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Feldspar67

Security Deposit and Utility Bill

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I am a first time landlord and learning some lessons quickly. We are in a transition period between 2 groups of renter's, with one lease coming to a full conclusion and a new one beginning. Before the new party was able to move in I conducted a final inspection....upon entering the house I was immediately overwhelmed with pet odor. The lease clearly states that no pets will be allowed unless there is written permission from the landlord. In the 2 years this group rented the house, they did not communicate with me about any pets. I found cat puke in multiple spots on rugs, heavy pets odors throughout the house. 4 days after the official move out date and the new family was moving in I contacted the previous renter's and explained to them why I would not be returning their security deposit. They shot back that if we did not return the security deposit that they would be asking us to pay the water bill, as the lease states. This detail of the lease had never been brought to my attention during the 2 years they lived in the house, and I failed to see this detail in the lease myself. The utilities are in their name, and they paid all of them fully for 2 years, but now they are asking to be reimbursed for all the water they used for 2 years after they moved out and the lease is complete. In total, the renter's had 4 cats and 2 dogs in a house that asked for no pets unless receiving permission. Also, they made adjustments to the house, changing fencing to accommodate 2 large dogs, removing vintage shelving from basement pantry, removing landlord furniture from the house after moving out, and adding an additional tenant to the household without mentioning it. You may wonder how as a landlord all this could happen without my knowledge? Well. the house is 200 miles from my home, each time I made attempts to do a walk-through (3 total) they were conveniently out of town. 

 

My question? If these renters's were planning to ask for the water bill to be reimbursed shouldn't they have done this while they were still renter's and not only as a result of hearing they would not be receiving their security deposit.? Do any of the breaches of contract they committed trump the entire agreement and place the lease in default and their rights to claim any part of it?

 

Anyone have some light to shed on this one.?

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1 hour ago, Feldspar67 said:

If these renters's were planning to ask for the water bill to be reimbursed shouldn't they have done this while they were still renter's and not only as a result of hearing they would not be receiving their security deposit.?

 

Probably, but it's not really relevant to anything.  They still can make the request and probably will succeed if this were to go before a court.

 

 

1 hour ago, Feldspar67 said:

Do any of the breaches of contract they committed trump the entire agreement and place the lease in default and their rights to claim any part of it?

 

I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at with this question.  They breached the contract by having pets, and you're entitled to seek damages for that.  They apparently committed other breaches, but it's not entirely clear that you were damaged as a result.  If you were, you're entitled to seek damages.  Conversely, you apparently had an obligation under the lease to pay certain utilities but didn't do so.  That you didn't know about the obligation is unfathomable.  Whether you provided the lease form (as would be common) or the tenant provided the lease form, that you, as a landlord, entered into a lease without knowing exactly what it said is more than a rookie mistake.  In any event, the tenant is entitled to seek reimbursement for payments made that you should have made, and those payments certainly can offset the damages you are claiming.

 

For example, I'll use my own water bill (about $150 every other month - $1,800 over two years).  If we assume that you had a $2,000 security deposit and that it will cost $1,000 to remediate the pet odor and other alterations, then you would need to return $1,000 of the $2,000 security deposit and pay the tenant an additional $1,800.  Or, stated differently, you need to pay the tenant a total of $2,800.  Of course, your numbers may be different, but if these are your numbers, then you may be better off simply returning the full security deposit.  Of course, that wouldn't preclude the tenant from coming back later and asking for the water bill payments, so you might want to get some sort of signed release either way.

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Do any of the breaches of contract they committed trump the entire agreement and place the lease in default and their rights to claim any part of it?

 

This is my point according to the lease....Removal of Landlord's Property:

In anyone removes any property belonging to Landlord without the express written consent of the Landlord, this will constitute abandonment and surrender of the premises by Tenant and termination by them of this Rental Agreement. 

 

Furniture and shelving belonging to the house was removed, alterations to outdoor fencing conducted. 

