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Need help with Landlord and CA


Bewildered Renter
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Hi

I'm new to the forum and I'm hoping that someone can assist me with this issue.

I will try to keep this a short as is needed to provide the relevant information.

I leased a home for 1 year. When the lease was completed, we went on month-to-month for a few months. The landlord did an inspection a couple of months prior to the lease end date, but never informed me of my right to request this inspection nor did they provide me with a copy of the results of the inspection. All I got was a verbal "the place looks great" after the walk-through.

My wife and I wanted to sign another lease but they said that the owners were looking at selling so we couldn't. We ended up going on month-to-month for a few months. During that time, we began to look at other options where we could sign a 1-year lease because we have young children, a handicapped senior, and we didn't want to be uprooted unexpectedly if the owners were successful with selling.

However, the manangement company approached us after about 3 months after the lease expired and said the owners changed thier minds and didn't want to sell now and if we wanted to stay, we needed to sign a 1-year lease. We did not want to sign the lease now because we had been looking (since before they told us we couldn't sign a lease before) and found many places that were less expensive that we loved. At that time, we told them that we would stay until we found a place and then we'd move.

So that's the gist of that.. more on that but I'm limiting this to one specific issue.

Because if their failure to provide us with the results of their inspection, and the haste that we needed to leave (they wanted us out before the school semester started), we were not able to leave the place in the condition that we typically would. However, I am not defending that. I would gladly pay for cleaning and anything else that is fair and reasonable.

The problem is, a month after moving, we received a letter with about 30 items, totalling over $10,000 that they are attempting to charge us for. They sent the bill to a CA who has been relentlessly harrassing me, my wife, our friends, etc. I told them that the amount was way off, that I'm willing to pay what i owe but nothing more, but they arent listening to that. The CA just reads the list and says the landlord wouldn't write it if it isn't true.

Well it's not true. The house was listed in rental ads and the MLS when we rented it and the pictures (of the modifications they are trying to charge us for) are clearly, unmistakingly visible.

Questions:

How do I get these people to stop harrasing me? I am inclined to let it go to court so that I can present their own pictures that are publically listed.

Is this a legal method? How can a CA collect on a debt that is not accurate? I did not know anything about validating the debt so I missed that deadline but I sure would like to dispute it, pay what I owe and move on.

This is a case where the management company is not aware of the condition of the property prior to the new tenants (me) moving in.

Thanks!

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Guest usctrojanalum

Send the CA a dispute letter anyway. Tell them they are to cease all further communications with the exception of the response to DV. Tell them if the management company sues to pursue it you are willing to vigorously defend the lawsuit because you believe the charges are not fair and reasonable. If they sue you, cross that bridge when you get there.

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Thank you usctrojanalum,

I've read on this site that you shouldn't send a C&D letter and a DV letter because the C&D severes all communication the CA can have with me except to notify me of their intent to cease and desist.

I can request a DV but also tell them to cease all communications but also ask for DV?

Also, I will defend this is court if I need to but I think once an attorney saw what is available as my defense in discovery, they would be advised not to sue but to try present the accurate amount and get me to pay that.

I do have one concern/question about going to court. If the case did go to court and all of the innaccurate amounts are eliminated, would a judgment be placed on my record for the debts that I admit are accurate and that I am willing to pay?

Thank you again!

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There are specific laws governing landlord-tenant relations in California. There's a document here:

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf

The section on refund of security deposits starts on page 53. Some points from it:

-Security deposit can only be used for unpaid rent, cleaning to restore unit to condition upon move-in, repair of damages other than normal wear and tear.

- 21 or less days after move-out landlord must refund security deposit or send itemized statement that lists amounts of deductions and refund balance

- landlord must also send receipts for all charges incurred to repair or clean, both labor and materials

If the landlord did not comply with the law (and remember, that's within 21 days, not "a month"), you can sue and get triple your security deposit back.

Review your rights, and you may decide you have the ammunition to go on the offensive here, not just be on the defensive. Maybe you will be satisifed to just threaten a lawsuit and settle for retraction of the $10K they're demanding.

Good luck.

DH

P.S. If the CA has valid contact information for you, they have no business calling friends, as the only permissible purpose to call 3rd parties is to obtain location information. You may have an FDCPA violation on your hands that you can sue the CA for.

Edited by debtorshusband
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Debtorshusband, thank you for your reply.

I'm not sure if the rules for deposits extend to charges above and beyond the secured deposit amount. Here's the issue: We ended up not paying our final month's rent and letting the nearly $5 k security deposit cover the last months rent. It took us until mid-month to move out from this 5-bedroom house and to relocate my wife's handicapped mother.

So, after the last month's rent, plus the extra days until mid-month, there isn't much security deposit left. The statement they sent listed "unpaid rent" as the first item.

Does the security deposit law apply here i.e. to amounts that exceed the unpaid rent if the unpaid rent consumes the entire deposit? Does the landlord still need to provide receipts and invoices for what they claim I owe?

I've researched this for awhile and have not been able to find any data on this specific situation.

Thanks!

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Does the security deposit law apply here i.e. to amounts that exceed the unpaid rent if the unpaid rent consumes the entire deposit? Does the landlord still need to provide receipts and invoices for what they claim I owe?

I'm not an expert, but in my opinion, absolutely yes it still applies. If you're being asked to pay for it, whether out of your security deposit or out of your pocket after the deposit is exhausted, you're entitled to a strict accounting. Within 21 days. With receipts.

So you may be on the hook for a maid service that came to vacuum, shampoo the carpets and clean the windows. And if you burned a hole in a new carpet or caused a grape juice stain, you are liable for replacement. If you punched a hole in the wall with your fist you have to pay for repairs and repainting. But if they want to replace a carpet just because you walked on it for a few years? No. They want to repaint because the old paint job is peeling? No. They want to upgrade appliances to newer models? No.

Were you able to look at the document I linked to? After checking the link, I had to do a Refresh once to make it come up. Or you can find it like I did by Googling "renters rights Calilfornia." It was a pdf file about 3 results down.

Regards,

DH

Edited by debtorshusband
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With cheap cameras and camcorders these days, and the huge capacity of memory cards now, every renter should extensively document absolutely everything of their move-out, whether the landlord is there to inspect or not. Include a view of the front page of the local newspaper to make it obvious these shots could not have been made at an earlier date. Take pictures of absolutely everything. 1000 pictures would not be too excessive (a 4G memory card can hold that).

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Debtorshusband,

Thank you for your opinion on the matter. I tend to agree with you but cannot find any references that support it. On the otherhand, it's reasonble to see how the law could be created to protect the renter's actual deposit so it is not confiscated or held ransom. However, if may not follow that the landlord is required to abide by those same requirements for money damages they are seeking.

Yes, I was able to read the link. Thank you.

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Torden,

That is excellent advice. In fact, we did take lots of pictures of every room, and the outside front, back, and side. I'm not concerned with this going to court or arbitration because there is an abundance of evidence to dispute their claims and we are lucky enough to have the truth on our side.

We did not use the newspaper but I second that opinion. You never know when you will have a problem landlord like this.

Cheers!

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