My boyfriend and I recently moved out of a studio apartment expecting to get our deposit back minus nothing but cleaning fees (we left it dirtier than when we moved in, but not unsanitary). Since I was a first time renter I didn't know to take pictures of the condition of the place or that I could have a pre-move-out inspection, because my LL did not give me written notice like I think they were supposed to. We also had a verbal agreement that we could leave the place before the lease was up (on July 15th) without penalty. One set of keys was returned on the 15th, and the other set of keys was returned the next day after my boyfriend spent some time cleaning. The landlords seemed like nice people and the only thing they ever complained about was us leaving the porch light on overnight. It was their guest apartment so we always waved hello to each other and I thought of them as my third set of grandparents.
However, about a week after moving out we received a letter in the mail that pointed out several nit-picky things that they would charge us for, including: dust on the ceiling fan, a dirty toilet that would need to be replaced, a stained carpet that would need to be replaced, the shower door wouldn't close, the ceiling would need to be repainted, etc. This letter did not include an "itemized list" or any sort of refund of the deposit-merely complaints. When we called to discuss this, they didn't reply to our voice messages. We had been out of state on vacation, so when we returned we went to visit them on August 13th. We found out that the LL had still not mailed out the check, and it had been over 21 days. We discussed the complaints as we wanted to before, but the LL would not budge. On August 20th, we received a refund of $324. Our deposit was originally $1000. They deducted the cost of a brand new toilet and carpet, the labor to install them, along with repairing the shower door and painting the ceiling. They did not give a break-down of the items or any receipts. Today I drafted a letter to send them demanding more money back. I will accept them charging us for cleaning fees but nothing else. Everything in the place was 5+ years old and I think we should not have to pay renovation fees after less than a year of living there.
We are considering taking this to small claims court if they do not comply, so if you could please offer legal advice or advice on our chances of success it would be greatly appreciated.