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Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #1 

I moved out of my apartment on June 30th and returned my keys to my landlord, first thing in the morning on the 1st of July.  Granted it has not been 21 days yet, but I'm afraid I'm not going to get my deposit back in full.  I, stupidly, did not do the inspection with my landlord before I moved out, because for the last 2 years he's been remodeling the apartments in the building.  Since they are gutting my apartment and completely remodeling, I figured that, because I never did any damage to apartment, there wouldn't be a reason to do the final walk though.


I feel my landlord disliked me from the beginning.  I lived there for 3 years.  I would call him to complain about something not working after I moved in, almost every day in the first several weeks.  After getting a not so welcome reaction to these complaints, I stopped complaining all together, until the last couple of months I was there, when the garbage disposal kept freezing.  The day I moved out, it was frozen again.  I never even put anything down the disposal, so I have no idea why it kept breaking.  Anyway, I think appliance wise, I used the dishwasher, maybe twice, while I was there.  I stopped using the stove all together, and pretty much only used the fridge and a/c wall unit.


I didn't have any furniture and never hung any pictures.  Before I quit, I only smoked outside on the balcony.  There was a huge chip in the tub before I moved in and it was noted on the move-in inspection along with a couple of stains on the carpet.


I lightly cleaned before vacating, but again, because my landlord is going to completely remodel my apartment, evening putting in new floors and appliances, and because I didn't cause any damage, I didn't do the walk-through inspection before I left.


If the landlord is going to remodel my apartment before he rents to another tenant, can he keep any part of my deposit?  I didn't owe any rent and I live in CA.


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #2 
You are putting the cart before the horse and worrying about not getting a deposit before it has been denied.  How do you know you won't get it back?  You should have had a PMI (pre-move out inspection) and a post move out inspection to make sure no damages were noted, though.  Wait and see what happens. Then post the results here when they occur.

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #3 
You wanted me to re-post when I the 21 days were up, so I'm updating you on what happened.
I was right about my landlord trying to rip me off!  He kept $625.66 out of $900!!  First he charged me a full days rent for the 1st, when I had vacated the apartment on the night of the 30th.  I didn’t know I could just leave the keys in the apartment, so I dropped them off in the office first thing in the morning on the 1st, in an envelope, through the slot in the office door, where people drop off their rent.  I even called him to let him know I had done it.  Though, that was probably dumb, huh?

Here are the rest of the charges.  Please remember I’d rented the apartment for 3 years and they are remodeling the whole building, including the inside of the apartments.

Painting: $150

Cleaning of apartment: $80

Cleaning of carpets: $60

New carpets: $300 (after they just charged me to clean them)

He notes there are possible burn marks that they may have to clean up, however I never smoked inside the apartment or made any burn marks!  If he found any they were there before I moved in.

Consequently, he only wrote me a check for $274.34 out of the total $900 deposit. 

This can’t be legal.  Please help me.  I need to know what to do.


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #4 
He was correct in charging you a day of rent.  If you had the keys until the 1st, you had possession of the unit until then and owe rent for that day.  It doesn't matter if the unit was empty since the LL could not enter the unit to do anything as long as you had possession.  In future, return the keys on the last day of the rental period.  He should have charged you 1/30 of a month's rent for this.

If you lived there for 3 years, you should probably not be charged to re-paint (if he plans to remodel is immaterial).  Rental paint normally lasts only about 3 years anyways.

If you failed to clean the unit or the carpets and left them dirty, he can charge you to clean them.  While they are remodelling, they may masking off areas (with plastic) to only remodel parts of the unit.  You are still responsible to clean it when you leave.  Are the cleaning charges itemized or does it just list "cleaning"?  They should be broken down to tell you what needed cleaned.  $60 to clean carpets is about one room of cleaning.  Was another room's carpet replaced?  How large was this unit?

