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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Default Landlord is Withholding Deposit but There Was No Damage on the Move Out Inspection

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Washington

    My question is two fold:
    1) During the move-out inspection, with both the landlords and their agent, there was almost no damage noted on the checklist. The inspection took more than 2 hours for a 3 bedroom townhouse. They noted that we hadn't cleaned behind the refrigerator and there was a damage to the track of the door for one closet. However, when we got the check for the deposit, they had retain $1526 of our $1600 deposit. They listed the following charges, the ~$450 to close out the utilities (which were in our name and we normally pay every month), ~$400 for refinishing the hardwood floors, $300 for the misc repairs, $400 for cleaning. My first question is, how binding is the move out inspection? No damage was listed for the floors for instance. We also noted that there was scuffs and damage to the floors on the move in and there was no mention on the move out. Can they charge us for a bunch of stuff that wasn't noted on the inspection?

    2) They are required to provide a itemized list of repairs that they are withholding your deposit within 14 days for in Washington. I would think misc repairs doesn't suffice. What is the penalty in this case? They provided itemize items such as hardwood refinishing but they didn't itemize everything. If we have to take them to small claims court to get our deposit back, is the fact that they didn't itemize everything properly mean that we automatically get the entire deposit back?

    Thank you,

    Kevin

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Landlord is Withholding Deposit but There Was No Damage on the Move Out Inspectio

    Quote Quoting kroach
    View Post
    They listed the following charges, the ~$450 to close out the utilities (which were in our name and we normally pay every month),
    So you agree you owed that money?
    Quote Quoting kroach
    ~$400 for refinishing the hardwood floors,
    Did you damage the floors? If so, what was the nature of the damage? If you know, when were the floors last refinished, and what was the total cost of refinishing versus the amount charged to you?
    Quote Quoting kroach
    $300 for the misc repairs,
    By that, you mean the repairs identified during the walk-through? And you agree with the amounts?
    Quote Quoting kroach
    $400 for cleaning.
    What does your lease say about cleaning? Is the charge for general cleaning, or did they find issues that required cleaning beyond what would be expected at the normal end of a lease?
    Quote Quoting kroach
    No damage was listed for the floors for instance.
    The damage either exists or it does not exist.
    Quote Quoting kroach
    We also noted that there was scuffs and damage to the floors on the move in and there was no mention on the move out.
    And?
    Quote Quoting kroach
    Can they charge us for a bunch of stuff that wasn't noted on the inspection?
    Again, are we talking about damage you caused, or are you hoping to get out of paying for the repair of damage you caused? They can charge you to repair damage you cause.
    Quote Quoting kroach
    2) They are required to provide a itemized list of repairs that they are withholding your deposit within 14 days for in Washington. I would think misc repairs doesn't suffice.
    You told us "the misc repairs" - are you telling us that you know that "the misc repairs" refers to repair of damages you have been told about and agree are your responsibility, or are you in fact confused about what they mean?
    Quote Quoting RCW 59.18.280. Moneys paid as deposit or security for performance by tenant — Statement and notice of basis for retention — Remedies for landlord's failure to make refund.
    Within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement and vacation of the premises or, if the tenant abandons the premises as defined in RCW 59.18.310, within fourteen days after the landlord learns of the abandonment, the landlord shall give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement. No portion of any deposit shall be withheld on account of wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises. The landlord complies with this section if the required statement or payment, or both, are deposited in the United States mail properly addressed with first-class postage prepaid within the fourteen days.

    The notice shall be delivered to the tenant personally or by mail to his or her last known address. If the landlord fails to give such statement together with any refund due the tenant within the time limits specified above he or she shall be liable to the tenant for the full amount of the deposit. The landlord is also barred in any action brought by the tenant to recover the deposit from asserting any claim or raising any defense for retaining any of the deposit unless the landlord shows that circumstances beyond the landlord's control prevented the landlord from providing the statement within the fourteen days or that the tenant abandoned the premises as defined in RCW 59.18.310. The court may in its discretion award up to two times the amount of the deposit for the intentional refusal of the landlord to give the statement or refund due. In any action brought by the tenant to recover the deposit, the prevailing party shall additionally be entitled to the cost of suit or arbitration including a reasonable attorney's fee.

    Nothing in this chapter shall preclude the landlord from proceeding against, and the landlord shall have the right to proceed against a tenant to recover sums exceeding the amount of the tenant's damage or security deposit for damage to the property for which the tenant is responsible together with reasonable attorney's fees.
    If you caused the damage but your landlord violated the statute, you can sue for your deposit under the statute and he can countersue for the full amount of the damage you caused. This statute does not remove your landlord's right to hold you responsible for damages - it relates only to whether and when he can retain part or all of the security deposit to be applied toward those damages.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    2

    Default Re: Landlord is Withholding Deposit but There Was No Damage on the Move Out Inspectio

    I have emailed the landlord with a request for explanation of the withholding the deposit. Her response was that she wanted to return the apartment to a "like-new" condition between each renter. She is under the impression that we are responsible for paying to repaint the walls and refinish the floors regardless of how much wear we imposed on them. We needed to move in by a specific date so there was not enough time to repair the damage to the floors prior to our tenancy.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    Quoting kroach

    They listed the following charges, the ~$450 to close out the utilities (which were in our name and we normally pay every month),
    So you agree you owed that money?
    I owed that money to the local utility company. In the lease, I am responsible for all the utilities. The various companies, phone, electric, water, billed me directly and I sent them a check every month. The landlord took the money out of my deposit, went around to all the utilities, switched the accounts back to their name and paid off our last bill. I was originally concerned because the water company still showed a balance but it turned out that it just took several days to post the payment. I am just mildly annoyed about this behavior. I owed that amount to the the utilities regardless but none of my previous landlords engaged in this behavior.


