Author Topic: Suing landlord in small claims court - How would you judge? read on for details  (Read 10506 times)

J Boogie

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Hi Mustache community.  I'm posting this here because I've found this group to be generally objective and fair minded and I want to get a feel for what I can expect in conciliation court on Friday the 22nd.  My question to you is would you award me any money and if so, how much, and if not, why not?  I am also interested in any advice you have.  Landlord went to law school and told me she is an attorney.  I knew she went to law school and owns a chain of beauty salons. 

I intend to prove that my landlord violated the following MN state law 504B.178:

Damages. Any landlord who fails to:
(1) provide a written statement within three weeks of termination of the tenancy;
(2) provide a written statement within five days of the date when the tenant leaves the building or dwelling due to the legal condemnation of the building or dwelling in which the tenant lives for reasons not due to willful, malicious, or irresponsible conduct of the tenant; or
(3) transfer or return a deposit as required by subdivision 5,
after receipt of the tenant's mailing address or delivery instructions, as required in subdivision 3, is liable to the tenant for damages in an amount equal to the portion of the deposit withheld by the landlord and interest thereon as provided in subdivision 2, as a penalty, in addition to the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld by the landlord and interest thereon.

So here is a summary of my case:

September 1 - Moved out of ---- ----.  Vague memory of giving LL my new address via telephone, but not certain.  Sent text to LL saying that I was available for a final walkthrough at anytime as my new residence was very close.  Did not receive a response and we never had a final walkthrough.

October 5 - Having received no deposit or explanation letter from LL, I thought it was possible I failed to give her my new address.  I provided it to her in email and requested the deposit.

October 12 - Having received no response, I emailed LL again asking for an update regarding the deposit.

October 21 - Texted LL mentioning the emails I had sent and requesting the damage deposit.

November 3 - Emailed LL to let her know I would like to receive my original deposit plus $200 for being late.  I let her know if I did not receive this by November 9th I would seek all that I am entitled to legally.  I ended the email letting her know there were no hard feelings on my part.

December 23 - Filed claim against LL for $1,790 (2x the deposit plus cost of filing in accordance with 504B.178)

December 31 - LL called me to meet up and talk

Jan 13 - Met with LL.  Learned that LL was, despite the numerous emails I had sent, under the impression I had received the leftover portion of my deposit (around $320) back in late September.  She explained she had withheld a portion of the deposit for a clog that had occurred during my tenancy and another portion for general cleaning.  When the clog was fixed, the company she hired told her the material responsible for the clog was coffee grounds.  My wife and I do not own a coffee machine or buy coffee beans.  The best I can offer for proof are pictures of my unit that I sent to LL (prior to this clog) so that she could advertise for a new tenant.  There are numerous pictures of the kitchen and no sign of coffee paraphernalia.  When I brought this up, LL insisted we were at fault, mentioning that we cook.   Regarding the general cleaning, LL never responded to a text message I sent on September 1 about the walkthrough. 

Background about issues we've had with LL:

On numerous occasions LL's handyman has entered our unit without advanced notice beyond a few knocks.  One time my wife was in the bathroom when this happened.  On another occasion, I have a text record of one of these entries:

-LL, we just had a handyman enter claiming you requested the stove to be fixed.  The stove has been fine.  Did you tell him to do this and if so why and why no advanced notice?
-Sorry my bad.  I told him 6.  I ment (sic) to say 5.  Your neighbor has some issues and she ok him to go in.  My mistake.

A note about when our kitchen sink was clogged -
We let LL know and her handyman tried to fix it while were gone.  When we came back, our apartment smelled very bad.  He was unable to clear the drain and the kitchen sink was full of black liquid.  For some reason, the toilet was full of this same gunky liquid and the shower walls had its residue on them as well.  I emailed LL a picture of the shower.  I believe it is unfair to require the tenant to clean up their mess when you fail to clean up your own mess.


Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.  I'm interested in your opinions as landlords.  Please note that I don't find her reasons for withholding a portion of my deposit entirely unreasonable, but I do think she violated MN state law and I hope to prove it.


electriceagle

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The mixup between units 5 and 6 doesn't seem material. If you bring it up, you'll seem petty and muddy the waters for your main claim.