 

In addition....is there any truth to moved out = lease complete....if renter's want to file a claim regarding utilities that are in their name and they paid for during the lease agreement, they should have done so when the lease was active.

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I agree that this was more than a rookie landlord mistake....no excuse. The renter's were contingency buyers and I simply didn't put the time into the lease details that I should have....2 years later they backed out of the purchase.

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2 hours ago, Feldspar67 said:

This is my point according to the lease....Removal of Landlord's Property:

In anyone removes any property belonging to Landlord without the express written consent of the Landlord, this will constitute abandonment and surrender of the premises by Tenant and termination by them of this Rental Agreement.

 

The lease was terminated when the tenant gave notice and moved, so this isn't an issue.

 

 

2 hours ago, Feldspar67 said:

In addition....is there any truth to moved out = lease complete....if renter's want to file a claim regarding utilities that are in their name and they paid for during the lease agreement, they should have done so when the lease was active.

 

Nope, and "complete" isn't a term that has any legal meaning.  As noted above, they're entitled to make the claim that you didn't perform as required by the lease.  Should they have let you know sooner?  Sure, but it doesn't preclude a claim now.

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Gotcha....so at this point it's who wants to put out or shut up....We have claims amounting to $3,000 (replacement of soiled rug, pet rent not collected, furniture removed from the house, alterations to the property without landlord permission).

 

They have, give us our $600 security deposit back  and pay our water bill for 2 1/12 years( $1700). Who wins? I will be submitting them with a final letter stating the specific reasons why they will not be receiving their security deposit, in addition to a list of the charges, expenses for the multiple breaches of our agreement. 

 

Will someone take this to court? maybe. However, I feel with what I will be laying out, they would be foolish to do so, and should simply accept the fact that they will not be getting a $600 SD back.

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1 hour ago, Feldspar67 said:

We have claims amounting to $3,000 (replacement of soiled rug, pet rent not collected, furniture removed from the house, alterations to the property without landlord permission).

 

They have, give us our $600 security deposit back  and pay our water bill for 2 1/12 years( $1700). Who wins?

 

Given these numbers, and assuming you can prove all the damages, you would keep the security deposit and the tenant would owe you an additional $700 ($3,000 - $1,700 - $600).

 

 

1 hour ago, Feldspar67 said:

so at this point it's who wants to put out or shut up.

 

Yup.

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I do feel a little in the dark on how to prove some of this......I can prove they had 4 cats and 2 dogs by interviewing neighbors, which I did (would they also need to appear in court?). I tried to take pictures, but they just didn't do justice to the detail of hair and puke. I can also prove that they sublet the home, or increased the # of tenants by the claims of neighbors. I can prove the carpet needs to be replaced by walking through the house and being overwhelmed with pet odor, and taking the claims of the new renters of what is like to live there. I can show photographs of missing shelving in the basement pantry...not sure how to prove the furniture they took was ever in the house. I am able to show receipts of carpet cleaning rentals, cleaning supplies, and my time spent cleaning so new tenants enter an acceptably clean rental environment.  

 

Any suggestions on how to organize list of proof, other than what I already listed? 

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Courts that hear landlord-tenant disputes deal with pet damage claims all the time.  Typically, the landlord's testimony (or those of whatever contractor is hired to remediate damage) is sufficient.  If you want to try and prove up unpaid pet rent (which I think will be a bit iffy -- did your lease really say "no pets without permission and if I do give permission, you'll have to pay $X per pet in pet rent"?), then you may need something more.  These sorts of disputes are typically handled in small claims court, and rules of evidence in small claims court are typically relaxed, but having the neighbors actually testify will be preferred.  Also, allowing additional residents probably didn't result in any damages to you, so that's probably dicey at best also.  Might not be a bad idea to pay for an hour's consultation (or so) with a landlord-tenant attorney -- especially if you're going to remain in the landlord business.

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