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SJlandlord

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Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi,
I have a studio apartment on my property. I rented it to a student on a month to month basis with the understanding that he would be there for at least six months and that he would be the only occupant. He proceeded to move in with his girlfriend. Less than 14 days after he moved in, he gave his 30 days notice. He said that the studio was not big enough. He moved out 20 days after giving the 30 days notice, without cleaning the apartment and he also broke some shelving in the closet.

After moving out, he asked for his $1,000 deposit back via an email. In the email he said that I could deduct for the cleaning and for the repairs to the closet.

I reviewed the CA law and it appears I am entitled to deduct 10 days rent ($383) (the difference between the move out date and the 30 days notice) from his deposit, plus the cleaning and repairs, OR even keep the entire deposit since he did break the 6 month verbal rental agreement.

However, since he had not signed the written rental agreement before he moved out and I only had a verbal contract, I charged him only my costs to restore the apartment back to the condition it was in when he rented it. $100 to repair the damage to the shelving and $319 for the cleaning, including the carpet, for a total of $419. I itemized the charges in an enclosure with a check for $581

He cashed the $581 check immediately but emailed me that he was disputing the cleaning charges as excessive and wants an additional refund of $219. I emailed him back that the expenses incurred in re-renting the apartment were significant - between $2,500 and $3,200 between the cleaning and repairs, lost rental income since the new tenant did not move in until 15 days after he vacated, and I had to take an unpaid week off from my regular job to secure a new tenant - but to be fair, I was only charging him the direct cost of putting the apartment back in rentable condition.

He replied that he is taking me to small claims court.

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Sjlandlord
OHlandlord

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Posts: 3,814
Reply with quote  #2 

If you have receipts for the cleaning & repairs, you should be on solid ground.  Hope you took pics to prove how he left the place.  But a few points you should know for next time.
-A verbal agreement is very hard to prove in court.  Always do written.
-You can't have a m2m where they can't move for a set period pf time.  That's a 6 month lease.  Do one or the other, you can't combine them.
-You can legally charge for any unpaid days of rent in that notice period.
-You can legally charge for repairs to take the place back to pre-rental condition (not improve it), and for cleaning beyond wear & tear.  Shouldn't be ANY wear & tear after only 1.5 mos.
-You can't charge for any lost rental income if it wasn't a broken lease.
-You can't charge for advertising if it wasn't a broken lease,
-You can't deduct for lost work income for any reason.  You may have to take time off if you are a LL.  Cost of doing this business.

prin1113ci

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Posts: 86
Reply with quote  #3 
They verbally agreed to rent the property she immediately return the unused portion of your security deposit .


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SJlandlord

Registered:
Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks so much for the responses. To update, the tenant refused to settle and our small claims court date is this week. He is sueing to recover the $319 I charged for the cleaning expenses. I do have receipts, but no pictures.

As I was legally within my rights to charge him $383 (10 days rent) for moving out with less than 30 days notice, but only charged him $319, hopefully the judge will rule in our favor.

Unless the judge rules that by charging him $319 instead of the $383, I somehow waived my right to charge for the 30 days notice.

I've been renting for 20 years without even a hint of an issue. From what I have been given to understand, CA judges hate landlords. But all I can do is go in prepared, with the receipts and emails to support my case and hope for the best.

First time I've ever not had a written lease agreement. I had emailed one to the the tenant prior to his move in date, but he did not sign and return it. He gave me his notice less than 2 weeks after moving in. I assumed he didn't sign it because there is a fairly strict guest policy in it. He probably realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as he thought to hide the fact that his girlfriend had moved in, since I live onsite, and that the place was not big enough for 2.

thanks again for your help....

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Sjlandlord
MikeTfromCA

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Posts: 125
Reply with quote  #5 

You couldn't be more correct about the fact that it's tough to be a LL in CA, the courts here all sympathize with the tenants - ALWAYS.  Unless you've got rock-solid, ironclad paperwork and have an outstanding reputation of being a law abiding good/fair LL, the courts here will not care to hear your side of the story, they just won't.  Be prepared for the court to act semi-hostile to you in the sense that they will try to frame the case/issue as "you weren't being fair/in good faith to the tenant".  I wish you the best of luck with your case (I'll be routing for you).

SJlandlord

Registered:
Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #6 
Thanks, Mike, for the support. Yeah, only in CA could you refund more of a tenant's deposit than legally required to and still have the tenant sue you!!! I'm prepared for the worst but hoping for a fair decision. I do have receipts and we have a clean record - no prior issues with tenants, no prior appearances in small claims court, etc. Will keep you posted... thanks again!
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Sjlandlord
MikeTfromCA

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Posts: 125
Reply with quote  #7 
Yeah, isn't it strange/coincidental how CA courts treat tenants no differently than if they were small children involved in a custody battle in a divorce case?  Similar responses from the judge: "We're not here to discuss your (the LL) problems, all we (the court) care about is what in the best interest for the tenant" 

Once again, good luck!  I'll be here on the sidelines routing for you.
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