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Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #1 
I'm new here! I am glad to have found this resource.

Oct 2008- 3 tenants sign 12 month contract, pay $1000 damage deposit, move into 1 year old house.
March 2009- 1 tenant moves out with military deployment orders
June 2009- Landlord and remaining 2 tenants sign joint cancellation agreement, since they are having trouble making payments. Their terms were to pay the balance before move out. They didn't.

Now- They owe $980 in back rent, late fees, and some utilities. I still have their damage deposit, and it has been about 2 weeks since they moved out. They have not given me a forwarding address, though I think they moved back to their old place. I added up all the damages, taking none of it as normal wear and tear. I think some of it is w&t, but after only a 8 month stay, maybe about $200 of it.

Oregon law- must refund deposit or give explanation within 31 days of end of tenancy.

I put everything in a spreadsheet, and costed it all. The formatting is messed up from copy and paste, but the total comes to over $1500.

I want to wait to deal with this until after I get paid the back rent, or else I am afraid they will not be willing to pay any of it and it will go to court.

What should I do? Send them a bill now? wait for the past due rent? Go directly to court? One of their mothers said on the phone that they will pay me the rent (the tenants are both about 20). I told her the deposit will be handles once their account is current.

Damage deposit breakdown           
Nail holes in sheetrock or trim, spackel/paint to repair    127    0.75    95.25
Sheet rock dent repair, small    2    5.00    10.00
Sheet rock corner damage, medium    2    20.00    40.00
Interrior door blank    1    35.00    35.00
Interrior door routing    3    12.00    36.00
Paint interrior door    4    15.00    60.00
Missing door knobs    2    15.00    30.00
Broken garbage disposal, 1/2 HP Badger 5    1    99.96    99.96
Lightbulb replacement    6    3.00    18.00
Weed removal (hourly)    3.5    18.00    63.00
Removal of trash, broken glass, and cigarette butts from yard (hourly)    0.75    18.00    13.50
Mow lawn (hourly)    2.5    18.00    45.00
Sprinkler head replacement, pipe repair    2.5    25.00    62.50
Garage electrical system repair    NA    100.00    100.00
Damage to sheet vinyl flooring (square feet of damage)    75.7    4.00    302.80
Cabinet door replacement    1    75.00    75.00
Cabinet trim replacement (in feet)    4    6.00    24.00
Screen door installation and repair (hours)    0.1    18.00    1.80
Sliding glass door stopper replacement (hours)    0.1    18.00    1.80
Door stopper installation (originals missing/broken)    3    5.00    15.00
Wall plate repair    5    5.00    25.00
Garage door (% of door damaged) 16X7, steel, uninsulated    0.25    800.00    200.00
scratches in stainless steel refridgerator door    NA    20.00    20.00
Screen replacement 20x31    1    21.32    21.32
Removal of garbage and debris    NA    75.00    75.00
Painting over stains and improperly painted walls (hourly)    3.8    22.00    83.60
Cleaning fees are all hourly           
2 Toilets (vomit, urine, brown scum)    0.6    18.00    10.80
2 Bathroom mirrors    0.15    18.00    2.70
2 bathroom vanities (sink, caminet, countertop, fixture, drawer)    0.4    18.00    7.20
2 bathroom shower+tub combos    1.2    18.00    21.60
2 bathroom floors (sweep+mop)    0.3    18.00    5.40
1 bathroom window/track cleaning    0.1    18.00    1.80
1 entry sweep, mop, paint and spackel stain removal    0.3    18.00    5.40
3 bedrooms (dusting, window washing, window track cleaning)    0.5    18.00    9.00
1 sliding glass door and track    0.2    18.00    3.60
1 kitchen floor (sweep/mop)    0.15    18.00    2.70
1 dining room floor (sweep/mop)    0.15    18.00    2.70
12 Kichen cabinets/drawers (cleaning, stain removal)    1.75    18.00    31.50
1 microwave, food/food stain removal    0.35    18.00    6.30
1 stove, interrior/exterrior cleaning    0.25    18.00    4.50
1 refridgerator interrior/exterrior cleaning    0.25    18.00    4.50
1 kitchen sink/fixture cleaning    0.1    18.00    1.80
        TOTAL    1564.33


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #2 
Let's try to take these slowly.  You are in OR, right?  I'll give you what I think a judge would say.  You need some explanations to let me know what or why these charges are made.