Most lawsuits require that you send a demand letter. I don't know if this is the case for your statute & state, but a letter on physical paper sent via certified mail is the norm for this.

Emails and texts are fun, but legal notice needs to be on paper. Since nobody replied to the emails, you have no proof that they were received.

I wouldn't be surprised if the landlord claimed to have sent the deposit and accounting months ago, and simply offers to cancel the previous check and provide it again.

The clogged drain could go either way. Many states have a law which requires landlords to give written notice of the right to a walkthrough. Did she do this? Did you respond in writing?

Cathy

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Hi J Welterweight. I appreciate that you posted a much more detailed version of your story than many members do when they start these threads, but unfortunately, I still can't offer legal advice on your specific situation. However, I am replying to this thread to post a few very general propositions which may be helpful to you, even though they do not directly answer any of your questions and do not provide advice on what to do or how to proceed.


Landlord went to law school and told me she is an attorney.  I knew she went to law school and owns a chain of beauty salons.

The fact that the landlord claims to be a licensed lawyer, and may actually be a licensed lawyer, does not mean that the court is going to be biased in her favour. The court will evaluate the arguments and evidence of the parties and will not base its decision on extraneous factors. In fact, if anything, some judges are actually harder on licensed lawyers even when it's not relevant to the case. That said, if you are curious whether she is a licensed lawyer (even though it is highly unlikely to be relevant to anything), most jurisdictions make available a public licensing database, although in some places members can opt out of being displayed online. Even if the landlord is a licensed lawyer, she will not be acting in the capacity of a lawyer when she represents herself in court.


My wife and I do not own a coffee machine or buy coffee beans.  The best I can offer for proof are pictures of my unit that I sent to LL (prior to this clog) so that she could advertise for a new tenant. ...

One thing that people who have not studied the law frequently do not realise is that testimony is evidence (otherwise known as proof). If a person testifies to a fact within his personal knowledge, that by itself is generally evidence that the fact is true. It's open to the trier of fact (the judge in a small claims case) to determine whether the witness is credible, but if the witness is credible, his testimony will serve as proof of the truth of its contents, subject to some technical exceptions. See, e.g., Minnesota v. Goggleye, No A15-0125, 2016 Minn App Unpub LEXIS 42 at *10 (MN Ct App Jan 11, 2016) ("A conviction can rest upon the testimony of a single credible witness.") (citing various cases for this proposition and for related propositions).


Those are the only comments that I propose to make, but I think they may be helpful to you. I express no view on the merits of your claim, no suggestion of how to prosecute your claim, and no comment on any other issue. I also express no view on anything posted by any other person who has replied to this thread.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 10:48:22 AM by Cathy »

J Boogie

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The mixup between units 5 and 6 doesn't seem material. If you bring it up, you'll seem petty and muddy the waters for your main claim.

Most lawsuits require that you send a demand letter. I don't know if this is the case for your statute & state, but a letter on physical paper sent via certified mail is the norm for this.

Emails and texts are fun, but legal notice needs to be on paper. Since nobody replied to the emails, you have no proof that they were received.

I wouldn't be surprised if the landlord claimed to have sent the deposit and accounting months ago, and simply offers to cancel the previous check and provide it again.

The clogged drain could go either way. Many states have a law which requires landlords to give written notice of the right to a walkthrough. Did she do this? Did you respond in writing?

Based on what I've read, I think my county's conciliation court is pretty casual about evidence and communication.  Which is nice, because I don't have any certified mail or demand letters. 

I appreciate your input regarding the mixup.  I was on the fence about mentioning her negligent practices - I thought it might help illustrate what kind of a landlord she is, but it does risk making me look petty.




J Boogie

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My wife and I do not own a coffee machine or buy coffee beans.  The best I can offer for proof are pictures of my unit that I sent to LL (prior to this clog) so that she could advertise for a new tenant.