The carpet charge, if it was a section that was damaged byond cleaning, should be depreciated.  You should only pay the current value of that carpet.  They are now at least 3 years old.  You should only be paying a portion of the carpet cost if it was ruined.

Burn marks where?  On the floor?  On furniture?  On the kitchen counters?  Need more info.

Did you have a move-in inspection?  Have a copy of that?  Were any of these items noted then?  Did it list the carpet as new on it?  Did he offer the PMI in the weeks before you moved out?  (He only has to offer it, you have to request it.)   Check for these items and post back with more information.

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #5 
I gave 30 days notice on the 3rd of June.  Should I not have had 30 days to move out?  I gave him the keys first thing July 1st before the office even opened. 

In the itemization, this is how everything was written.  $80 for cleaning.  $60 for carpet cleaning.  $150 for painting.  $300 for new carpet (I'm paying 100% for that new carpet). It was not broken down any further, cleaning wise or no.

The apartment is a single about 500 sq. ft.  There were no burn marks.  I don't know what he was seeing, but nothing was burned.  How would it have even gotten burned?  What, I dropped a lit lighter?  It's BS. 

As far as the remodel goes, he's gutting the place and replacing everything.  Carpet, tile floors, counter tops, appliances, etc.

As posted in my first post, I lightly cleaned the apartment.  Nothing was new when I moved in.  There were several stains on the WORN carpet, which were noted upon move in (inspection).  I didn't have any furniture, so there was NO damage to the carpet or anything else.  There wasn't even any indentations from furniture legs or holes from hanging pictures, because I didn't hang anything. 

Any other questions you need me to answer?

Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #6 
Your 30 day notice is due before or on your rent due date of the 1st.  In the law statutes of some states (like OH), not giving notice until the 3rd of June would mean that your notice doesn't actually take effect until the next rent due date (July 1st) and you would have to be out July 31st (and pay for the entire month of July).  If you are going to give notice after the 1st, and the LL or state law allows 30 literal days to move, expect to pay for any day you still retain possession after your paid term ends on the 30th.  You have paid for no time after that month ends.  Sorry, but you didn't return possession until the 1st.  He can charge you for that day since he didn't get possession back until that day.

The cleaning needs to be itemized in order to be legal.  (That's why I asked.)  In your state, if there is no receipt for it, it should be itemized per job and state the number of hours each took and how much per hour you are being charged.  (Example:  Clean kitchen - cleaned dirty countertops, washed greasy cabinets, cleaned dirty stove and fridge, mopped dirty floor,  Total of 6 hours work @ $10 per hour.)  This is a legit deduction for cleaning.  A blank statement of $xx for "cleaning" is not.  Challenge this.  (But in future, you must leave the unit clean, unless the LL gives you written instructions to do otherwise.  It doesn't matter what he plans after you leave.)

The carpet cleaning also does not state what carpet it is.  It is not itemized.  Had it said "Cleaned dirty LR carpet to remove several stains, done by ABC Carpet Cleaners $60" it would have been legit.  As it stands, you can't tell what carpet was cleaned or why.  Challenge this.

The painting charge, as I said before, is also bogus.  Most LLs expect to have to repaint every unit at least every 3 years.  I'm doing good when I can get 3 yrs out of a paint job.  Was the unit freshly painted when you moved in?  Even if he expected to get 5 years put of it, he can only charge you a prorated amount for painting, not the entire charge.  Since it appears he has charged you for the entire amount, challenge this.

$300 is not a lot for carpet.  How much of an area was carpeted in that unit?  It sounds like this was only for one room?  If he is charging you 100% for the carpet, that is not the proper method (if you had ruined it).  He is allowed to charge no more than the current value of the carpet that is there.  To figure this you take the age of the carpet (if it was at least a yr old before you moved in + 3 yrs you lived there = 4 yr old carpet) and how many yrs the LL uses for depreciation on his schedule E of his tax return (5-10 yrs is standard). 