-First, some nail holes are expected.  People hang pictures.  So unless you stated that none could be made, some of those will be wear & tear. Charge for the big ones, or large groups together, ignore the small ones.
-What was wrong with the interior door?  Why did you have to replace it?
-What is door routing?  Is this trim?  What was wrong with it?
-Why did 4 doors need to be painted?  Some nicks in paint would be wear & tear.
-What type of door locks?  Passage (keyed entry) or privacy (like BD or bath)?  Were these just gone???  Broken?
-Is this the price for a new G/D?  Or a repair?  Couldn't the old one be repaired?  If not, you have to depreciate the price for the new one.
-$18 for 6 light bulbs?  Doubt a judge would allow that.  If normal bulbs, $1.50.  If not plain, state such.  (Doubt he will allow $18 even if energy efficient ones.  They aren't required.  You could install plain ones for much cheaper.)
-$18 an hour to pull weeds?  No experience or training needed for this.  Can't charge more than what you'd hire someone to do it. You could have hired a kid at minimum wage for this.
-Again, $18/hr to pick up trash?  Or to mow?  Judge won't grant that.  Lower it to minimum wage.
-What was wrong with garage electric?  Need more info.
-You must depreciate flooring of all kinds.  Can't charge replacement value.  Charge 5/7 the value if destroyed.  (House 1 yr old when they moved in, they stayed almost another yr.)
-What was up with the cabinet door or trim?
-Are you charing $1.80 to install screen door and stopper?
-$5 per wall plate?  If you mean outlet covers, they are 5/$1.  Takes one screw to put on.  Judge won't let you charge $5 unless these are special size.
-How did you get the garage door price?  Did you replace one panel?  If not, you can't charge for it.  You can't charge for 1/4 of the damaged door if you didn't replace it.  Please explain.
-Did you remove the scratches in the fridge?  If not, again, no charge.
-$75 trash removal - is this a dumpster price?
-Painting is normally depreciated too.  Charge 2/3 of total cost if they lived there up to a yr, 1/3 if up between 1 &  2 yrs., nothing if they stayed 3 yrs.
-Cleaning charges are at $18 per hour?  Unskilled labor.  No training needed to do this.  Price per hour too high.  Plus some of these jobs required very little time.  Judge may question if you really needed to do them if it was done that quickly.  Couldn't have been very dirty.  He may think you are nitpicking to charge $1.80 to wipe out the sink, $1.80 to wipe out the window track, etc.
-Dusting and washing windows may be considered wear & tear.

Other considerations:
-Does OR allow a LL to charge for his own labor?  Not all states do.  If not, you needed to hire someone to do this to charge them for the labor.  In some states, judges consider LL labor free.
-The statement should be completed, sent to their forwarding within those 31 days of vacating.  Wait until those 31 days are almost over, but get it to them in time.  Keep a copy.  If no forwarding, send it to the rental address to see if they forward it.  If it comes back, keep it unopened in their file as proof of mailing.  List anything over the deposit as a bill due within 30 days.  If they don't pay, sue in small claims court for the rest.
-If sent to the rental address and it doesn't come back, send an empty envelope to the same address marked "forwarding address service requested".  See the USPS site for more info on this.  It will get you their forwarding address.
-Remember to itemize unpaid rent on there.  Itemize late fees and list lease clause that authorizes them.  Itemize the utilities that they owe.
-What did the cancellation agreement say about a termination fee, advertising fees, or rent until re-rented?
-Do you have before and after inspection reports signed by the tenant?  Before and after pictures?

Please give more info on those items needed.


Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #3 
OHlandlord- Thanks so much for all the information!