One thing that people who have not studied the law frequently do not realise is that testimony is evidence (otherwise known as proof). If a person testifies to a fact within his personal knowledge, that by itself is generally evidence that the fact is true. It's open to the trier of fact (the judge in a small claims case) to determine whether the witness is credible, but if the witness is credible, his testimony will serve as proof of the truth of its contents, subject to some technical exceptions. See, e.g., Minnesota v. Goggleye, No A15-0125, 2016 Minn App Unpub LEXIS 42 at *10 (MN Ct App Jan 11, 2016) ("A conviction can rest upon the testimony of a single credible witness.") (citing various cases for this proposition and for related propositions).



I really appreciate your knowledgeable advice Cathy.  Your writing style and extensive knowledge suggest you have significant experience practicing law,  based on your signature and post count, it seems you offer helpful tips pretty often.  Thanks for taking the time to do this. I did not know about testimony being evidence until challenged - It'll help me stay on topic without getting into the weeds about my coffee-free lifestyle.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 11:14:04 AM by J Welterweight »

Cathy

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I did not know about testimony being evidence until challenged  ...

That's not exactly what I said. For greater certainty, a trier of fact might find a witness not to be credible even in the absence of contradicting evidence. See generally, e.g., Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 US 564, 575 (1985) (noting that "variations in demeanor and tone of voice ... bear so heavily on the listener's understanding of and belief in what is said"). Also, don't confuse testimony with arguments. Oral statements in court generally only constitute evidence if the person is actually testifying under oath or affirmation. If a person is merely making arguments to the court (such as in an opening statement or a closing statement), those statements are generally not evidence. See, e.g., Shawesh v Pahl, 2013 ABCA 321 at 11 (O'Ferrall, JA, concurring) ("The permitted forms of evidence do not include unsworn statements made in open court."). If you ever watch court proceedings, you'll notice that unrepresented persons often do not understand the distinction between evidence and argument, to their peril. You may actually find it helpful to watch some proceedings before attending for your case.

You should retain qualified counsel licensed to practice in Minnesota if you require assistance preparing your case. My posts in this thread are only intended to convey some very basic and well-known propositions of law. My posts in this thread do not contain any specialised niche or expert knowledge. These particular posts are the legal equivalent of somebody introducing Newton's laws of motion into a discussion of physics -- very basic information that anybody who has taken even a cursory took at the field would know.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 11:59:04 AM by Cathy »

FIRE me

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She explained she had withheld a portion of the deposit for a clog that had occurred during my tenancy and another portion for general cleaning.  When the clog was fixed, the company she hired told her the material responsible for the clog was coffee grounds.  My wife and I do not own a coffee machine or buy coffee beans. 

If the building has old cast iron drain drain pipes, they rust from the inside out and the rust looks just like coffee grounds.

dilinger

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I went through a similar situation in Massachusetts about a decade ago, although the story is much more weird (and entertaining).  I'll explain the whole thing.  If you just care about the legal stuff, skip to the 5th-to-last paragraph.

I moved into a duplex where the landlord lived above me.  He was my age (mid-20s), and seemed nice enough (although a bit of an awkward personality).  His parents owned the house, and he was fixing it up for them to move in.  The lease itself was hilarious, full of random things like "the tenant will not slam the garage door like a contestant spinning the wheel on The Price Is Right".

There was a basement which was generally off-limits to me, but I did buy a washing machine/dryer while I lived there, and the only place to put it was in the basement.  So I was given access.  The basement had all kinds of bizarre things in it - random old TVs, aquariums, etc.  Just tons of old junk.  I asked about it, and was told that it was stuff left from old tenants.  While I went in there every week to do laundry, the collection slowly grew, but I thought nothing of it.

After almost a year of being there, I decided not to renew the lease.  I informed the landlord, and he wanted to show the place to people.  I said that was fine, I just needed notice (24hr or whatever).

It was the night before a 3 day weekend, and I was leaving to go on a climbing trip.  As I was getting into my car, the landlord asks if he can show the place on Saturday.  I tell him sure, but I was headed out, so I wouldn't have time to clean up - the place wasn't a huge mess, but there were some dishes in the sink.  He said that was fine.

