Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Help Me Howard: Security Deposit
If you rent, you know each month it's time to pay the landlord. The exception at the end of your lease, when you hope the landlord hands you a check for your security deposit, but what if they don't pay? Here's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you have ever been a renter, you have probably stood in Joanne's spot.
Joanne Wooden: "I'm standing here outside this property because I moved out of this place, and they are supposed to give me my deposit back."
Joanne and her kids lived in this Fort Lauderdale home for two years. She says she always took care of the place, and when she moved out, a worker told her she left it in great shape.
Joanne Wooden: "I asked him, 'Did they do anything in the house?' They said. 'No, everything was well done in the house, they didn't have to fix anything.'"
The worker's opinion was important because her security deposit was a nice chuck of change.
Joanne Wooden: "It was $1942.50."
She was expecting her landlord to hand her a check for 1900 dollars, instead.
Joanne Wooden: "It was $494.02."
Expecting $1900, getting $494, a $1400 difference.
Joanne Wooden: "And it hurt me bad. I couldn't do nothing but hurt. I cried, I'm sorry, I cried."
Cried as she read the long list of things the landlord says was wrong with the place, a long nit-picky list she believes.
Joanne Wooden: "They deducted from painting for 47 nail holes for $38.50. Remove leftover chairs, dressers, nightstands in the dumpsters for $50. Replacement for four outlet covers, due to tenant painted over it, for $70."
Twenty-six different items on the list. Joanne had snapped pictures of the place before she left, and says her pictures are a reminder the landlord's list is not legitimate.
Joanne Wooden: "I think they are nitpicking me because all this is not fair and not true."
Joanne was told by her neighbors not to fight the landlord, that she won't win in a battle with him, but she says she needs the $1400 he is holding for her family.
Joanne Wooden: "It means a lot to me, because I have children to take care of, and I have to take care of myself too, and I was going to be able to pay some bills with it, and I can't pay it with just that much, you know."
Joanne says she deserves her security deposit back. Her landlord says, no, you don't. So, Howard, what can a renter do?
Howard Finkelstein: "The landlord can bill you for any damage, even if it's minor, that is not normal wear and tear. If there is no damage, legally, the landlord has to return your entire deposit within 15 days. If there is damage, he has another 15 days to send you a letter explaining how much they are keeping and why."
When we contacted Joanne's landlord, he told us, all of the charges were legitimate and fair. When we asked if they were excessive, he told us, no, that an $18 charge for an outlet cover includes ordering, inventory and labor. In the end, his office did agree to return $275 more to Joanne. With the $494, it gets her to $769. Howard says every renter needs to be careful to avoid what happened to Joanne.
Howard Finkelstein: "To protect yourself, take pictures on the day you move in and on the day you move out. If possible, do a walk-through with the landlord days before you move out. That gives you time to correct any problems they may find because you can do it cheaper than a landlord."
Joanne could fight the landlord in small claims court,but will go ahead and accept the $769. She is happy about one thing though, she moved out.
Joanne Wooden: "Yes, I'm very happy. In the name of Jesus, sorry, God, didn't mean to call your name in vain. Yes, I'm happy."
The bottom line, document everything and get the landlord to put it in writing that he or she is satisfied with the condition when you hand in the keys.
Rented a problem you want to deposit with someone else? Check with us. We aren't flush with cash, but we do house a few legal ideas.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida's Landlord/Tenant Law