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Branderson925

Apartment Preparations Fee Deduction from Security Deposit

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Hello,

 

Thanks for reading. I recently moved from Washington, D.C. to New York. I was returned my security deposit from my D.C. apartment via check after waiting beyond 45 days. I was deducted a charge for ‘Apartment Prepation Fee’ of $395.

 

This was outlined in the lease as: “....the tenant agrees to pay to Landlord an Apartment Preparation Fee of $395 for the preparation of the premises for the Tenant’s occupancy, said Apartment Preparation fee to be deducted from the security deposit (or paid by the Tenant if security deposit is otherwise applied) at the expiration or termination of this lease.”

 

I have since engaged in an email exchange with an employee of the property management group who eventually connected me to the head of the company. I want to know if this is a legitimate charge. I have asked for an explanation of this charge as to what it actually means. To me it seems highly suspicious. I acknowledge I signed the lease with this language but if the language isn’t backed by the law then it becomes void (if I’m not mistaken).

 

As an aside, the lease also stated I needed to give 30 days notice to Vacate from the first of the month prior to the last month of tenancy. For instance, I sent a Notice to Vacate on January 4th and was told the 30 day period would begin the first of the month. They wanted me to basically pay for another month of rent after I was planning on moving out even thought I was giving beyond six weeks of notice. Anyway, I realized this was suspicious, called them out on it since D.C. has a thirty day maximum period of notice to Vacate. The

property management company conceded after I sent a few links to tenants rights in D.C.

 

So what should I do about the Apartment Preparation Fee? I have asked for it back obviously but want to see if I am in the right. Thanks for your help. I am happy to answer any questions or provide more details to make things more clear.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brandon

 

 

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the DC law on security deposits is here:

https://code.dccouncil.us/dc/council/code/titles/42/

 

in section 42-3502.17

also

42-3503.05

and 

42-3502.22

 

also here:

https://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Common/DCMR/RuleList.aspx?ChapterNum=14-3&ChapterId=2251

 

(14-308 through 14-310)

 

It looks like as long as the 'Apartment Preparation Fee' was adequately disclosed (and you indicate it was expressly disclosed in the lease and, presumably, with the documentation accompanying payment of the remainder of the security deposit) it is probably OK for the landlord to collect it.  There doesn't seem to be anything in the statutes or regs that prohibits it.

 

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Hm thanks for your response. I may have found the answer to my own question. I am copying from an exchange from the Office of the Tenant Advocate to see what you all think.

 

 

You have asked this office whether a landlord may stipulate a $400 “apartment preparation fee” to be deducted from your security deposit. The short answer is that although he can pre-establish an “apartment preparation fee” as a fee charged to all tenants (provided this doesn’t violate rent control laws), he cannot deduct this from the security deposit. The security deposit is used for payment of actual damages, and therefore could not be determined by a pre-established amount.

 

D.C. law requires landlords to return the entire security deposit (plus interest if you have lived there for 12 months or more) when you move out, unless there are damages in the apartment beyond normal wear and tear or your lease agreement states other terms and conditions for return of the deposit. The money is not the landlord’s; it is yours, and the landlord is supposed to hold it in a separate escrow account. The law regarding security deposits may be found in the D.C. Municipal Regulations, Title 14, Chapter 3(“Landlord and Tenant”), Sections 309 (“Repayment of Security Deposits to Tenants”) and 310 (“Return of Security Deposit: Inspection of Premises.”) These regulations may be found at your nearest library or on-line at the D.C. Government website.

 

Within 45 days after the termination of your tenancy, your landlord must either return your security deposit plus interest or notify you in writing that he or she plans to keep all or part of your security deposit. Within 30 days of the notice that your landlord plans to keep part or all of your security deposit, your landlord must return the balance plus interest and send you an itemized list of all repairs or other uses of the money not returned to you. Failure by the landlord to comply with these requirements is evidence that you are entitled to a full return, including interest if applicable, of your security deposit, and treble damages in the case of a landlord’s bad faith refusal to return your security deposit (See 14 DCMR 309). 

 

When there is a dispute over the amount of your security deposit that was withheld, you may want to consider taking your landlord to Small Claims Court. This procedure is simple and informal and some landlords will return your deposit when faced with a summons to appear in Small Claims Court. For assistance in filing your Small Claims action against your landlord, you should contact the Small Claims Resource Center, located at 510 4th Street, NW, Court Building B, Room 102. Their staff of volunteer attorneys provides free legal information to unrepresented plaintiffs who have disputes in the Small Claims Branch. They can be reached by phone at (202)879-1120.”

 

thanks again

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Ask for the refund yourself by sending the apartment management a letter (certified mail with return receipt where the recipient who receives it has to sign to prove it was received) in which you quote all of the text of the reply you got from the Office of the Tenant Advocate.   The text is pretty clearcut that they owe you a refund.  Did you leave the apartment in reasonably pristine condition and do you have photos as evidence? I'll bet you anything they will now come up with an itemized list of actual or "supposed" repairs that were needed to clean the apartment to make it ready for someone else.

 

If they do not respond with a certain period of time, begin your small claims suit.  Would you be able and willing to take the time off to go back to DC or would that not be viable and you would need an attorney to represent you then?

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