Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Figured It Out.

 Our former tenant is quite angry at us. She feels that she was overcharged for things. We had to replace a padlock on the garage ("It was on the door when we left!") She said she would leave the house keys in the mail box, but she didn't. They had installed a keyless entry on the door and she left the key that you use to change the code on it, but she did not leave the keys to the  regular door locks, the keys that she was given when she moved in. By her own admission she did not clean the stove or the refrigerator. (She forgot), but she claims that she wiped down all the cupboards. She didn't, and we can tell that because she left stuff behind in the laundry room, in the kitchen, in one closet and the bathroom upstairs. They also left boxes and totes and garbage bags full of stuff that had to be hauled out of the basement. I charged her for five hours of work. She feels that I am implying that she was not a clean person.   

My problem is that things like that draw me into responding. When she accused us of charging her for normal wear and tear, I assured her that we had not. That we painted the walls, and she was not charged for that. We put a new finish down on the hardwood floors, but she was not charged for that either. Those projects are a landlord's responsibility. That's normal wear and tear.

However, when a wall is left with holes in it where a shelf was ripped down (it certainly wasn't unscrewed), she was charged for replacing the drywall. That is beyond the scope of normal wear and tear. While her boyfriend had filled the holes left from the barndoors they installed between the diningroom and the livingroom, he hadn't sanded anything down. The table they sawed in half and bolted to the bathroom wall as a vanity was removed. Thatwas more damage to repair, and touch up painting. Tim charged them two hours of drywall repair for work in three rooms.  The thing was, not one of those alterations was permitted under the terms of the signed lease. 

I guess that I just thought if I explained it to her, she'd understand. 

She didn't. 

She pointed out that we could have replaced the toilet paper holder cheaper if we went to Walmart. We could have bought a padlock cheaper if we went to this store. She didn't understand why she was charged $50 to replace a broken knob on the washer because it was a very old washer. It wasn't old at all. All the appliances had been bought from the same place on the same day. They were new when she moved in, and yes, that is a heartstopping price for a knob, but it is what they charged (that was so outrageous that we did enclose a copy of the receipt.) It was $31 to replace the screen because we had to pay the window people to build the new replacement screen, because they'd tossed out the frame, probably hoping that we would be less likely to notice a missing screen than the torn one. 

In the end, she received $206 and change out of her $600 deposit, and she was/is not happy. She feels that it was our responsibility to set up a walk through, and we did not. It's actually the tenant's responsibility, by law, but if she has not set up one by 15 days before the moveout, we are suppose to contact her. We didn't have 15 days. She gave us 9 days notice. 

She's required to give 30 days notice, but feels because we didn't tell her she could not move out when she gave her 9 days notice, this constitutes our agreement that she break the lease. We knew she was hauling her stuff out in a big hurry. We were a bit blindsided by the speed that it all was happening. I figured they would clean after they got all their stuff out, but there was one last message that they were done, and the keys would be in the mailbox. 

The end. 

Well. Until the angry messaging started. The last exchange happened when they received their itemized list and the refund from their depost. She told me that I was lying, in those words and that because I was lying, it made her question every single deduction on the list. She was outraged that I would imply that she is a dirty person. At that point, I just started sending her messages to spam. She wasn't willing to listen. She wasn't being reasonable. She is swearing that she will not back down and she's taking us to court. We don't need to be seeing this stuff. We can look up the messages once a week to print out anything new, but we sure don't need the upset every day. 

Yesterday, I was over there one last time, scrubbing at the grout in the upstairs bathroom. When I was done, finally, I swept the floor. The bathroom sink cabinet is on legs, and when I swept underneath it, there were bottle caps, odd earrings, dust bunnies, packaging from false eyelashes, cat toys, bobby pins, etc. 

That's when it hit me. I see where the disconnect is. She feels that her house wasn't dirty when she left. What she doesn't understand is that it wasn't at all ready to rent. Appliances needed pulled out. Spills and grease had dripped down between them and the cupboards. There was debris and papers and all manner of stuff underneath all of the appliances. The carpets upstairs had not been shampooed. The windows needed washed. The grout in the bathroom needed attention. The baseboard radiators on both floors were dirty and dusty, Debris had collected beneath them as well. 

