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My plan is to get the $4K check, deposit it and let it clear, then I'll send a letter disputing the $1K in charges. In the end, my time and effort are probably worth more than the money but I'm not going to completely roll over. Mostly I wanted a reality check to make sure I wasn't thinking incorrectly.

Unfortunately no move-in checklist (have one with the place we just rented). The ex-landlord is kind of a doofus but we were desperate to get the place 4 years ago due to local schools. Towards the end the rent was under market (it has gone nuts here) so in the grand scheme of things it all is just a wash. But still pisses me off and causes lost sleep over what is "right." With the current house everything is/will be documented in writing/photos.

Old 05-14-2015, 12:20 PM
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I actually happen to know a bit of California landlord tenant law. Here's a good link to an overview.

California Tenants - California Department of Consumer Affairs

As everyone knows, the landlord can't deduct for regular cleaning or normal wear and tear. Most of the stuff they've itemized is pretty typical ordinary wear and tear. If you want I can look up some cases quickly to establish the standard for ordinary wear and tear. I'm sure there are some cases on point for drawing on walls, etc.

I can't tell whether the itemization issued by the landlord meets the requirements. If not, it isn't effective and you win on that procedural issue without even getting to the merits of the case. You should look into that more closely. If the itemization isn't effective he has no defense.

You should file a small claims court action and ask for all your money back. The next question is whether you can get additional damages if the landlord wrongfully withheld the security deposit. I am happy to report that the answer is yes. From the article in the link:

"If you prove to the court that the landlord acted in "bad faith" in refusing to return your security deposit, the court can order the landlord to pay you the amount of the improperly withheld deposit, plus up to twice the amount of the security deposit as a "bad faith" penalty. The court can award a bad faith penalty in addition to actual damages whenever the facts of the case warrant—even if the tenant has not requested the penalty."

A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. No one is sitting around waiting to give you a thousand bucks, so it's probably worth your while to get it back. I'd say you'll win about $750 of it back and you should have a good argument that amount was kept back in bad faith because any landlord should have known it was an improper deduction. I'd argue that he deducted $1,000specifically because it was the most he thought he could get away with without being obviously in bad faith and it was little enough that you might not fight him. Frankly, I think the landlord withheld the amount as a deliberate strategy. But I'm cynical that way. Let me know if you'd like the cases.
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Old 05-14-2015, 12:22 PM
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Thanks for the input. I found that site previously, and that was my guide for the repainting timelines. I will send a letter and then can file small claims but I want the initial $4K check to clear (once it shows up). He literally sent me the email at 11pm on the 21st day after we moved out. And there are no receipts or estimates from contractors, just pictures of the issues and some text and a dollar figure. I do not believe that lives up to necessary documentation on his end.

One problem is that I don't have a lot of documentation on my end - a couple of iPhone pics on move out and that's it. I did hire a cleaning crew (for $280) and could get statements from them on damage or lack thereof. I worry that he'd countersue and then magically find even more damage. e.g. there was as leak in the roof and mold started to form on the ceiling - I did tell him about that though I didn't really notice it for some time and it was when he came to have an assessment done some months back as he was claiming he was looking to refi. He admits that the leak caused the mold but says that there is more painting to be done since we didn't report it in a timely fashion. We did report the peeling paint and rotting wood on the garage 3+ years ago and they did nothing (nor did they replace missing screens), so our history indicated that they had no interest in repairing anything. Those were reported by phone calls though and not in writing - which is my mistake.

In the end, not the end of the world but I agree that it is worth pursing one way or another.
Old 05-14-2015, 12:43 PM
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The deposits from my tenants are placed in an escrow account. When I return the deposit I also have to pay them interest (I think 3% per year).
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Old 05-14-2015, 01:15 PM
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Let's say you could get $250 back by writing you own letter, and $500 more back by going to court, hiring an attorney, etc.