  • The nail holes- I was going to write off some of these as W+T.
  • The interior door had a fist sized hole through it at shoulder height.
  • Door routing is cutting doors for hardware to fit, the tenants replaced 3 doors, 2 of which were incorrectly routed, plus the one I had to do.
  • 4 doors were not painted (3 the tenants replaced, one I replaced)
  • Doorknobs- both missing, both were dummy (non-turning) knobs on tenant-replaced doors
  • G/D- that is a new price, but  I was able to repair it. In the auto industry no parts are repaired, just new ones installed, I was following that logic in pricing. Not a good idea. I won't repeat it.
  • Bulbs- one was a more expensive vanity bulb ($3 my cost). I will charge less for the rest.
  • Weeding/grass- If I hired a landscape company their labor rate would be close to $20 per hour, wouldn't it? Why should I work for minimum?
  • All of the outlets in the garage have no power, and they had power during the tenancy (the garage power operates the sprinklers and Internet modem too). I am waiting for the bill from the electrician. My price was an estimate.
  • How do you define destroyed? It is still habitable, just many little cuts, and about 4 chunks missing between dime and quarter sized.
  • Cabinet door was split down the middle (looked kicked in), cabinet trim was missing.
  • $1.80 for a screen door installation? Yes. I work quick, and I would say it took about 6 minutes to bend it back and re-install it. They left it in the yard.
  • The wall plates are snap on, no hardware shows. the boxes were damaged, but I was able to retrofit them with larger hardware to make them look right.
  • The garage door was quoted at $800 for replacement. They ran a car into it, and now it is not sealing where the panels meet, and it is visibly dented, but still functional. If I were to try to charge a future tenant for REALLY damaging it, they would say it was already messed up. Like the floor from above, I would think I need to charge tenants for the am mount of damage they do to it, to prevent future tenants from paying for 100% damaging an item that was only in 75% of new condition. And there is no way running a car into a steel garage door is W+T.
  • I didn't repair the scratches in the fridge, but this is like the other items, throwing something at a fridge and scratching it isn't normal wear and tear, and once that happens too many times, it is time to replace the whole door or appliance.
  • trash removal- No. I took the trash to home (300 miles away) where I disposed of it in my residential garbage bin.
  • I will depreciate the paint. It was 18 months old, so they pay for 50% of it? How long they lived there doesn't matter? or do I charge them for 28/36 of the cost (3 year paint life minus 8 months)?
  • The place was filthy, I have pictures of beer stains running down walls and trim, vomit on the outside of toilets, paintball (yes like paintball gun) reminants on a wall... the list goes on and on. I will probably put in more reasonable times and labor rates (more time less rate)
  • The windows were dusting and washed when they moved in, and their contract said to return the residence clean, so I will maintain that it is not wear/tear. Also I would say wear and tear is non-cleanable using standard methods. Otherwise it is just not cleaning.
Again, thank you for showing me their side. I would much rather see this argument now than in the court room.

A little more info on cost- this is a very nice house with a more than $5000 set of cabinets (stained walnut I think) in it, I could go on and on about the place. So some of the repair costs are going to be higher, due to more expensive materials.

On costs- Can I get quotes for cleaning, and charge that amount? Or does it have to be the time it took me?

On your extra items:
  • I still haven't found the info on charging for LL labor in OR. I will keep looking.
  • I have sent them the itemized past due rent/utilities as you described.
  • The cancellation agreement had no penalty fee, lost rent, or advertising fees. I was trying to be nice. I also accepted late rent without a late fee 2 or 3 times when they would call and let me know.
  • I do not have any inspection reports from them. They were not available for a final walk thorough, and we didn't do an initial walk though, because the place was in as-new condition (I know now, bad idea). I have a few before pictures (enough for court), and about 100 after pictures, including filthy appliances, bathrooms, broken stuff, etc.
The new tenants (it is already rented) have a condition report to fill out. They are paying $100 less a month for rent. I know I can fight for that in court, but I bet my joint consent lease termination agreement forgave me that right.

Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #4 
I can't tell you how tenant friendly your courts are.  But based on a quick glance at your state statutes, I would say you are in the middle.  No limit on deposits, a 31 day return time; but no pay or quit until after an 8 day mandatory grace period, and 14 days to cure violations followed by another 16 days to vacate.  You could well be in front of a tenant friendly judge is these are challenged.  And a tenant can get twice the amount back that a judge determines you wrongfully withheld.  So tread carefully.

I understand the routing, charges for the door, and the door painting now.  Include a description of why each was needed so you won't have to explain it to a judge if challenged.  You've got photos of these doors, right?

If you used a landscape company, you could charge for their bill.  But if you do manual labor yourself, judges frown on you charging so much for simple tasks that require no skill at all.  Those laborers don't get paid $20 a hour, only the company makes that much.  (It goes for the company overhead.) A judge wouldn't allow you to charge the tenant more than the minimum you could get the work done for.  You could get a neighbor kid to pull those weeds and mow the lawn.

Charge the actual electrician's price for the electric repair, and only if he finds that the power failure was caused by the tenant.  It could have been something else that caused it to lose power in the garage (vermin chewing lines, wired wrong, lose wire on incoming circuit, etc.)  Make sure he puts the cause of the electric problem in the bill.

You need to document the flooring damages.  Can it be repaired?  (This is why I don't use sheet flooring.  I use peel & stick tiles so I can remove & replace the damaged tile.)  Then charge a depreciated value only.

I agree the garage door damage isn't w&t.  But if you don't replace or repair, a judge won't allow you to collect.  Call a garage door place and ask if just the damaged panels can be replaced.  See if they can pull the dent like they do on a car.  This is not an antique that cannot be replaced.  (You might get by with charging for the damage without replacing it if it were truly irreplaceable.  But you can't just charge for damage if you don't do anything and it could be repaired.)  Fix it or don't charge.  The judge won't give you this money just to pocket it.