None of these things would indicate that I'm implying that she's a pig. I mean, if you pulled out my fridge right now, I am quite sure that I would be embarrassed, Same with the washer, the dryer the stove. I have my own shampooer, but there's a rug that could benefit from some attention. It's just a fact of life.

For some reason, it came as a big relief to finally be able to put my finger on the disconnect, to be able to figure out what she was so darned angry about. I mean, she had been a tenant for several years, and we never had a problem with her until this whole thing blew up in our face. 

I gathered up my stuff and the last of the garbage and headed back out. I locked the door with the new key to the new lock. I got in my car and came home. 

37 comments:

  1. My last tenant didn't get any of her $1000 damage deposit back. It took a lot of time and money to repair the stuff she broke and to clean the place out. I hired a cleaning lady and she spent 10 hours cleaning and then I cleaned some more. The same thing happened with the last two tenants as well, one of whom was my grandson's mom.
    You have my respect because I know you and Tim have been doing this for quite awhile.

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    1. Did she quibble about not getting it back or did she quietly go away. This one is making all sorts of noise, and it is uncomfortable because she's blasting us to Tim's family. In the end, I think all the threats and accusations will simply disipate. She's not got a leg to stand on, really.

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    2. She didn't quibble at all, in fact I asked her for more money. I was going to take the five days of rent out of the damage deposit, but I used up all the damage deposit cleaning and fixing. She gave me the extra money. She was an odd duck. I'm glad to be done with her.

      My husband's daughter lived in another rental for two or three years. They paid no rent, just the utilities. My husband's daughter had just had a baby and wasn't working and her partner was a neanderthal. They owed some money so we tried to help them. It went downhill very quickly and they left in a huff and didn't tell anyone that they lived there rent free. Lesson learned.

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  2. Your quality of being drawn into responding makes your blog all the more interesting. It boils down to the simple question did she deserve the return of her full bond, and clearly she did not.

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    1. I was very interested in your last comment that a board made the decision. Your apartment building must have a board that works independently of the owner. That's kind of neat, really. It gives tenants some control in the running of their building.

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  3. No, she was dirty , and careless of someone else's property.
    I am surprised that she got back as much as she did.
    We had trouble getting the bond back from our last property..cleaned it to within an inch of its life, left it spotless and maintained...and she used photos of the place after we had moved in and cleaned and cleared the place up to claim we had done nothing...a very controlling person... Thankfully we escaped!

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    1. You know, I was showing an apartment once and the couple looking at it was shocked that it was clean. They'd always had to clean their apartment before moving in. I was really taken aback by that. What doesn't make sense to me is that if the apartment was left clean, she did not have anything to complain about. What you did or didn't do didn't matter in the least. The only important thing to discuss: was the apartment clean?

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  4. I doubt very much she will take this to court!! I think she didn't fulfil her obligations and certainly didn't clean. My daughter's last landlord (who wouldn't get the heating/hot water fixed when she was ill with Covid) tried to deduct money from her deposit for advertising the flat (illegal) and then advertising the flat of the people above her who were moving down into hers! They gave a list of cleaning musts before moving out which included dusting the light-bulbs!! She was glad to leave.

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  5. P.S. I hope you took photos, just in case.

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  6. An experience to walk away from and leave behind you.
    I have been put off being a tenant after our recent experience. We were desperate to find somewhere to rent when our house purchase fell through at the last minute and had to pay a full year's rent plus deposit in advance to secure the property. We were very careful to keep the house spotless.. I never once used the oven as I didn't want to get it dirty. When we found this house after 7 months we told the landlord that we were giving notice to move out. He refused to readvertise the property and said that he would wait until the end of the year's contract and retain our remaining 5 months rent payments. OK. He was entitled do so When the lease expired we only got back £600 of our £1200 deposit as he said he had kept the gas heating on to protect the property. It was all legal but left a bad taste.

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    1. Here that never would have flown. A landlord has a responsibility to mitigate damages. Choosing not to advertise for a new tenant was his choice, not yours. He would be required to pay for that decision out of his own pocket on this side of the pond.