I come back on Sunday evening, and I notice a Rosemary bush has been planted outside the house in the ground.  I look closer, and realize that it's *my* rosemary plant.  I go into the house, and the landlord has washed my dishes (hey, that's cool) and removed my houseplants (Rosemary, some aloe, some random others).  He's also re-arranged the inside of my medicine cabinet, and rearranged some random other stuff.  At this point, I'm incredibly freaked out.  I go upstairs, ask him where my plants went - he tells me that they looked like they needed water, so he planted some outside (don't ask me what the logic was there) and brought some others into his apartment.  He asks if that's okay, and tells me that he can dig them back up if I want.  I'm starting to wonder about the mental state of this guy, so I tell him he can keep the plants.  I wonder if there's anything else he took, but I'm just glad that he didn't think my cat looked hungry or something.

I speed up my efforts to find a new place to live.  I try to keep my distance from the landlord.  I don't take any more trips, and I make sure to be present when he asks to show the place.   He finds a new tenant, I move out, and it's pretty uneventful.  I expect to be dinged on the security deposit for 2 things: a round burn mark I made on the counter top (which was wood) by placing a hot pot on top of it, and for leaving some bags of garbage outside for trash pickup that don't fit into the normal cans.  I left my new address with him (which was actually a condo that I bought - I was done dealing with sketchy landlords).

I give him a week, and then email to ask about the security deposit.  He says that he's super busy with stuff, and tells me it'll be a few weeks before he gets around to getting an estimate for the countertop.  Fine.

I wait a few weeks.  I email him.  Silence.

I wait another week.  I try calling him, and leave a voicemail.

I wait some more time, and email.  Nothing.  Finally, I go there and knock on his door.  His car's there, but no one answers.  I leave a letter in his mailbox with my address, asking him to contact me about the security deposit.

At this point, there was a lot going on in my life - relationships, being busy at work, fixing up the condo, etc.  It was also before I was particularly frugal.  It was $1450, and I was making like $8k/month, so I just kind of dropped it.  I didn't have time to deal with it.

Fast foward about a year.  I have some blender which broke.  Either the glass carafe broke but the base was fine, or vice-versa.  Either way, rather than throwing it away, I put it on Craigslist's free section in case someone wanted it.  Someone emails me, saying they'll be driving through my neighborhood shortly and want to pick up the blender.  They have their phone number and first name in the email.  I'm getting ready to respond, when I realize that the name and email style looks familiar.  I realize that it's the same way my old landlord used to write.  I look up his phone number in my contact list, and sure enough - it's my landlord.  It occurred to me that the stuff in the basement wasn't from tenants - the guy just collected free junk off CL or something.  And now he wanted my blender.

I email him back, saying that he's welcome to the blender.. but he also owes me a security deposit.  He responds saying that he will drop off a check, but that he had to take money out for fixing stuff.  I respond that it's fine, please come by and drop off the check/pick up the blender.  He follows up saying that something came up, and that he couldn't come by now, but he'd be by later in the week.

At this point, I'm pissed.  Getting the money back would be nice, but I'm more pissed that the guy had the nerve to do this to people.  I was fortunately in a position where $1450 didn't make much of a difference in my life, but I could see it being a huge issue for someone living paycheck-to-paycheck.  I looked up MA tenant laws, and discovered that there was a deadline for getting back a security deposit, and that any money removed from the deposit had to be itemized.  I also discovered that the landlord is required to keep security deposits in a separate bank account, and tell me the account number (this information came in useful later when I moved from MA and became a landlord myself, renting out the condo).  The landlord did none of this, though to be fair - I'd rented in 3 or 4 different apartments in MA, and *no* landlord had ever given me information about a security deposit account.  The penalty for a landlord not returning a security deposit before the deadline is that the tenant is entitled to 3x the deposit.  1450 * 3 = $4350.  Now we're talking about some real money.

I send him certified mail asking for the security deposit, including my address.  I make a copy of the letter.  The landlord signs for it, so I now have proof to show a judge that he's seen my letter.

I wait the requisite 30 days or whatever.  Then I file in small claims court.  I get assigned a date.  The day arrives, I take off work and show up.  There's a whole lot of waiting around.  Finally they call my name, and call the landlord's name (whoa, he showed up!).  We are told to go to a separate room.  There's a judge who has us both come to the front.  Before we even get to talk, he looks over the documents I filed (lease, certified mail, my bank statement showing the paid security deposit) and asks if we'd be willing to talk with a mediator.  We both say yes, so we go to another room.

