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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    6

    Default Security Deposit Not Returned After Move-Out

    Hello, I live in Massachusetts. I was a resident in an apartment for 3 years, and gave my landlord a security deposit in the amount of $1,100 at the beginning of my tenancy. I never received a receipt, or a statement of the interest earned within the three years I lived there. Nor did I ever deduct any type of interest annually from my rent. About 2 months before I moved out, I went to my landlord's house to bring her a formal move-out letter that contained my new address on it, and that she was to forward my security deposit in the amount of $1,100 plus interest to that address. At that time, she told me that she would have to deduct $500 for a window that broke (I did not break it, and I don't know who did - it was broken from the outside) within 5 months of me moving in.

    She has never mentioned this before, I never agreed to that. I told her I'd have to talk to a lawyer, that didn't sound legal, and I took the letter with me and sent it to her via certified mail. At a later date she told me she would no longer pursue it, just to make sure I removed a couple of items in the back of the house. In the end of March, my heat went out, I called her, she fixed it. I have 3 children, ages 7, 3, and 8 months old (at that time). On April 17th, it went out again. I called her and informed her that night, and she called me the next day and said someone would be there to fix it the next day. Someone came and left without fixing it, and she called me and told me there was a dispute because the repair man didn't fix it right the first time, and that someone would be there the following day to fix it.

    So the next day I saw the gas company's van and her car in the driveway, they came and left without fixing it, and I didn't receive any call from her about it. Weeks went by, some days it was warm, others cold, and I decided I was not going to pay her until the heat was fixed. She called me when my rent was due (May 3rd) and at that time I told her I was not going to pay her until the heat was fixed. She told me I should have called her AGAIN to tell her I was cold. She said she just waited patiently for the gas company to call her back, and she felt it was warm enough so I didn't need the heat on. Not her call, the law states she's required to provide a heating system into June. Monday morning I got a call from her stating that the gas company would be there on Wednesday, but I would need to open all of the windows during the heater replacement. I said fine. Monday afternoon I got a call from my 8 month old son's school stating that he was wheezing and I had to pick him up. He doesn't have asthma, he gets that way when he gets a bad cold. This was the second cold he had since the heat was out. So they gave him a nebulizer treatment, and I had to stay home with him the next day. That day, I called her infuriated that all this just lagged on, and told her my son needs a nebulizer (breathing treatment) and I've already had to pay for heaters, I was not paying her a dime. I told her I was moving out in a few weeks, and from that point on it did not matter what she did.

    I didn't want to be in the house with all of the windows up with my sick son, so I told her to forget fixing it, I'm not paying her no matter what. I probably should have handled it better initially, but I was angry. I didn't speak to her again until I was about to move out, and she did not fix the heat. I arranged a walk-through with her on June 1st, the day after I moved out. It was a Friday, and the trash was due to be picked up on Monday, so I left the bagged trash on the side of the house, and I was going to move it to the sidewalk on Sunday night (she always told the residents that we should not put the trash on the sidewalk before that). She was pissed off the trash was still there, I didn't realize I was supposed to take it with me, but I told her ok, I will remove it before that. We get into the apartment and she is very upset because the carpet is not pristine. I will admit, it needed shampooing, but it was vacuumed, and in no way were there ANY set-in stains.

    She was also upset that the walls had some grime where the furniture had been. So she tells me she has to see how much it will cost to get those two things done, and she will let me know how much is left after the deduction for May rent. I told her I don't feel I owe her for May rent, and we argue for a bit. She comes up with a solution that if I paint the walls and shampoo the carpet she'll give me my entire deposit back. I said I'll look into it. A few days later, I call her and tell her there is no way I'm going to paint her walls, I will try to wash them, but that's it. So I go in and wash the walls, and a week or so after that I tell her I can' t afford to shampoo the carpets. She proceeds to tell me she'll have to use a credit card to do this, and she said she can't afford this and that. I tell her that I still don't feel I owe her for the entire month of May, but if she wanted to pro-rate for those 2 weeks she did not do anything, I would accept that. She said ok, and she'd look into the shampooing.

    I still have not received my security deposit, nor a list of damages (there was nothing broken in the home, and I removed everything she asked me to) she has deducted from my security deposit, and it has been over 30 days. I sent a demand letter, and informed her that she no longer can withhold my security deposit, she has to send it to me in its entirety, or I will sue her for treble damages. Knowing her, I will probably have to take her to court. My question is, is there anything else I can do to keep it from getting to that point? And if it does get to that point, will she be able to sue me for having to paint walls and wash the carpets (she used a $20 steam cleaner she rented from Costco, by the way, and it looks perfect, and she painted the walls herself) after I have lived there for 3 years? I don't have too much time to put into going back and forth to court, I just want what I gave her back. Will she still be able to deduct these things and rent now if we do go to court? Thank you for taking the time to read through this.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,906