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  7. There is cleaning and there is bond cleaning and the two are rather different fish. It is one of those life lessons 101 that it appears she may have paid scant attention to.

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  8. Whew, a lot going on here--Debby I wish I had a fair-minded landlord like yourself. I'm currently fighting with MY landlord because of a rank smell in my air ducts that they claim nothing can be done. They finally agreed to send someone (today in fact) to take a closer look but this is been going on for 3 months.

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  9. All this seems par for the course with every renter I have ever dealt with.

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    1. We've been doing this for a lot of years now, and really, this one is the exception to the rule. To be honest, if she hadn't tangled up with the latest boyfriend, we'd probably be fine still.

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  10. There is no reasoning with some people. There just is not. Sounds like you could have taken a lot more out of that deposit than you did.

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    1. Actually, by law, we wouldn't have been required to return any of it. She broke the lease. But we knew that her departure was a benefit for both parties. We returned her lease minus the repairs and cleaning.

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  11. The distinction between “clean enough to continue living in” and “clean enough to rent to a new tenant” is a good one that many renters surely don’t understand…. I’m a reasonable person and I didn’t until just now when you pointed it out! Hoping she “gets” it now!

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    1. The communication stopped after she said we were lying. There's no reasoning with that. It will be explained in court, shoudl she press on.

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  12. I used to do rental clean outs and to some extent your observation is true that tenants do not realize the difference between cleaning for yourself and cleaning to make a property rentable. I've shown up and had moving out tenants be all insulted because they'd already "cleaned" and "my services were not needed" when what they'd done was work very had to just leave things reasonably broom clean, but still not rentable clean. That may be part of her problem but the fact they did so much damage and seem oblivious to the fact it was damage kind of overshadows this typical disconnect.

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    1. What state do you live in, Lynn?

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    2. I'm in southern Maine on the coast. We have a lot of houses that go by the week for big bucks in the summer, then get rented for somewhat less for the whole winter.

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  13. My daughter had the opposite problem when she moved out of her apartment. She took photos when she moved in of all of the things wrong in the apartment - lights that didn't work, sticky closet door, dirt or smudges on the walls, etc. She had requested he fix these things but he never did in the 2 years she lived there.
    She cleaned very well and took photos after she moved out to prove she did as asked by the landlord. But her landlord would not return any of her money and tried to charge her for more. Those lights that never worked, that closet door that was difficult to open, etc... She finally gave up fighting him about it and walked away without her security deposit but didn't pay him any extra.
    Now she owns her own home.

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    1. It is interesting that there are landlords, even here, who work from the stance of 'never give the security deposit back'. And that is their goal. We have always thought that it's unfair. If someone works in good faith with us, we work in good faith with them.

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  14. I would not be a suitable person to deal with this issue. You did well in your solution.

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    1. Well, it's not just me. Tim and I approach these things as a team.

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  15. It sounds to me like you were quite generous giving her $206 back! Let her take you to court. You have the evidence that your charges were reasonable.

    We've assumed our deposit probably won't be completely returned when we move. It's just the way things work for renters.

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    1. I kind of see it that way, but it is, of course, my own perspective.

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  16. Let me see if I understand this correctly, this woman has made a mess of your rental, damaged walls, refused to clean anything, broke the terms of the lease, and she says she's going to sue you for $394? Good luck with that, she won't get an attorney to listen to her for less than $1000. She's all hat and no cattle.

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  17. What a supreme headache and distraction your tenant is! I think it’s ridiculous to sue for that little money (though it may be a lot to her)… you’re definitely not doing anything wrong, so I hope she sees the light soon..! Not a distraction you need, especially now when you’re dealing with your new house! Fingers crossed that it all works out… xo, Ricki

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    1. It's kind of sad, really. I think that she lives way beyond her means, and so the money is a big deal to her. It's not really a headache. It's just one of those things that has spilled over into family. Nobody asks, but everyone talks.

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  18. It seems as though you came to a good conclusion even if you didn’t share it with her. Which is probably just as well.

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