Your attorney will blow that much and more writing 1 letter and doing 1 phone call to you. That's why I say it's not really worth dragging out the big guns. Not with the facts as presented (LL returns $4K and you contest $1K).
Old 05-14-2015, 01:29 PM
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Remember that he bears the burden of proving entitlement to the security deposit. It's not your burden of proof, so while more photos and better documentation would be better, it's not necessary to prevail.
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Old 05-14-2015, 01:36 PM
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There are no attorneys in small claims court, unless they have changed that in recent years in CA. You can have witnesses though. You pay the court fee, the fee to have the person served, get a date, you each tell your stories & present as much documentation as you can & have. The Magistrate makes the judgment, which is final. Then it's up to you to collect the judgment.
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Old 05-14-2015, 02:27 PM
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Send him a letter requesting the balance of your deposit. 1000 bucks is worth it on principal. Small claims is easy to do and not that much of a hassle. There is no doubt in my mind you will win.

MRM has got this guy figured out.

Your landlord is a di**

Just a side question.....Did you move into the house with fresh paint. I bet you didn't.
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Old 05-14-2015, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by chocolatelab View Post
Just a side question.....Did you move into the house with fresh paint. I bet you didn't.
Actually we did - complete with drips on the hardwood floors, holes in the walls and ceiling where the previous tenant had a surround sound setup (never fixed) and the old paint cans left in the garage by the landlord.

Still - I don't know of any landlord who would have a tenant for 45 months and not expect to repaint after they vacated.
Old 05-14-2015, 03:35 PM
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I did a lot of time as a landlord in MA and now in VA. Everything you describe is normal wear and tear. The links to CA tenant law are probably the most relevant. If you were they 3 years, painting would be assumed. I can't seen any of the other stuff being a claim either. I think that you have the right idea cashing his check and then making your move. The landlord is a jerk if he collected >$4K in rent for that long and expected you to pay for getting the place ready for the next tenant or a sale.
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Old 05-14-2015, 05:34 PM
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Hey Todd,

Other than the paint, the three items are wear and tear.

Now, for the paint. I have rental property and have a clause in my rental agreement that says I will not charge for repaint after three years. HOWEVER, if there is evidence of neglect or abuse, I will charge the tenant for the repair. So, to exaggerate a bit, if the tenants trashed the walls by ramming holes in them, or ripping them open with a claw hammer, I obviously would charge them. Now comes the fine line. There comes a point where judgment needs to be made whether something on the walls is damage or just normal grime/wear that can be cleaned and painted over. Many people have different interpretations of where that line is. I'm pretty forgiving and wouldn't charge for, say, a minor dent behind the door where the knob had been pushed in a bit too hard once or twice, or something like that, but others would. So now it comes down to how your State/jurisdiction handles these types of cases, should the landlord make these claims. (which yours obviously did)

So now you unfortunately have to square off against your landlord to get your money back. Of course I have the benefit of hindsight on your behalf, but it might have been a good idea to take a walk-through with your landlord before releasing the house back to him, and noting any deficiencies. All that notwithstanding, I do think you have a good case against him, should you decide to take this to court. Seems to me that you have good evidence that he has no history (or indicated no interest, per your words) of making any repairs during your entire stay. That would thwart his point of trying to charge for the mold issue, for example.

When I was a renter, I was just like you and never bothered the landlord for anything, thinking that it would keep me in good graces. I got lucky though, and had a good landlord. Your situation proves the point that it really doesn't have as much to do with your attitude as a renter, but with the mindset of the owner. And your landlord's mindset is pretty obvious. He wants to nickel and dime you. I say don't let him.
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Old 05-14-2015, 06:23 PM
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Interesting about the paint. Since I assume that most people hang pictures/art on the wall (we did), invariably there will be nail holes. We pulled all the nails and spackled the small holes - assuming that, "of course they'll paint before they rent/sell." If they didn't then the new tenant/owner would have walls with spackle.

Another data point. When we had a plumbing issue early on I called the landlord and they didn't have a plumber to suggest. Instead I had to find one, pay them, then take that off the next rent payment. Same thing with an electrical issue. We actually paid to put a 220V outlet in the garage, and again, had to source the electrician as they didn't have one to suggest. Plus they quit paying the gardener for the last two months we were there.

