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Old landlord in Tx. trying to collect for everything!


brentntexas
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Hopefully someone familiar with Texas law can help me with this problem...

I just moved from a house I rented for 4 years and received a letter today from the landlord stating that I owe them $3,500 for things from burned out light bulbs she replaced to repainting the doors! She already kept my $1,000 deposit and pet deposit I paid when we moved in.

She basically is charging me everything under the sun to clean up the place so she can rent it again. Is this something she can do or are some of these charges bogus? And what should be my next action to take on this?

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Look at what it takes to file an action to get your deposit back in small claims court and go that route. You probably will not get the full deposit back unless you have pictures of how you left the apartment when you left (and if you don't, this is a good lesson on taking pictures when you move in and when you move out). No judge will allow stuff like lightbulbs and painting because of usual wear and tear which is suppose to be eaten by the landlord. Landlords do this hoping that you will not fight and they can keep your security deposit.

Depending on state law, you might even be able to claim punitive damages for illegally withholding a security deposit.

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Texas law is relatively favorable to the tenant. Texas Security Deposits are covered under the Texas Property Code, §92.101 - §92.109, protecting the rights of renters regarding their security deposit.

You probably should have done a move-out inspection. But the landlord must return the deposit or list the charges within a strict 30 day limit. If this landlord waited longer you may be able to force return of everything.

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Even if the landlord did follow the 30 day limit, there is still the issue of reasonable wear and tear which every state puts the burden of that on the landlord. If the OP had lived in the place for 6 months, I would say that they were screwed but they lived in the place for 4 years. The judge is not going to look favorably on charged for things like light bulbs and painting. In fact, the general rule of thumb for painting in most courts is after 2 years, it is the landlords responsibility. Reality is, unless there were holes in the walls/floors/ceiling, electrical damage, kitchen damage, bathroom damage, or extreme carpet damage, the courts are not going to look favorably on this.

That is why I say to the OP, be proactive. Most landlords do this in hopes that the tenant will not fight for their deposit back and they can keep it because it puts the onus on the tenant to prove that the place was not left in the condition it was. I know it is stupid but I would bet that the fight rate is similar to that for other debt cases and hence even when the penalty is treble damages, if they lose one case out of 10, they are still up 6 - 7 security deposits. With those odds, why not play the system.

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Thank you all for your helpful replies. We left the house clean and in good condition except for normal wear and tear. She sent a list of ridiculous charges like charging me $45 for cleaning the oven! The oven was clean when we moved. I did take pics of the interior of the home when we moved out so I at least have that on my side. If she tries to be a problem about this I am planning on going to small claims court with her.

Again, thank you for your helpful suggestions!

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I would be more aggressive than you. I would send a letter stating that their assessment is incorrect based on your evidence and that you are demanding your security deposit returned under Texas law within 30 days and if they do not return it, you will seek all remedy available under Texas law.

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You would not only be entitled to the deposit but up 1.5X in damages. So you could actually sue for the $1000 deposit plus $1500 in damages totaling $2500

The land lord is required to give you an itemized list within 30 days of your moving out stating what is being charged. Land lords are not allowed to charge unreasonable costs such as $45 for cleaning an oven. That is excessive and probably something you could get the judge to reduce.

here is where your problems are going to come from. You should have done an exit interview with the land lord. The land lord then has to tell you what the problem areas are. By law you are afforded the right to clean something or repair something before the land lord can charge you for it... That is IF you do the walk through. If you're already out of the place and the land lord finds that stuff you can't really argue that you weren't given the oppurtonity to clean before hand because you were already long gone.

Landlords can charge you for things like carpet replacement. And for the record they don't actually have to use the money to replace the carpet. HOWEVER, they are only allowed to receive the amount of replacement MINUS depreciation/ (Four year old carpet would probably need replaced anyway). Painting after four years would be regular maintenance... etc. Charging for lightbulbs is a joke.

Did you give the landlord 30 days notice prior to moving out?

Did the land lord give you an itemized list of repairs being witheld from your deposit within 30 days of your leaving the rental property?

If you answered yes to the first and no to the second you probably have a good case for filing a law suit against them.

Now, I'm saying all this assuming you didn't burn, cut or damage the carpet, walls or other items more than just just through typical use.

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There was some wear and tear in the house but no excessive damage or anything like that. We lived there with our two children so you had the typical spills on the carpet and things like that.

She did send me a list of repairs within the 30 days and I did give her 30 days notice. My wife and I cleaned up the place and I took photos showing the condition of each room in the house. The mistake I made was that we didn't do a walk thru with her when we left.

I feel that the charges are excessive and she is charging me for things that we didn't do. For example, she claims that there were cobwebs in the house and the house was filthy. This is a lie and I do have photos to back me up.

So I sent her a letter asking for copies of receipts to back up what I think are excessive charges. I received a letter from her today stating that she does not have receipts to back up what she is expecting me to cover. She also stated in her letter that she expects me to pay her $1,500 a month until these expenses are paid!!

I obviously do not have an extra $1,500 a month to give her and the way she is acting just is really pissing me off. I guess we will be headed to court over this now.

Thanks for all your helpful replies and I guess I will see what happens. Any other advice you guys can give me would be appreciated!

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Sounds like the next piece of paper you send to this person is a summons. I would suggest filing your suit and getting your evidence in order. Walk throughs are suggested but are not required. I think this landlord probably does this to all of her former tenants hoping to keep the security deposits. You are probably the first to actually show a willingness to fight.

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Sounds like the next piece of paper you send to this person is a summons. I would suggest filing your suit and getting your evidence in order. Walk throughs are suggested but are not required. I think this landlord probably does this to all of her former tenants hoping to keep the security deposits. You are probably the first to actually show a willingness to fight.

Agreed. I would file suit against her for wrongfully keeping your deposit. Although be aware that if you do she will for sure counter sue you.. And depending on the state you live in she may not even have to pay a filing fee to do so because you already paid.

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