire deposit and charging us more than $2,000 in additional repairs. We left the apartment with very little damage, if any that could be considered beyond reasonable wear and tear. She is charging us for painting the entire apartment, despite no major damage, but at the ridiculous cost of more than $2,000, excluding supplies.
The "invoice" she submitted to us was labeled "Invoice #1" and has no contact information for the individual responsible for the estimate, and includes 6 men working a total of 108 man-hours to paint a 1 bedroom, apartment. We believe that she is taking advantage of us so that she can remodel her condo (she moved out when we moved in and was not planning on moving back, now she lives there again) and there were the original cans of paint left at the apartment for any areas that did need to be touched up.
Ordinarily, I would have no problem forfeiting some of our deposit for repairs or cleaning that needed to be done, but I believe that in this case her charges are extremely excessive and believe that she has acted in bad faith.
As a landlord, she was almost completely inaccessible. Our kitchen light was broken for three months, as well as our garbage disposal, and it was only fixed after we took it upon ourselves to do so. She had a realtor acting on her behalf (she moved to another state), but that realtor returned less than 10% of our calls. Additionally, we were supposed to have off-street parking with our condo and she would not renew the parking permit and had we not been home one night my wife's car would have been towed as a result.
I've reviewed this site and California tenant law for precedent, and believe that in violating CA tenant law that she may not have the right to keep any of our deposit. Is this correct?
I'm sure that it seems like if she's asking for more than $4,000 that we must have left that place in complete shambles, but that is honestly not the case. Like I said, there were a few nail holes in the wall, there was a minor hole in the bathroom wall where the towel rack came out of the wall, however you can easily see that it happened at least 2 times before we moved in as the wall was obviously patched (someone didn't use anchors to hang it) and there were a few stains on the bedroom carpet, but the carpet was 5+ years old when we moved in and was poor quality, the room was 10x10. Other than that, the place was perfect.
Do we have to forfeit our deposit? What about the cost to clean? She had stainmaster come in and clean the apartment for roughly $300 and had the carpet cleaned for another $100, but she is also charging to have the carpet replaced for roughly $500. The apartment was merely broom swept when we moved in and in relatively the same condition when we moved out. No garbage left inside, no mold or mildew, no grease. We only lived in the apartment for a year and left it in great shape, so it was a huge surprise that she was asking for nearly $4,000 to fix it up.
What are our options? Does anyone have any guidance on how we should proceed? Any and all help is appreciated.
Also, and this is almost a moot point, but I read that if small claims finds that she has used our deposit in bad faith that we could be awarded 2x the deposit in damages. Is this true? Is this likely? Honestly, I could care less as long as we don't have to forfeit our deposit or pay extra out of pocket. Her charges seem quite excessive, and could be borderline fraudulent, I mean what legitimate company would submit an invoice with no contact information, just a list of guys names, hours worked, and amount paid, especially when that invoice was invoice #1. I only want to be treated fairly, and if it cost $X to clean or fix, fine, I'm willing to pay that, but not $4,000.
Thanks in advance for any insight. I'm more than happy to provide further details if need be.