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  1. #1
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    Default Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    My question involves court procedures for the state of: Washington

    I overpaid rent to my landlord. They estimate last months rent to include utilities. We overpaid by about $300. We did not place a "security deposit". The landlord used the money we paid for our rent to cover the cost of repainting the walls and cleaning the carpets.

    I left the apartment clean and video recorded the walk threw. I have disputed the charges with the management company and they insist they can charge me for the cleaning as it is stated in the lease that i must pay for any "required cleaning" and "the carpets were professionally cleaned at move in and must be returned in the same condition (the lease does not say anything about requiring me to pay for carpet cleaning) .

    Are they legally allowed to use my rent money. There was never any agreement in the lease about using an over payment of rent. I would like to sue for twice the deposit amount wrongfully with held under RCW. 59.18.280 but I did not place a deposit. I did however pay an "non-refundable" administrative fee but this page of the agreement was not signed by all parties in the lease (ie my boyfriend who is on the lease). Can I get this back under RCW 59.18.260 and request twice the fee because it essentially is a deposit.

    I plan to go to small claims. I also have a printout from when we moved in saying our apartment is a one bedroom, but I heard technically it is a studio because there are no closets in the bedroom. Where can I find this law and can is sue? The property is now under different management and ownership from when I moved in.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    Leaving carpets in "the same condition", when you receive them after a professional cleaning, implies having them professionally cleaned.

    Security deposit laws do not apply to overpaid rent. That's not a security deposit.

    An application fee for an apartment is not a security deposit.

    We don't know the landlord's rationale for repainting, why that would be claimed to be something you need to pay as opposed to ordinary wear and tear, the age of the prior paint job and the extent to which the charge represented the depreciated value of the paint. Can you share any relevant facts and figures?

    If you looked at the apartment with your eyeballs, and chose to rent it based upon what you saw with your eyeballs, you cannot expect a judge to believe that you failed to notice that there were no closets in the bedroom.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    My question must have been unclear, I meant can they legally withhold money for damages that I gave them for rent and utilities?

    If not I wanted to know if I could sue them under RCW59.18.230 (4), money is considered personal property under RCW 63.29.010

    Under RCW 59.18.285 the admin fee must be in a written rental agreement or it is treated as a deposit. However, I signed it but it is missing my boyfriends signature.

    Also do a sue the management or the owner of the building?

    Paid $1351.47- prorated rent of $970.83 and $152.42 utilities=$228.22 overpaid.
    Charged $85 for cleaning, $70 for carpet cleaning and $45 for two hours worth of painting.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    If you were to sue them for the return of money they applied to their claims for cleaning and damages, they could be anticipated to countersue for the cost of their claims. If the court upholds their claims, so to speak, it all comes out in the wash. Take a look at the Unfair Business Practices laws, as you may be able to come up with a theory that would entitle you to ask for treble damages if the court finds their actions to be a violation. Note, the statute does not require the court to triple the damages, but merely gives it the discretion to do so if a violation is proved.

    This situation has nothing to do with your state's unclaimed property laws.

    If the landlord met the requirement that "the rental agreement shall be in writing", it's in writing - even if your boyfriend didn't also sign it.

    Your landlord is responsible for any refund owed. If by "management" you mean the landlord's agent, then owner is the landlord. If by "management" you mean a company that leased the entire building and then leased units to subtenants, something that is common in commercial leases but not particularly common for residential leases, then "management" would be the landlord.

    I think you have a potential statutory defense to the argument that "original condition" includes professional carpet cleaning. See RCW Sec. 59.18.130(10), "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". The subsequent provision about "normal cleaning" complicates things, but if the landlord claimed this was "normal cleaning" I would argue that "normal" does not mean "what the landlord does between tenants as a matter of its own routine, no matter how clean the unit" but "what would normally be required under the circumstances." You may come up with other arguments; I can't promise how a court will decide the issue.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    Thank you for your feedback. I looked into the unfair business practice laws and did not see anything that would apply, also treble damages cannot be claimed in small claims court.

    I have filed my claim and have my court date set for October 28th, I will post an update of what the court decides.

    I think I have a good chance of winning, the apartment complex has no proof of the carpets being professionally cleaned except that its is the written policy of the management to have the carpets professionally cleaned between tenants.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    Hi

    I just wanted to post an update.

    I won $200.00 of the $228 and change the apartment complex kept. The complex said a different amount was kept than what I paid and the judge met the amount in about the middle and ruled for $200.00 plus the filing fee. I objected to him not doing the math as the apartment management and I agreed on what the prorated rent and utilities were but came to a different number of what they kept . He said he was giving me swift justice and not going to spend half the day doing the math (really it was adding up 5 numbers and subtracting from what we paid, should have only taken him a few minutes). The judge seemed very irritated that I objected and explained small claims does not work that way. He also would not allow for statutory damages and said small claims only deals with actual damages.

    I think justice would be me getting what was rightfully mine, its not about $28.00 or $200.00 its about what is right in the end. I feel giving any amount of money to a company that essentially stole from me to begin with is not justice, unfortunately I don't know of any government consumer protections (other than self enforced small claims).

    Thanks to everyone who helped me with this!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Overpaid Rent Used for Cleaning and Repairs Instead of Being Refunded

    You highlight some of the reasons I never promise people how things will turn out in small claims court.... He didn't want to calculate what the damages should be because... math is hard? Wow.

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