August 01, 2009,
J.D. asks from Maplewood, NJ on July 28, 2009
Seeking Advice on Renter's Deposit
Hello. My husband and I moved to NY two years ago, and we signed a two year lease on a home in NY. We put down a deposit of 1 month's rent at the beginning of the lease term. I'm looking for some advice/stories when it comes to landlords returning the deposit. We rented once and I remember the landlord giving us the majority of the deposit back. But what is the "legal" requirements. I know our landlord is very picky (wish I could have met/spoken prior to signing the lease). Picky enough that we were basically forced to use her landscaper to keep up with the yard, and she has been in the yard and putting plants around at her will since we have have given our notice (will not renew, etc).
Our lease requires us to keep all appliances in working order (done), maintain gardening (we've been paying the landscaper for a year, and she is stopping by). It states "normal" wear and tear. It just makes me sick to my stomach thinking that she'll keep the deposit because her "standards" are different than ours.
If you have any advice please help.
1 mom found this helpful
So What Happened?™
So we have moved out of the house in the of the middle of August. We had until the end of Sept for our lease. Turns out our landlord has rented the property (a single family home), without notifying us, we paid our last month's rent, and she cashed the check for Sept 2009 (our lease stated we could not use the security deposit for the last month's rent). When I spoke to her this past Friday about shutting off the water at the end of the lease agreement, she did not mention the her new lease on the property, which we had not broken. I found out about the new occupants from a friend who was a neighbor. We have yet to see a check for the deposit, and now can't believe she has rented a property which is still legally ours (we paid our rent in the time due and have leased it until sept 2009.)
T.R. answers from New York on July 29, 2009
Read your lease, see if it says that your security will be returned in 30 days after vacancy, if it does not use your security to pay your last months rent. Definitely take pictures of everything, I mean everything like inside cabinets, behind refridgerators, inside closets ..places like that, landlords will find something. Don't forget the ceilings. I became a landlord about 2 yrs ago but I have rented all my life, so when the time came for me to be a landlord I considered everything to make a renters life more easy. I have the best tenants in the world and they have the best landlord. Suggest to your landlord that you would like to live out your security and see what she says if she says no than thats when you start covering your behind. Their is no reason for a landlord to keep the security unless you totally destroy there property. I wish you luck and let me know what happens with your security.
K.P. answers from New York on July 29, 2009
No matter what you do you may have a fight on your hands. Take pictures and possibly be prepared to go to court. Refer to the terms of the lease, for when the deposit is supposed to be returned. You may want to hire an attorney to represent you in court if it comes down to that. Even if she doesn't give you all of your security back, you can then take her to court with the pictures. You may even want to have a repair person come in and certify the appliances are in good working order and give you a statement stating the same prior to you moving. This way you have that document on your side too.
Try not to get too emotional about it but treat it like a business matter you must deal with.
Good luck getting your security back and welcome to Jersey.
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N.B. answers from Jamestown on July 29, 2009
I live in PA and the rules are that you are to give your landlord written 30 day notice (certified letter). The Landlord has 30 days after you have moved to return your deposit and include an itemized list of why your deposit is lower.
Most landlords will not do this or they will give you a far fetched list (i.e $526 for cleaning expenses after you moved out) thus trying to take you to court for more money.
I actually had a landlord change the locks on the doors 12 hours b4 my 30 days was up and then try to take me to court for cleaning expenses. He even had all the utilities shut off so I couldn't finish shampooing the carpets a day before I was officially out. He lost, but then so did I.
Then there have been places I moved from where I didn't ask for the deposit back due to damages from kids/pets.
Try going to a legal aid office and ask for the paperwork on landlord tenant laws. It's free.
*TAKE PICTURES OF EVERY ROOM AFTER YOU HAVE EVERYTHING DONE.
L.H. answers from New York on July 29, 2009
Just keep the place looking nice when the landlord comes to inspect. Then you'll get your deposit back. If not, then ask why and try to fix the problem. Respect for the place your are renting goes a long way with a landlord.
C.T. answers from New York on July 29, 2009
For your sake, I hope you took pictures prior to moving into the apartment. I would also recommend photodocumenting every room and appliance prior to turning in your keys to make sure you have an "after" record for yourself. Of course, your LL does not need to know that you took these steps.
The other thing I would try to do is open a line of communication with the LL and ask her for a pre-exit walk through so that she can voice any concerns she may have and you can address them prior to leaving. Tell her that in you want to make sure that the apartment is left in a condition which is acceptable to her. Be honest with her and tell her that you are making this request to ensure a full refund of your deposit monies.
I only rented for a few years, the first my own studio than a house my husband and I rented for about 1.5 years. The studio I lost the deposit on it because they insisted I did not provide enough notice. They claimed they need 60 or 90 days instead of the standard 30. The second, the gentleman LL was a bit mental so we had to use our pre-move-in pictures to demonstrate that we were leaving the facility in better condition than we arrived. We also sent him a cover letter with every months rent check documenting the improvements we had made (from painting to new kitchen lighting) and how we had reduced the rent accordingly. We always provided the receipts as backup.
You always need to take steps to CYA. I think in this case the pre-exit walk through may be your best route.
J.V. answers from Utica on July 29, 2009
My husband & I own rental property and can tell you the main things we look at after a tenant moves out: state of floors/carpets, general cleanliness, state of walls. i would suggest shampooing/steam cleaning the carpets if there are any, also if you have hung a lot of things on the wall which would require spackling/repair of the dry wall,she might dock some from your deposit from that. Obviously, any pet/animal damage would be your responsibility. Normal "freshening up", new paint if there is no actual damage should not be your responsibility. If you are worried about conflicting stories regarding the condition of the house, take pictures and/or a video as you are walking out the door. Good luck!
L.R. answers from New York on July 30, 2009
Just like everyone has told you lots of pictures and video if possible also if you ask her and she says yes get it in writing thats were I failed.
D.S. answers from New York on July 28, 2009
I think the security deposit can only be withheld if damage is done to the property, or if it is left dirty. As long as it is clean and no damage is seen then you have a right to full security back. I also though that security deposits must be put into an interest bearing account. I could be wrong I am not sure. If there anyway you can use your security as your last months rent? Or does the lease state that is not possible. I think it has to be returned within 30 days after you leave the property. I would suggest you take pictures of the apartment when you leave so she can not say things were not left properly. This way if she does withhold security you will have visual proof should you have to fight her on it. Good luck and welcome to NJ!!