The mediator talks to both of us separately.  He's an ex-lawyer who is doing this for fun.  He tells me that he can't give me legal advice (note: I hadn't contacted a lawyer at all).  He looks over my stuff, and kind of implies that.. yeah, I'm gonna win this.  He goes over to talk to the landlord.  The landlord is getting visibly upset.  Finally, he motions me over.  The landlord has a picture of the burn mark, and says that I needed to pay for that.  I calm explain that yes, I would have been happy to - if he'd returned any of my calls/emails.  I explain that the law requires him to give me a list of things taken out of the security deposit within X days, and that legally he now owes me $4350.  He looks at the mediator, who kind of gives him a pained "yeah, you're fucked" look.  The landlord starts talking about how hard to was to find a contractor, and how he doesn't have that kind of money, and how his parents don't know the first thing about being landlords, how they control all of his money and they're broke and so on.

It was pretty clear that he was having issues (family, money, maybe substance abuse or others things?), and I did feel bad about burning the countertop.  I tell him that if he can pay me $1500 tomorrow, we can consider the matter settled.  He tells me that he can't pay until the end of the week.  I say fine.  We go back in front of the judge, the mediator tells the judge that we've reached an agreement and the details of the agreement.  The judge basically threatens the landlord ("if the check isn't received, this will get very bad for you..").

At the end of the week, I get a check for $1500 dropped off in my mailbox.  I never hear from the landlord again, although I like to think that he's at least returning security deposits to his tenants these days.  Someone else on CL takes the blender, which sadly means I can't call this the story of how I sold a broken blender on Craigslist for $1500.. :)
« Last Edit: January 19, 2016, 02:04:41 AM by dilinger »

dilinger

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BTW, I didn't mention the landlord's weird/illegal behavior in court at all.  I stuck to the basic premise of: the law requires you to do this, and you didn't do it, so you owe me.  It worked pretty well; I didn't have to explain the burn marks or garbage bags, or even try to deal with various other hardships that the landlord expressed.  Just follow the law, that's all I'm asking.  Can't argue with that!

SnackDog

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You have a good case. I would file in small claims court immediately.  Be prepared to document the condition of the apartment as the LL will try to deduct for damages and cleaning.

J Boogie

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Thanks everyone for the helpful and hilarious contributions.  I might take the whole day off work rather than just a half day on Friday (starts at 9am) since it could take a while.

Everything I've researched corroborates the views some have expressed here to avoid listing all of things the defendant has done wrong and focus on my claim, which is that she never responded when I asked about the deposit 4 times.


MMMtwinbrain

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

therethere

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

Wow I hope you're kidding. Landlords should not use deposits as their maintenance fund or personal stash. I had a landlord do this. She was a broke waitress who was stuck as a landlord when she bough a condo she couldn't afford in 2007. Like an idiot she set the rent lower than her PITI+HOA. She used up the entire security deposit on maintenance during the year. Then came up with some BS list of repairs after I moved out and told me I owed her money! When I refuted some of the items she would mail be back an updated list with more random deductions on it.

No, you're a landlord. You're required to be honest and maintain the property at your expense. Don't want to be a landlord? SELL! Tenants rent so they don't have to deal with this bull. You're not doing anyone a favor by renting to tenants and being a slumlord.

MMMtwinbrain

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I hate to tell you this but you are soooooo wrong in many ways and if everyone had your attitude there would be millions of people on the streets. I am one of the best Landlords ever, I have never done a rent increase but I will tell you this, I truly think that renters should help out a bit with the maintenance and yes there is even a market for SLUMLORDS, because believe it or not without even SLUMLORDS there would be millions of homeless people. My snarky attitude towards tenants was created by shitty tenants over the years destroying my places. But that person suing their Landlord for double the deposits pissed me off a little !!! THATS EGREGIOUS !!!!
But anyway have a great day and piece out : )

Jakejake

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let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.
OMG. What kind of landlord thinks the deposit should be considered a "tip"???

partgypsy

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

Is this my former landlord?

MMMtwinbrain

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NOPE LOL !!!!

Beaker

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

What in the hell...?