An example:  If the carpet was 4 yrs old and he uses depreciation of 7 yrs
7 - 4 = 3 yrs of life should be left in the carpet.  You would pay 3/7 of the new carpet cost (if you had ruined it).  This is how all carpet should be depreciated for deduction from a deposit.  Since it does not look like he has done this, challenge it. 

(BTW - You asked how things could get burned.  Burn marks on carpet and countertops are typical.  Smokers carelessly drop cigarettes, pot smokers have telltale holes in carpet from popping seeds, smokers lay cigarettes down on counters or even toilet paper holders while they do other things, people carelessly put hot pots on countertops, people drop hot irons on the floor, curling irons are set on bathroom vanities or roll onto vinyl flooring, ...  LLs see it all the time.)

Additionally, there are a couple of other state specific issues.  You failed to mention if he offered the PMI to you?  This is another requirement of your state and has penalties to the LL if he fails to offer it.  Read through any paperwork he sent you after you gave notice to see if the wording for a PMI is in there.  (Specific wording is required.)  He also must send you receipts for any deductions that total over $125.  If the deduction was for his own work, he must itemize it and include the number of hours and how much per hour he charged for his own labor.  Did he include those in the statement letter?  There are also penalties for failing to do this.

To challenge these deductions, write a letter (yes, snail mail) to him and challenge each item one by one.  State why you don't owe for that deduction (carpets were already stained as shown on move in inspection, no holes in walls since nothing was hung so painting was not required, you had lived there 3 years so you should not be charged for painting, you were not charged the depreciated cost for carpeting, you were charged for cleaning AND replacing the carpet that you did not ruin, etc.).  You get the idea.  Or state why you don't owe that much for it and provide your own evidence for the correct charge.  But challenge each item that you feel is incorrect one by one.  Also challenge the fact that he didn't offer a PMI per state law 1950.5, that he didn't include receipts or proper itemization of costs per state laws [1950.5 and 1940.5(g) I believe - check the statute numbers before you send it].  Send this letter to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of this letter.  Keep the post card that will come back stating when he received your letter.  Ask in the letter that he contact you within 10 days to resolve this.  If he fails to, sue him in small claims court for the bogus charges.  The only charge that appears legit is the one day of rent.

Hope this helps.  Now you see why I asked all those questions!   But there is one more question I am dying to ask (and the judge may want answered) How did you live in an apartment for 3 years and have NO furniture and hang NOTHING on the wall in all that time?  Let us know how this works out.

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #7 
You wanted to know how I lived there for three years without furniture and without hanging any pictures on the walls.  Well, when I moved out to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, I put all of my stuff, furniture, pictures, shelves, etc. into a PODS storage facility until I could find a place large enough to put all of my things in.  In the mean time, I was paying $200 a month to keep it in storage and expected to pay roughly $1200 to have it moved out here and put into a new apartment.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find an apartment large enough for everything I owned, that I could afford.  I moved into that apartment thinking it would only be for a short time and then I could find something larger and move everything up here.  I didn't want to spend any money on new furniture, because I already owned everything I needed.  That's why I didn't have any furniture or hang any pictures.  Three months ago, I lost everything I owned, because I can no longer afford the $200 a month and don't have the (now) several thousand dollars I would need to move it up here.  However, I shouldn't say that I had NO furniture.  My sister-in-law gave me her 20 year old bed and I had a small, plastic, 2 drawer stack set, that I used as a nightstand.  Sorry for the slight exaggeration.

Thank you for the advice.  After losing everything I own, getting soaked for my much needed deposit really hurt. 

You also state, "But in future, you must leave the unit clean, unless the LL gives you written instructions to do otherwise.  It doesn't matter what he plans after you leave."  I guess I didn't understand why I had to clean something he was just going to throw away.  I have had several friends tell me they got their entire deposit back from LL that were going to remodel.  I assumed, stupidly, that just because he could charge me for it, he'd be a stand-up guy and not take my money without cause.