Same with the fridge.  If you don't repair, you can't charge.  These are things that could be repaired or replaced.  You can't collect if you do anything.  If it's the door, maybe a used appliance place would be able to get a replacement door?

Also, the judge will not allow you mileage to take the trash to your home.  No charge for trash removal except for your time (minimum wage or close to it) and the supplies.  He won't pay you to drive it home.  You had to go home anyways.

Tenants stayed less than a yr and left the place so that it had to be repainted.  Paint was already a year old when they moved in.  I'd charge 1/3 of the paint costs.

You can claim dust is not wear & tear.  But is is a natural occurrence.  Judges normally don't allow that.  Dust settles.  Dusting and washing windows are two things judges often toss out quickly.  You have to be careful not to appear as if you are overcharging the tenant or charging him for every little thing you can.  This will anger a tenant friendly judge and he'll look for things to toss out.

On cleaning, since you did it, it has to be your time.  But check to be sure that your state allows LL labor costs or these can be tossed as well.  If you don't know for sure, call a local LL association or a chapter of REIA.  You can't get estimates since they can't see what had to be done.  The dirt isn't there any more.

Not having before (inspection) reports will kill you in court.  Tenants will claim it was like that when they got the place.  Only your dated photos (which they will claim you faked the date on) will save you.  You will have to argue in front of a judge to see who he would believe.  Always do a before report and get their signature on it.  The after report isn't so important because you will have after photos (to compare to the before ones), repair receipts, witnesses to say how the place looked when you got it back, etc.

If you signed a joint consent termination agreement, you won't be able to charge them rent after they left.  Nor advertising or any of the other fees.

Also, don't inflate your hours.  The tenant will say they left that item clean.  It will be up to you to show a picture to prove it wasn't.  If your photo shows it was mostly clean, the judge will question why it had to be cleaned at all and will probably toss the charge.  (If it only really took you 6 or 10 minutes to wipe it up, that photo is going to look clean.  That small amount of dirt almost never shows up in pics.)  Since they are going to owe more than the deposit, chances are the tenant will challenge this itemization.  Who knows if he will take it to court or not.  (Will he qualify for a low income or fee legal aide attorney?  If so, bet on it going to court.)  Get all these prices together, and the unpaid rent and utility charges, total them all up and subtract the deposit from it.  Mail it out before that deadline.  Don't let them use the excuse that you missed returning this in time.  Good luck.

Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #5 
I don't have a lot of time to respond to every point you made, but I have one question:

Why would a tenant ever clean or mow the grass before moving out if the landlord would do it all for less than $200? Only because they don't know if the landlord will do it himself or hire a company to do it for $700?

Is this why landlords always hire help? because it isn't worth minimum wage to scrub vomit off toilets and pull weeds?

Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #6 
Many LLs hire help because they either don't want to do those things for themselves, they don't have time to do it for themselves, or their state won't let them charge for doing it themselves.

It's also why many Ls include yard care services in  their leases.  They know the tenant won't care for the yard.

Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #7 
That makes sense. There is nothing in the Oregon landlord tenant law prohibiting landlords from charging for their labor. There isn't too much about deposits pertaining to landlord withholding. Just mentions that I may deduct reasonable amounts for damage.

I also had a look at my lease. It requires them to return the property as it was issued, and by signing the lease they acknowledge that the property was clean and in good repair when they moved in. Not an inspection report, but better than nothing.

And chapter 90 (OR LT law) clearly states that the 31 day clock for deposit return starts once the lease has ended and the property had been returned. Nothing about forwarding addresses.

I think I have decided to let the floor go and have the garage quoted for repair. Anything else I should know about?

I was planning on sending the itemized list with descriptions and a cover letter, but not include any of the evidence I have (pictures). good idea to omit the pictures, or should I include some of them?


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #8 
I don't send photos at that time.  Save those in case it is challenged.  Send itemized statement with list of each deduction & why it was required.  Send receipts if they are required by your state law.  If not required, save these for a challenge too.  No reason to give them everything you've got.

Not having a move in inspection may be a problem in court if challenged.  The judge usually wants to see that, and before and after photos.  Make sure you do these with the next tenant.

Don't know how tenant friendly OR is, but I'd make sure he gets that statement within the 31 days of giving you possession just so he can't challenge it on this point.  Some states give a tenant 2-3x the deposit if not returned to them in time.

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