    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    ~$400 for refinishing the hardwood floors,

    So you agree you owed that money?

    Did you damage the floors? If so, what was the nature of the damage? If you know, when were the floors last refinished, and what was the total cost of refinishing versus the amount charged to you?
    I don't agree with these charges. There was minor wear to the hardwoods prior to us moving in and we noted the damage on our move in inspection. We had area rugs and pads under our furniture for our entire tenancy. My question is what legal weight/evidence is the move in/move out inspection? We have in our hands, a move in inspection that had many items, such as damage to the cabinet veneers, floors, appliances. Our move out inspection has 3 items that they found to be not cleaned to their standards: behind the refrigerator, behind the washer/dryer and the bathroom vent fans, and two items that were damaged: the track of one closet and a light out in the stairway. I didn't take detailed pictures of the floors because they didn't note any damage. Is the move-out checklist a strong legal position that I shouldn't have to pay for the hardwood floor repair?
    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    Quoting kroach
    $300 for the misc repairs,

    By that, you mean the repairs identified during the walk-through? And you agree with the amounts?
    There was only two items to be repaired on the move out walk through. The track of a closet and a incandescent lightbulb was burned out. I don't really know what they are including in misc repairs but I don't think the closet should have cost $300.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    What does your lease say about cleaning? Is the charge for general cleaning, or did they find issues that required cleaning beyond what would be expected at the normal end of a lease?

    Quoting kroach
    No damage was listed for the floors for instance.

    The damage either exists or it does not exist.

    Quoting kroach

    We also noted that there was scuffs and damage to the floors on the move in and there was no mention on the move out.
    And?

    Quoting kroach
    Can they charge us for a bunch of stuff that wasn't noted on the inspection?
    Again, are we talking about damage you caused, or are you hoping to get out of paying for the repair of damage you caused? They can charge you to repair damage you cause.
    I guess I was unclear about the question I was asking. I have rented apartments from 5 or so landlords in past and never lost a penny of my deposit. I have never had to even haggle with them over who was responsible. I take good care of my apartment, repair any minor damage that I cause and don't trash the place prior to moving out. I was expecting to get my entire deposit back in this situation as well. I documented all the minor damage to the apartment on the move-in inspection and took good care of the place, repairing the minor scuffs on the wall from moving the furniture in and out before the move out inspection. I did not do $1600 of damage to the apartment and they kept my entire $1600 deposit. I am asking what documentation I need to provide to get the money back if I have to take them to court.

    The lease language is not specific. It says that the apartment must be returned clean and in a similar condition to when we moved in. I cleaned the place at least as well as any other apartment that I moved out of. I expected to have a quick walk through and then get my deposit back. The walk through took over two hours and examples of the cleaning that they noted are: the seal of the dishwasher wasn't cleaned, I hadn't pulled out the refrigerator or washer/dryer to clean behind it, the vent fans hadn't been cleaned, they did find two spots on one kitchen cabinet. It was a exhaustive inspection.

    I don't really know what the misc repairs refer to and I think that the cleaning charge is ridiculously high based on all the cleaning that we already did. What I want know is if I have to sue my landlord in small claims court for, at minimum, the hardwood floors and misc repairs, what is the strength of my case, based mostly on the move-in and move-out inspection documentation. Is the judge going to look at that document and give my money back or is the landlord going to be able to get up and say that I damaged the floors but it wasn't noted on the inspection? If I have to go to small claims court, I will probably contest the amount of cleaning charge but I hope not to have to invoke the legal system. I found the withholding of money from my deposit to pay my utility bills, in my name, unusual. Again, if the landlord is reasonable about the other charges I wouldn't hassle them about the utility bills because they did get payed. If I have to go to court and the withholding of that money was illegal I would go after it to compensate for the time, effort and pain of getting back what they shouldn't have withheld.
    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    If you caused the damage but your landlord violated the statute, you can sue for your deposit under the statute and he can countersue for the full amount of the damage you caused. This statute does not remove your landlord's right to hold you responsible for damages - it relates only to whether and when he can retain part or all of the security deposit to be applied toward those damages.
    Thank you for this answer. I am mostly upset that they found a way to withhold my entire deposit for almost no damage. I was wondering if the legal remedy for refusing to return my deposit was the loss of ability to go after me for damages.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Michigan
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    6,808

    Default Re: Landlord is Withholding Deposit but There Was No Damage on the Move Out Inspectio

    When my mom and I moved into a new place...we noticed big scratches on the floors, and other things. WE TOOK PICTURES. We also noted them on the move-in inspection sheet that we were given to make notes of any damage on prior to move-in..

    Moved out....no problems.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Landlord is Withholding Deposit but There Was No Damage on the Move Out Inspectio

    You are not responsible for ordinary wear and tear. If your landlord wants everything to be "like new", despite your not having caused anything legally cognizable as 'damage', she needs to accomplish that on her own dime.

    In terms of cleaning, "Each tenant... shall... Upon termination and vacation, restore the premises to their initial condition except for reasonable wear and tear or conditions caused by failure of the landlord to comply with his or her obligations under this chapter. The tenant shall not be charged for normal cleaning if he or she has paid a nonrefundable cleaning fee." RCW 59.18.130(10).

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