"How much of an area was carpeted in that unit?"  Since it was a single, not a studio, about 70% of the apartment was carpet.  Probably about a 300 sq.ft. area and none of it was ruined.  He is definitely charging me for 100% of the new carpet. 

I think I mentioned this in my first post, but he did put a notice on my door about two weeks before I moved out stating that I could do a walk through with management if I wanted to set up an appointment.  Again, I figured since he was remodeling I wouldn't need to do this.  I know..duh.

You also mention, "He also must send you receipts for any deductions that total over $125."  "Did he include those in the statement letter?"  He only sent me that one explanation of deductions paper and nothing else.  I didn't get any receipts.


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #8 
Since he kept more than $625 of your deposit, he was supposed to include receipts.  Any deduction that totals more than $125 must be accompanied by receipts.  Surely he has a receipt for the carpet!  And even if he cleaned the unit and the carpets himself, and did the painting himself, he is required to itemize those with the individual tasks that needed done, the hours it took to do each one, and the price he charged you per hour.  He also would have receipts for the carpet machine rental, the supplies needed to clean and paint, the receipt for the paint, etc.  Make sure yu bring those up in your letter.  That is required in CA.

Since he did offer you the PMI, you should look to see if he included the required language in his offer.  Otherwise, he did what he was supposed to do there.

Send him the challenge letter and let us know what happens.

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #9 
I received his response and wanted to post it here.  However, I've not heard anything since this letter.  And by the way, I'm going to spell everything like he spelled it.  I would also, again, like to note that he is completely remodeling the apartment.  I received this letter on the 1st.

Per your letter dated July 25th, please be aware of the following:

The check and the statement that we sent was an ESTIMATE, as we had not done the work within the 21 days after you vacated.  We hope to get the work next week.

The big item is the carpet.  We won't know until it is professionally cleaned if the "burn marks" will clean up or if we will have to replace the carpet.

When we get the work done and have the invoices, we will send you copies of the invoices, along with a refund, if one is due.

As for the 1 day of rent, you acknowledge that you turned in the keys on July 1.  Your 30 day notice also expired on July 1. (Notice was given on June 1, 30 days would take it to July 1)

As for the 75% of the estimated painting costs, we estimate painting to last four years.  Per the terms of your Rental Agreement, Paragraph 11C, by singing the Rental Agreement, you acknowledged what percentage you would be charged for the pointing, if needed, before you ever moved in. No one twisted your arm to sign the Rental Agreement, as we intentionally spelled this out in the Agreement just for the purpose of avoiding any later discussion or disputes specifically about this item.  We have learned that the more that is agreed to UP FRONT, the less SHOULD be disputed later.

Signed by LL

I would like to note that if I had just dropped the keys through the slot in the LL's door at the time I vacated, 10:30pm the night before, and not bothered to say anything, I would not have been charged for the extra day.  I only did what I did to be respect full and let him know I had actually done it.  STUPID ME apparently.

I would also like to note that I only lived in the apartment for 3 years and he specifically said he estimated painting to last for what's up with that?

How much longer do I need to wait for him to screw me again?  Should I just go ahead and take him to small claims court?


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #10 
Did he mark the statement as an estimate?  I believe CA law requires it to be marked as such if it is not a final statement.  Read CA Civil Codes 1950.5 and 1940.5(g) for specifics.  I think he was hoping you'd accept it as fact.

He refers to a clause in your lease about painting.  Please post that clause (11C) so we can interpet what it says.  What did you agree to pay in your lease?  If they estimate painting to last 4 yrs, and you lived there 3, why would they charge you 75% of the costs?  Shouldn't they charge you 25%?

The big item, as he mentions, is the carpet.  Why would it take longer than 21 days to clean carpet???  This charge shouldn't be estimated.  It only takes a couple hours to do that.  It's not like painting where it takes hours and hours to get maintenance to lay tarps, mask off areas, cut it the paint around openings, roll out a couple of coats, and remove the tape and tarps.  Carpet cleaning only requires a phone call on their part!  It doesn't take 21 days to do that.  There is no excuse for estimating this.