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    Take a look at the governing statute, and see if you can identify violations. Here is an excerpt which may be helpful:
    Quote Quoting Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 186: Section 15B. Entrance of premises prior to termination of lease; payments; receipts; interest; records; security deposits
    (2)(c) Any lessor of residential real property, or his agent, who accepts a security deposit from a tenant or prospective tenant shall, upon receipt of such security deposit, or within ten days after commencement of the tenancy, whichever is later, furnish to such tenant or prospective tenant a separate written statement of the present condition of the premises to be leased or rented. Such written statement shall also contain a comprehensive listing of any damage then existing in the premises, including, but not limited to, any violations of the state sanitary or state building codes certified by a local board of health or building official or adjudicated by a court and then existing in the premises. Such statement shall be signed by the lessor or his agent and contain the following notice in twelve-point bold-face type at the top of the first page thereof:
    “This is a statement of the condition of the premises you have leased or rented. You should read it carefully in order to see if it is correct. If it is correct you must sign it. This will show that you agree that the list is correct and complete. If it is not correct, you must attach a separate signed list of any damage which you believe exists in the premises. This statement must be returned to the lessor or his agent within fifteen days after you receive this list or within fifteen days after you move in, whichever is later. If you do not return this list, within the specified time period, a court may later view your failure to return the list as your agreement that the list is complete and correct in any suit which you may bring to recover the security deposit.”
    If the tenant submits to the lessor or his agent a separate list of damages, the lessor or his agent shall, within fifteen days of receiving said separate list, return a copy of said list to the tenant with either such lessor’s signed agreement with the content thereof or a clear statement of disagreement attached.

    (d) Every lessor who accepts a security deposit shall maintain a record of all such security deposits received which contains the following information:—
    (i) a detailed description of any damage done to each of the dwelling units or premises for which a security deposit has been accepted, returned to any tenant thereof or for which the lessor has brought suit against any tenant;

    (ii) the date upon which the occupancy of the tenant or tenants charged with such damage was terminated; and

    (iii) whether repairs were performed to remedy such damage, the dates of said repairs, the cost thereof, and receipts therefor.
    Said record shall also include copies of any receipt or statement of condition given to a tenant or prospective tenant as required by this section.

    Said record shall be available for inspection upon request of a tenant or prospective tenant during normal business hours in the office of the lessor or his agent. Upon a wrongful failure by the lessor or his agent to make such record available for inspection by a tenant or prospective tenant, said tenant or prospective tenant shall be entitled to the immediate return of any amount paid in the form of a security deposit together with any interest which has accrued thereon.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    Quote Quoting aaron
    View Post
    Take a look at the governing statute, and see if you can identify violations. Here is an excerpt which may be helpful:
    Thank you! I'll look into it.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    Normal wear and tear over a period of three years tenancy is not "damage." If when you moved in the walls were freshly painted, and you moved out in 6 months, and there was an unreasonable amount of scrapes, dirt, holes, etc., then you might be charged an amount to repaint a wall or something of that nature. But after 3 years, it would be expected that the walls and carpeting would incur some wear and tear, and that is part of the business of renting apartments. You could also argue that the unit was not in habitable condition during the period of time the heat was out.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    Quote Quoting kandi6
    View Post
    Normal wear and tear over a period of three years tenancy is not "damage." If when you moved in the walls were freshly painted, and you moved out in 6 months, and there was an unreasonable amount of scrapes, dirt, holes, etc., then you might be charged an amount to repaint a wall or something of that nature. But after 3 years, it would be expected that the walls and carpeting would incur some wear and tear, and that is part of the business of renting apartments. You could also argue that the unit was not in habitable condition during the period of time the heat was out.
    Thank you, that's what I thought. She's really taking her sweet time with my deposit. It's extremely frustrating.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    Thank you for all of the responses, I have a follow up question.

    My ex-landord still has not returned my security deposit, I had sent her the demand letter which gives her 30 days to respond (which will reside on August 3rd). I called her and left a message reminding her that she has until that date to settle it out of court, and she called me back. She stated in that conversation that:

    1. She filed a lawsuit against me already to retain damages for after she received my letter. She never even READ the whole letter. It stated very clearly that I wanted the return of my security deposit in full or I would be suing her for treble damages. I guess she saw the $3,000 and flipped out.

    2. She had to replace the whole kitchen floor (TWO TILES were peeling up in their corners because of a refrigerator she supplied that leaked when it continuously broke down).

    3. There were holes in my walls (an out and out LIE).

    4. She had to replace the banisters on the stoop because they were WOBBLY - not broken.

    5. A boldfaced lie that my security deposit was not a security deposit and was only to be used as first and last month's rent. Absolute CRAP.

    I have pictures of the apartment, not in the length I wish I did, because my camera only holds 11 pictures and I didn't have a memory card. I have a perfect one of the kitchen floor though.

    The hilarious part in all of this is that none of those things were done until after she received my letter (35 days after I moved out), and she never sent me a list of damages in a statement that said she would be keeping my deposit. It's been FIFTY-FIVE days since I moved out!

    I guess after arguing with me she got nervous, because now she wants to settle but she still feels she can keep a portion of my deposit. I think I have a pretty cut-and-dry case, and after all of this aggravation, I think it's necessary to let a judge decide. Is this, from a legal standpoint, something I should pursue in court, or would it be better to settle? Thank you for any insight you can give.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Security Deposit Not Returned

    As I said in another thread, I am not really in this industry but .. have been doing alot of reading and have pretty good common sense.

    Usually in a lease (at least here in California) there is a portion that says how much of the security deposit could be kept for "cleaning" and also has a small clause about "normal wear and tear"

    In a financial point it may be better to settle outside, since you may be resposible for your legal fees.

    Also check in the lease and local laws on how to use the deposit. Alot of places say the deposit CANNOT be used for the last months rent in ANY CASE.

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