Of course landlords don't have to do it - that's why you get paid to do it. And the landlord does deserve to get paid for providing a dry roof - we just like to call that pay "rent". It's separate from the refundable security deposit for a reason. And all of this is laid out in the lease and the relevant laws. If the landlord is disorganized, dishonest, or ignorant enough to fail to abide by that, he deserves to pay a penalty. And I say all of that as a small-time landlord myself.

Man, I wish there were fewer self-entitled landlords out there trying to screw over their tenants and making the rest of us look bad.

GrowingTheGreen

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Ok I'm not an attorney, but I would venture to say that I have above-average experience in providing professional testimony. Some general advice:

Prepare your statement in advance and read from it when the judge asks for your side. Read from it verbatim.  Be succinct and stick to the facts you can prove. Small claims judges endure the equivalent of projectile-vomiting in verbal form on a daily basis. You will stand out if you're well prepared and are concise. You don't have to spew everything out at once. Start with why you filed a claim, the key (provable) facts that support your claim, and why you are requesting that specific dollar amount. The hearing officer or judge can always ask for more detail. Don't go rambling about all of your other grievances that don't pertain to the claim. If you've got plenty of dirt, there will be an opportunity to bring it up at some point.

FIRE me

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At the end of the week, I get a check for $1500 dropped off in my mailbox.  I never hear from the landlord again, although I like to think that he's at least returning security deposits to his tenants these days.  Someone else on CL takes the blender, which sadly means I can't call this the story of how I sold a broken blender on Craigslist for $1500.. :)

Holy crap, that was one bizarre landlord story. It was also a rare case of procrastination paying off. I am glad it worked out well for you. 

accolay

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Wow. How did it turn out?

I wish I knew more about the legal aspects of your predicament. Either way it's piss poor that it took four months for your Landlord to get back to you. I took a tenants rights class for landlords in MN and the lawyer emphasised that withholding the security deposit was very very bad.

Really interested in how it went at court. Wonder if you'd actually get the money if you won? Check out landlord rating websites. I'd advise you to check out HomeLine and buy their book How to be the Smartest Renter on Your Block https://homelinemn.org/purchase-our-books/

p.s. I've gotta say I'm glad MMMtwinbrain was never my landlord.

Ricky

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

I don't think anyone needs to read past your first sentence to form judgment on your thoughts here. Not only do you sound like the epitome of a slumlord, your overall philosophy on being a landlord is completely twisted and a little mental, especially with regards to the relevant and contextual information derived from this thread. It's like you're speaking in tongues.

OP, I don't think you'll have any issue getting your deposit back.

Overseas Stache

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Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt.

Sorry to let you know this but the reason you have made hardly anything is because you are making a poor cash flow investment not because of your mortgage. Mortgage is leverage and if used correctly should provide you with a higher cash on cash return then is possible when buying cash. If your leverage is not helping you get better overall returns then why are you leveraging?  Why are your investments cash flow neutral? Probably a combination of a couple reasons, like location, never raising rents (which some how you think makes you a good land lord), buying too high. In any case your poor investments are no reason to suggest that someone should give up their deposit.

J Boogie

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I'm sad to say the judge did not rule in my favor.

Apparently, it wasn't that big of a deal to him that she didn't respond to my emails asking for the return of my deposit.  (She said that she sent it, which I don't doubt, but I never got it.)

He was just like ok, well let's see how much of your damage deposit he gets back and had her go through the things that she withheld for.  Then he asked me if I agreed with that outcome and I said no, I've tried to contact her four documented times and I would have been happy if she would have taken one of those opportunities to meet with me. 

He then said I was in "his court" (which I was not expecting, I thought that was just on TV they said that!!) and proceeded with his plan to have her give me the remainder of my deposit that I should have received after having sent the first email.

 I think the judge basically dismissed the idea that I am entitled to damages based on the fact that she intended for me to receive the deposit.  Since she didn't withhold in bad faith as far as we know, she isn't liable for those damages.  I don't agree with that, obviously, but that's the way the cookie crumbled.  I'm not one to cry over spilled milk.  The judge didn't see it my way, I'll get on with my life and see if there's anything I can learn from the situation.

therethere

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Sorry for your outcome. At least you got your partial security deposit back. Although, I bet at this point it wasn't worth the stress hassle. Shame on the judge for being sympathetic with a scummy landlord who now will have more incentive to do the same thing again.


