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JenMiu

Registered: 08/08/10
Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #1 

We've run into a bad situation with our previous tenants. These tenants were with us for 4+ years and trashed the house. They had 3 children and 3 dogs so you can only imagine. In CA, you must submit a letter to the tenant within 21 days to advise them as to why you are not going to refund their security deposit. So, the security deposit they left us is $600. It's really not much $$ at all but my Dad is much too lenient and naive. The damage that the tenants caused was in excess of $600 (thousands of dollars) with urine on the carpet due to the dogs, beat in door, cleaning, etc. The tenants are now taking us to small claims due to the technicality that we didn't submit the letter to them within the 21 days. I'm so upset that the tenants know full well that they shouldn't get the deposit back as we did outline the damages and receipts after the fact but they are only taking us to court due to the technicality. In my book, this is bad character and integrity. Anyone else experience this and how did you fare in small claims? I am wondering if judges are reasonable when it comes to the facts vs weighing in on pure technicalities and law. The tenants should just walk away as they made out but they won't let it go.

OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #2 
Some courts in CA are very tenant friendly.  You should go in and argue that due to the extensive damages, you were unable to complete the repairs within the 21 days.  Hope that the court allows you to prove the damages and show that they were much more than the deposit.  In future, always send a statement back to the tenant within the time limit, even if you have to mark it "estimated" because you can't get everything done.  Good luck.
AKinCA

Registered: 04/27/11
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #3 
I have to go to court tomorrow for a similar issue. My tenants arent disputing the damages. They are saying they shouldnt have to pay them because I didnt give a written notice of a right to preliminary inspection before they moved out. I did all the correct work after they moved out with receipts, estimates, and return of unused deposit. They insist on suing out of spite and because its a freeroll for them. They are simply relying on the loophole of not getting the notice. The damages where not a surprise for them either, like dog chewing a hole in the carpet and a cracked vanity. OHlandlord, if you have any advice it would be very welcome. 
JenMiu

Registered: 08/08/10
Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #4 

An update from my last post . . . we went to small claims court, showed all the photos for the damages and the court/judge still ruled in favor of the tenants. I agree with the last post - the tenants are taking advantage of the technicality that they did not receive something in writing within 21 days. They know that they caused the damage and shouldn't receive the security deposit back. If anything, the damages exceed the cost of the deposit. I hope you will have  a better outcome. I'm still so sick over it. Not for the $$ but it's a principle . . . you are rewarding bad behavior.

MOON

Registered: 09/17/08
Posts: 577
Reply with quote  #5 

Perhaps consider having an attorney with you , I noticed that the judges here are much harder on Landlords who represent themselves then those with attornies.

AKinCA

Registered: 04/27/11
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #6 
Attorneys are not allowed in small claims court. If they were i would probably have one.
dmwelage

Registered: 12/28/11
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #7 

Is it worth it to take a tenant to small claims?  Had a tenant that I properly evicted.  When the Marshall and I entered it was trashed, carpet had holes cut out.  Stunk from unauthorized cat and left alot of garbage.  I'm seeking to recoup damages.  A lawyer friend who handled the eviction said that I would most likely get a judgment, but would probably not be able to collect.  The tenant was able bodied and is probably working.  Technically I still have the deposit because he never provided me with a forwarding address.  The damages, lost rent, utility payments (it was winter) would definitely be over 5,000, but I would only claim the max that small claims will allow. 

Any advice?

Chicagolandlord

Registered: 04/21/12
Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #8 
WOW!!! I just signed on to this form and I thought it was just me with this issue... I let the tenant out of the lease 2 month prior to the lease ending, I returned partial of the security deposit because of repairs and clean up that I had to do myself. Tenant says they never received the refund I then return sent a second check in which they deposited and accepted. They end up suing me for 3 times the amount of rent because they claim they never received the first one and said I was late in sending the security deposit back. Bottom line- I had to settle out of court because I didn't have the security deposit in a separate account. They won, while I ended losing the 2 months of rent money, the money I spent on fixing the apartment after they left. UGH!!! Seems Landlords don't have any rights! I've been doing some research but am still unclear about this "move-in and Move-out fee" vs collecting a Security deposit. I live in Chicago.. If any one can help me on this I would greatly appreciate it. 
OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #9 
The problem wasn't that you didn't have rights.  I assume IL requires deposits in separate accounts, with notice to the tenant where the money is being held.  If you failed to follow that law, that is why you had to settle out of court.  Otherwise, you could have gone to court, shown your copy of the deposit statement you mailed, along with the copy of the check you wrote (I always use duplicate checks for this purpose), and your certificate of mailing.  That should have proved to a court that you did send out their deposit in a timely manner and that it somehow got lost in the US mail.  When they notified you they didn't receive it, you immediately sent out another (as you should).  That would have ended any complaint that you failed to send them the deposit.

A security deposit is held in trust for the tenant to cover any damages that he may do.  Move in or move out fees supposedly cover the turn over costs and cleaning needed.  Some judges will rule these to be illegal since the LL is responsible for turn over costs, not the tenant.  Judges here would not allow them.
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