Question: My girlfriend rented an apartment in Westerville for her ailing grandfather. She purchased furniture and housewares for it, but he passed away before he could move to Ohio and move into the apartment. We moved the things out, and the apartment manager kept half ($200) of the security deposit, citing damage (a gouge?) to the counter-tops.
I’m confident that no damage was done moving in or out, but additionally, the manager indicated that the damage had been hastily repaired and painted over (by her or her crew), so I’m absolutely certain we’re not responsible for it. The manager said that she is sure we are responsible for the damage because she checked with the previous tenants and they said they weren’t responsible for the damage. Do we have any recourse?
Answer: I’m trying to figure out who’s gouging whom here. First of all, I assume that you were on a month to month lease that had expired after one month. One thing that you need to be sure to do is know how to properly end a month to month tenancy. On our main website, we have a podcast talking about terminating a month to month lease. Generally you have to give the landlord 30 days notice of your intent to vacate the apartment and end the month to month tenancy. Listen to our podcast to avoid pitfalls on giving 30 days notice. You generally have to give 30 days notice prior to the next due date for rent. So if your rent is due on the first of the month then you need to give 30 days notice prior to the first of the following month.
Why the big deal on this? If you don’t give 30 days notice you owe rent for the following month whether you lived there or not. So your landlord may have a legitimate claim for $400 (I assume that is the monthly rent) against your security deposit.
By the way, the 30 days notice must be in WRITING and delivered in a manner that you can prove that the landlord received it. Again check out our podcast.
Finally, back to the security deposit charges of $200 for the counter-top gouges. We have a whole section devoted to getting your security deposit back on our website at this link. Generally, we recommend documenting the condition of the apartment at move in and move out with photos or videos. If you have such evidence then you are golden. If not, it then becomes a he said-she said game. Of course, you can always question the legitimacy of the $200 charges. Does the landlord have to replace the counter-top or is a simpler less expensive fix available.
You could ask the landlord for the previous tenant’s current address or phone number as you would like to talk with them. It sounds to me like the landlord is lying. It doesn’t make sense that she would have to check with the previous tenants. I think the landlord is retaliating because your grandfather never moved in and she has to re-rent the premises.
One last point, to preserve your rights, you need to send the landlord a letter with your address for receiving the security deposit and do this via certified mail return receipt requested. Do this even if the landlord has already sent you half the deposit back. If you do take the landlord to court, that letter is a pre-requisite for getting double damages and attorney fees.
Hope this helped.