My pissed-off-edness is easing. I'll cash the check and once it clears go after the balance. Then we'll see what happens. And I'll document the crap out of the place we're in now (which does have a move-in/out checklist). I've never had an issue with a landlord before this - always have gotten the entire deposit back and no BS.
Old 05-14-2015, 07:11 PM
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My pissed-off-edness is easing.
Your feelings are normal and justified.
This guy appears to do this ripoff BS all the time for his own ego.
A 2 hour and $50 in paint fix.

One aspect of law is "good faith effort" (or accommodation).
You've put in your part.
You've done everything required of a normal person/party.
But the other side has done his very best to accomplish the exact opposite which disrupts your lifestyle havin to deal with this ****.
This affects your business.

fwiw:
Paying $4K/month to someone else is no small matter.
Over 5 years it equals to a quarter million dollars...
But that is none of my business.
Old 05-15-2015, 07:11 AM
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If you have to return the security deposit, and THEN invoice the tenant, what was the point of the security deposit in the first place?
It can only be held by the landlord if the tenant skips out on rent with no notice. Hence the security deposit designation instead of damage deposit.
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Old 05-15-2015, 07:39 AM
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As a landlord, I would not have charged you for that. In fact, in my years of a landlord with dozens of tenants, I've always given the security deposit back, even when there was some legit chargeable damage.

Life's too short. If the tenant was a good paying tenant, didn't cause trouble, and paid the last month's rent, that's good with me.

It's amazing how greedy some people are. It's not a good way to live a life.
Old 05-15-2015, 09:53 AM
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The rent multiplier is 1% to 1.5% as I've been told.
(i.e. If the house is valued at $100,000, the rent should be $1,000/month.)

PROPERTY TAXES ARE THE #1 CONTROLLING FACTOR.

As a LL, I still have a problem with this.
Tenants without excess spending money cannot afford to enjoy themselves.
They don't spend money at bars, restaurants, theaters, art exhibits, or other local entertainment.
They aren't able to afford a decent lifestyle when all their income goes into rent.

The tenants suffer.
The whole city eventually suffers.
Old 05-15-2015, 10:13 AM
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Someone needs to explain this to Irvine Company. F***ers jack rates annually to crazy amounts - have no care for their tenants being 'rent-poor'.

Quote:
Originally Posted by john70t View Post
The rent multiplier is 1% to 1.5% as I've been told.
(i.e. If the house is valued at $100,000, the rent should be $1,000/month.)

PROPERTY TAXES ARE THE #1 CONTROLLING FACTOR.

As a LL, I still have a problem with this.
Tenants without excess spending money cannot afford to enjoy themselves.
They don't spend money at bars, restaurants, theaters, art exhibits, or other local entertainment.
They aren't able to afford a decent lifestyle when all their income goes into rent.

The tenants suffer.
The whole city eventually suffers.
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Old 05-15-2015, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john70t View Post

fwiw:
Paying $4K/month to someone else is no small matter.
Over 5 years it equals to a quarter million dollars...
But that is none of my business.
Quote:
Originally Posted by john70t View Post
The rent multiplier is 1% to 1.5% as I've been told.
(i.e. If the house is valued at $100,000, the rent should be $1,000/month.)
SoCal is a different market. fwiw, this house, with some exterior paint and clean-up, likely would go on the market for $1.5M. The house two doors down, which is right next to a major street, sold for $1.3M some months back and Zillow says it is worth $1.5M now. No way you can get 1% rent for those. Also it just isn't practical for us to buy. Yes, I've spent a huge chunk of money - but the way the market has gone in LA (especially where I am), if I bought at the wrong time and had to sell at the wrong time that much could easily be flushed.

At this point of our lives, there doesn't seem to be much reason to buy a place. We won't own anything outright (can't even come close in our area), so we're essentially "renting" either way. Only difference is equity that gets built up and passed down to my son. Everything is ephemeral. If I was 30 it would be a totally different calculus. At 53 though, any days forward are pretty much "rented"
Old 05-15-2015, 10:50 AM
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Old 05-15-2015, 11:19 AM
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At 53 though, any days forward are pretty much "rented"
Snap out of that type of thinking now.
My girlfriend/roommate is older than you and going strong.
You have more than a few more decades of obligations left to fulfill.

Old 05-15-2015, 12:04 PM
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