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un-signed lease agreement

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A property mgmt. company sold a debt to a local collection agency. The debt was 433.00 for "cleaning" charges. I refused to pay the 433.00 as I left the place spotless. The charges were bogus.

Anyway, I asked the CA to validate the debt. They sent copies of cleaning receipts, rental applications and a lease agreement. I had initialed the individual pages, but I did not sign the lease agreement. Since I did not sign the lease agreement, can I legally be held liable for the cleaning charges?

I recently challenged this with the reporting agencies and the collection was not removed. At the time of dispute, the balance went up to $647.00 and they re-aged the account. I believe I can sue for them re-aging the account.

This mark on my credit is keeping me from getting a Home Equity Line of Credit. The bank told me to pay it before they would give me the line of credit. There is not way in hell I will give the CA a dime. Especially since it has gone up over $200.00 (interest I assume).

I want to sue these people - do you think I have a case?

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I'll leave that question for the legal eagles.

One question for you... did you do a walk-through with management and sign a check-out sheet before turning the keys in??? Anything that cost $400 above and beyond "normal wear and tear" should have been documented.

Besides, $400 is rediculous - especially if their 'cleaning staff' is in house - then it's a scam, in which case, you should take them all down - right up to their contracted CA who strong arms and violates laws to collect on the scam.

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Also check your State's laws regarding Tenant/Landlord. Some State's have requirements that must be obeyed before they can legally pursue cleaning or repair charges. In California, you must be notified, in writing, within 21 days of termination, or they cannot bill you. Check each of them first before you do anything else. You can call your local HUD office to find out who governs the laws in your State. In California, it is called Fair Housing. If you decide to look up the laws, check your Civil Code as this is usually where it is found. To answer your question on initials, as long as you initialed the paper, it is legal. The majority of Agreements, Rental or Lease, have only one spot to sign and you must initial the other spots.

Something else to remember, even though the Agreement says one thing, if the State Law says different, State Law takes precedence. An example is if the Landlord says they prorate the charge for painting if you resided under three years, and State Law says two years, they cannot legally charge you for painting.

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They did a walk through check list when I moved in and most of the stuff they charged me was noted on that list. When I moved out, they refused to give me a copy of the initial list and a move out list. This was my lesson on record keeping!

I am not sure if I received the bill more that 21 days after I moved out. I turned in the keys on the 1st and the bill was signed on the 20th, but I see other dates noted on the bill for the 26th. If it was mailed on the 20th, I would have received in right at 21 days or slightly over.

The lease agreement was published by California association of realtors. I was really hoping that since I did not sign the lease agreement, it would not be valid. I wonder what the point of signing the agreement is initials will finalize the agreement.

Here are the charges I had a problem with:

Replace 11 light bulbs: 14.86 + 18.00 labor

smoke detector battery: 2.89

extensive cleaning: 105.00 (Place was spotless when I moved out)

re-clean carpet: 80.00 (I had the carpets professionally cleaned and the cleaned on top)

The remaining charges were for the patching nail holes. (nail holes that were noted on the initial walkthrough)

These people have totally screwed me. I know there had to be a way to make things right...

I am almost scared to sue the CA because what if the Judge rules in favor of them? Then I'll still have to pay these bogus charges and there legal fees.

Please let me know if you see a way around this. Thanks you os much for responding!

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Oh I've been through this myself in Chicago. Landlords can be almost as bad as bottom-feeder CAs.

First, normal wear and tear is almost always not billable. And $18 to change 11 light-bulbs? What the frill is that? I doubt every single bulb in the place was broken when you moved out and it certainly did not take an hour to change them (assuming $18/hr labor -- anything more would be rediculous). Also, if there are items on the bill with dates after it was supposedly mailed, then the credibility of the date the bill was generated is questionable at best. If one of the line-items is dated the 26th, you can reasonably argue that they didn't actually mail it until after that date or that they fraudulently billed for items of work that they had not performed.

Now as for the "initials" on the contract. Some States still have an X on the books as a legal signature while others do not. In general it is authenticity you have to be concerned with in a signature, not security. So you make them prove it is your signature...If you have not admitted that you initialed those areas of the document then don't make it easy on them. Second, initialling a specific area of the document simply means agreement to those terms, not the entire document itself. Your full signature, whether it is a big X or your full name, that you use to endorse documents is required to prove acceptance of the entire terms of the document.

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what i would do:

talk with the bank and explain what is happening (bogus and illegal charges, re-aging etc) and see if they will reconsider giving you the loan while you are sorting this out. see if they will accept some sort of written declaration from you as to the falseness of this bill.

demand the move-out sheet from the CA and the OC. if you can show they are charging you for repairs to stuff that was already damaged when you took possession there should be no reason for you to pay.

what does the lease say about cleaning charges? if there are none stated they cant charge you (but they will try), general cleaning should be their responsibility. do you still have a record of the carpet cleaning you had done?

and having charges from the 26th, when it is signed the 20th?? that in itself sounds odd and something you should pursue.

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You lived in the place, you paid rent, you did everything but sign the lease. No one is going to throw those charges out simply because your signature is not there.

You have the credit report problem. I would dispute with the CRAs, make sure it shows you dispute, add the statement if you have to. That should help you with the lender.

The landlord? I wouldn't shy away from a small claims action, whether he brings it or you do. Small claims courts are designed to do substantial justice, which means there's lots of wiggle room. If you present a reasoned argument, the court will not make you pay it all, I'm confident. Maybe something. Does the lease say you are responsible for light bulbs?

You may want to investigate bringing a FCRA action against the landlord. That would get his attention, make him counterclaim, and you could probably get it settled pronto.

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