J Boogie

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Sorry for your outcome. At least you got your partial security deposit back. Although, I bet at this point it wasn't worth the stress hassle. Shame on the judge for being sympathetic with a scummy landlord who now will have more incentive to do the same thing again.

Thank you for the kind consolation therethere.  I'm guessing if I would have won I would have received a nice congrats from someone with the username way2go.

Maybe Arebelspy is secretly gaining intel on mustachian mindsets so that he can report his findings to the Consumer Culture Advancement Association. 


robartsd

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Did the landlord provide any evidence of the 1st attempt to return your deposit?

If the landlord provided the date and check number of the deposit return he claims to have sent along with a copy of the itemized deductions and claimed that your documented communication was not recieved I can see siding with the landlord in not awarding any penalty, especially if the landlord brought in a duplicate of the check and/or bank statements collaborating with the claim that the check was issued. If the landlord had any difficulty providing the details of the refund, I think the judge should have sided with the tenant. I wonder if even a simple letter after texting and email failed would have added to the tenant's case in the sight of this judge, I certainly expect that a certified letter sould have.

accolay

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Sometimes I do wish I were a lawyer. Four months of no communication despite your effort seems like bad faith to me

J Boogie

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Did the landlord provide any evidence of the 1st attempt to return your deposit?

If the landlord provided the date and check number of the deposit return he claims to have sent along with a copy of the itemized deductions and claimed that your documented communication was not recieved I can see siding with the landlord in not awarding any penalty, especially if the landlord brought in a duplicate of the check and/or bank statements collaborating with the claim that the check was issued. If the landlord had any difficulty providing the details of the refund, I think the judge should have sided with the tenant. I wonder if even a simple letter after texting and email failed would have added to the tenant's case in the sight of this judge, I certainly expect that a certified letter sould have.

She did have a check number.  Judge asked if it was cashed and she said no.  I have no doubt that she did send it to me, she's just disorganized and not on top of her shit, to my detriment.

I think you might be right, a certified letter probably would have shown evidence of bad faith withholding.  In the future, I'm not going to file a claim until I've sent a certified letter. 

Dicey

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If it's any consolation, if this happened in California,  you'd have won, JW. OTOH, think what you've saved by not living here.

As to that other comment, which doesn't even deserve to be quoted, it's a complete joke, right? Right??

bigbenreiss

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1st of all Landlords always deserve forgiveness in the 1st place because they dont have to do this for a living. In fact the tenants are extremely lucky that the Landlord even when out on a limb to even turn a gigantic investment into a rental property. I am in the Portland Oregon area and people wonder why rents are skyrocketing and its because of BS like lawsuits from ex-tenenants that try to sue them. Landlords in Portland over the years have quit because there is far better ways to make money than to deal with tenants trying to sue them thus the outcome is shrinking supply of rentals available thus shoving the rents sky high !!!!  The majority of Landlords are not rich and you trying to get double back is just pure EVIL and GREEDY !!!!  Theres an old saying Landlords live poor and did rich, and this is because they usually have a 30 year mortgage on the property thus making them very poor for 30 years. Ive been a Landlord for 20 years and Ive made hardly anything because of my 30 year mortgage debt. So my advice is to you to get over it, dont sue, let the Landlord keep the deposit for a tip since they went out of their way to provide a dry roof over your head, and move on.

If this is not a joke you actually may just suck as a landlord. I am also a landlord and if I didn't make money at it I wouldn't do it. I also follow the law and try to go above and beyond getting security deposits back because it'd bad biz otherwise.

Rents don't go up because of anything but the market. Set your rent at some insane number because you've been sued for not following the law and watch as you lose even more money. No one will rent from you at an above market rent just because you've had bad luck before. That's in line with having a tenant ask for a discount because they have over paid before. Are you going to discount them?

J Boogie

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After reading some of his posts, I don't think MMMTwinbrain is trolling us.  I think his comments are genuine.

