My question involves a security deposit in the State of: California
I apologize in advance for the long message, but there are lots of details and I wanted to give a full picture of the situation.
I rented a house in LA with friends from March 2008 until March 2010. The house was very large and rent was relatively low for the area. It was a great place and the property manager/landlord did not meddle in our business and we did not meddle in theirs. In September of 09, we received a notice of foreclosure & auction proceedings against the mortgagee (not the LLC we wrote our rent checks to, but against the property nonetheless). The property manager told us they were attempting a short sale on the property and that was the reason for the auction notice. Although most everyone advised against this, we continued to pay rent; we reasoned that we still had a place to live and had a legal agreement with the owner that was in effect until the property was auctioned and changed ownership. Also, having my name on the lease I didn't want to deal with an eviction in the future. The property manager advised that the auction would be postponed, and it was from that time until even today.
The auction was postponed on a monthly basis for a variety of reasons stated on the trustee website (at first it was lender request, most recently it listed bankruptcy as the reason). Also during December of 2009, one of the people in the house decided to vacate for personal reasons. We asked the landlord to share this burden & reduce our rent by that share since with the house being in foreclosure/auction, it would be difficult for us to find anyone to move in. After some negotiation, they agreed and rent was reduced for January and February. It seemed all they cared about was getting a check of some sort. Still, near the end of January, we realized the situation was not sustainable and advised the property manager that we intended to move out by March 1st.
We vacated by March 1st and today I received an itemized statement (full of misspellings) that detailed the "use" of the security deposit. Coincidentally, the list completely eliminates our security deposit
Although I doubt they were completed, about a third of the charges are reasonable (cleaning of $250 & itemized repairs of $750 including some painting beyond normal wear & tear); I question the rest, including: a $500 fee to shampoo carpets (the house is 60% stone flooring plus we lived there for 2 years), plus the full amount of the decreased rent from January and February, as well as rent due for the first 3 days in March. The property manager seemed to want me to be present for an inspection and we were charged for the days in March until I told him that our notice from January was still valid and the property was vacant with the keys locked inside on March 1st as promised.
-Can the landlord withhold rent from Jan/Feb after previously agreeing to those amounts? I don't have a contract to that effect, but I do have emails where both parties agreed, and of course cashed checks.
-Am I responsible for the time in March when they are stating we were in 'possession' of the property? I don't know what constitutes a change in possession but the house was vacated as stated. Further, I noticed the house for rent on craigslist on March 2nd (with pictures of the inside, vacated as we left it). I took a screen capture of this ad as it has now expired/removed.
-I intend to request receipts for the repairs and cleaning as per my rights in CA.
-Side note: 5 days before vacating, we did ask the property manager when he was free to inspect the property. His reply was 'when it is vacant'. My understanding of CA civil code allows me to request an initial inspection before vacating, and we did not receive it. Is this correct?
I appreciate any insight and advice, and at this point my next step (based on CA civil code) is to send written notification to the LLC that we dispute the charges and request receipts for repairs performed. I am uncertain what law, if any, is applicable to the rent from Jan/Feb/Mar. This is important as it is 50% of the deposit amount.
All of this is possibly moot because of the bankruptcy filing, but my understanding is tenants claims come before any creditor and my sense is they are keeping the deposit in bad faith, so I intend to exercise all of my rights and go to small claims court if necessary. We were extremely cooperative as tenants, so now that we are being shit on I will do everything legally possible to make this process difficult on the landlord.
If you've made it this far, I apologize for the essay, but thanks!!!!