He should have already sent you the receipts for all the work that was already completed with the "estimated" statement.  The cleaning should have been done.  Carpet cleaning should have ben done.  Where are the receipts for those?  Perhaps the painting was not complete.  But if you had already agreed to that charge, why the need for the estimate?

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #11 
Squashed at the very bottom of the disbursement of funds letter he sent to me  it states the following, "We have enclosed copies of all of the invoices for the work done and charged to you.  If invoices are not enclosed then we have not yet received them from the vendors. In order to expedite your refund, we had to estimate the costs of these items.  We will send you copies of the invoices when we receive them and issue you a refund for the difference if any money is due you."

I'm guessing at the last couple of words because they didn't fit on the page when he photocopied it.  That is the extent of the estimate statement I guess.  However, since he hadn't done any of the work when he sent me this statement, I would guess that it doesn't really mean very much.

As far as the clause you mention, I couldn't find my lease from three years ago, so I don't know what it says and he didn't include a copy of it in the letter he sent.  I never throw anything away, as I'm a huge pack rat, but when I was moving out of that apartment I had so much stuff to move that I must have finally decided to throw some things away and the lease must have been hidden in there.  Had I seen it, I would have kept it.  I didn't though. I just can't imagine that if I had seen I would have to pay $150 for painting the apartment after I moved out, for the next person to move in, I would have agreed to it.  It's interesting that he didn't include it though.

You ask why it would take longer than 21 days to clean the carpet.  Because he's not going to clean it.  He is remodeling and he is just ripping it out and replacing it along with everything else.  He is probably waiting for another tenant, with new carpet, to move out and then he can use that cleaning invoice for this.

As of today, August 11th, I have yet to receive ANY receipts from this man.

Posts: 8
Reply with quote  #12 
OK, so I finally received the invoices he didn't include before and I was given back another $260.  So the breakdown now looks like this:

1 day of rent: $35.66
75% of painting costs: $150
Cleaning: 80
Cleaning of carpet: 65
Repair of carpet: 35
Total deducted from $900 deposit: $365.66

The invoice for the cleaning says:

Cleaning only: $50
Refrigerator & Stove clean: $20
Balcony clean: $10

As far as painting goes, i received a piece of paper from the LL's company with a hand written note stating:  Full paint job, as needed.

The invoice for the carpet says:

Carpet cleaning single: $65
Repair carpet: $35
Total: $100

That's it.  Nothing explains how long it took to clean or how much they charged an hour.  There was no explanation on the invoice for the carpet repair, so the term "burn mark" was only listed on the LL's explanation sheet.  So how do I know the repair wasn't on a mark that was in the carpet before I moved in and was noted on the move-in inspection?

I guess I don't understand why I'm paying for normal wear and tear items?  I thought all of this had to be done anyway if there was no damage done.

So, what are my chances of getting back my $366 in court?

Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #13 
This is just my opinion, but:

If you lived there 3 yrs and they expect a paint job to last 4 yrs, you should only be charged 25% of the paint job, not 75% since only 1/4 of the useful remaining life of the paint was left.  This charge should be $50 not $150.

Did you receive a copy of the carpet cleaning company's invoice?  One stamped or imprinted with the name and address of the company?  How about one from the carpet repair guy (I'm guessing that charge is to patch the burn hole.)?  One from the cleaning company?  (If he didn't include the actual bills from the companies that did the work, it isn't an invoice.  Without their bills, those charges aren't allowed.) 

Or did you just receive the one from the LL?  If it comes from the LL, CA law states it must include the info I mentioned previously (he is required to itemize those with the individual tasks that needed done, the hours it took to do each one, and the price he charged you per hour).  Read the CA statutes I quoted.  That "cleaning receipt" has none of that.  A judge may say it doesn't meet the state requirements. 
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