He mentions that he dropped out of school at age 15 or 16.  His writing style and understanding of landlord obligations reflect that.  While his tone can be a bit off putting and I obviously disagree with his comments, I've learned that he did (or at least claims to have, and I don't see a reason to doubt) drop out of school to provide as a father.  I respect that decision. 


arebelspy

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Yeah, judges can do pretty much whatever they want. Wish that judge would have held the landlord accountable though, to teach them a lesson.  Too bad.

Sorry for your outcome. At least you got your partial security deposit back. Although, I bet at this point it wasn't worth the stress hassle. Shame on the judge for being sympathetic with a scummy landlord who now will have more incentive to do the same thing again.

Thank you for the kind consolation therethere.  I'm guessing if I would have won I would have received a nice congrats from someone with the username way2go.

Maybe Arebelspy is secretly gaining intel on mustachian mindsets so that he can report his findings to the Consumer Culture Advancement Association.


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Bearded Man

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Wow, epic thread.

Shady landlord, some weird slum lord that expects, what, a hand job next? Then to top it off, the plaintiff loses. I kind of foresaw that after reading the first attorneys response, but yeah, goes to show you sometimes the court is not on your side even when you are right. I wonder if evidence of this happening to past tenants would have been admissible.

Mattzlaff

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What an interesting read!

I've been scanning this land lord forum because a few guys at work just got into renting out property, trying to find some scary instances of bad tenants and bad landlord what not to dos.

Too bad you lost that seems like the judge is trying to pound through his cases...

J Boogie

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I think he found my claim a little too greedy.  Perhaps the double damages I was seeking are more appropriate with a landlord who intentionally withholds the deposit.  Maybe I would have found more favor with the judge if I hadn't sought double damages.

New wrinkle, she texted saying she mailed the remainder of the deposit a week ago (about $320).  I haven't received it and I texted her letting her know that.  Big surprise, haven't heard from her.  It's just $320 at this point but I don't like being fucked around. 

VAR

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I think he found my claim a little too greedy.  Perhaps the double damages I was seeking are more appropriate with a landlord who intentionally withholds the deposit.  Maybe I would have found more favor with the judge if I hadn't sought double damages.

New wrinkle, she texted saying she mailed the remainder of the deposit a week ago (about $320).  I haven't received it and I texted her letting her know that.  Big surprise, haven't heard from her.  It's just $320 at this point but I don't like being fucked around.

Stop texting. Wait a couple of more days -Send a certified letter. Don't repeat 1st mistake.

For what it's worth, I think double damages was extreme to request when you hadn't followed up with official correspondence. 
i've had more crappy landlords than I care to remember. It's never been worth my time to argue about all the crap. They're most interested in winning that fight. I view a deposit as magically gone to landlord fairyland. If any ever comes back it's lucky.

Primm

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This right here is why I'm glad that security deposits are held in a government-run trust here. At the end of the tenancy there are two options, either both parties agree on how much of the security deposit is refunded (whole amount, part amount due to repairs and cleaning, none) and both parties sign the rental bond return agreement, or if there's a dispute both parties go to tribunal, where the amount for each party is decided.

The landlord NEVER sees the bond until after the tenancy is over, so there's no way they can spend it or divert the funds for their own use. Far more fair IMO.

NoNonsenseLandlord

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Did you get the deposit refund, less $320 or not?  If you did, you will likely lose.

If you did not, and the rental agency has proof that they sent it, you will lose.  A returned check, or envelope?

The drain thing may go your way, I would not have charged for it.  If it was working when you moved in, and was an issue when you moved out, it is likely your expense.

UPDATE:  I just read your results.  That is about as expected.  Getting damages is hard, when there is no bad intent.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2016, 06:50:49 AM by NoNonsenseLandlord »

DoubleDown

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Stop texting. Wait a couple of more days -Send a certified letter. Don't repeat 1st mistake.

+1

Even before reading the new wrinkle about not getting the balance of your deposit yet, I was going to suggest to the OP that for the future don't rely on email, texts, etc. Use official mail and keep a copy or get it certified. All those other forms of communication are BS and they permit the recipient to ignore/dismiss them as not serious. Send a very short and concise  typed demand letter with what you want, put it a specific and reasonable deadline for action, then follow up with court action only as a last resort if the demand letter is ignored. 99% of the time the demand letter will not be ignored.