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Not the usual cup of tea, but maybe you can help?


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So today I received a letter in the mail addressed to a misspelled version of my name from a collection agency. I thought it was one of the credit cards I'd let go into collections that I'm working out repayments for, but it actually was a bill for $180 from my old landlord. I was shocked. 

 

The back story: I moved out of this landlord's apartment 2 years ago. Basically, it was August, coming up on the end of a 1 year lease, and we had to sign a new lease within the next couple weeks to extend our stay there for another year, which my husband and I had every intention of doing. Very shortly before (like just a couple of weeks, not in enough time for us to give a month's notice and leave), there had been what we'd been told was a slight change to the lease, so we went to go look at it. The landlord had put in terms that would have forced us to pay for cable (which we did not have and did not want). Had we complied, this would have forced us to cut off and terminate the contract we'd signed just a few months prior for cable internet from Mediacom, at our expense, because the landlord's company wasn't Mediacom. There is only one set of cable wirings to run service through, which can only be used by one company at a time, so we physically could not have both. Before my landlord even asked me about it, I woke up one day to find my internet not working. The bastard had actually called his cable company and had them come and pull the Mediacom wires out of the pole outside so that we couldn't have their Internet. We were livid at that point, and decided we were moving out as soon as we could find another place, deposit be damned. 

 

We didn't leave the place particularly clean, but neither was it a total disaster. The carpet wasn't vacuumed and there were a couple of old rolling computer chairs left inside that we didn't cart off to the trash, but the place didn't have any damage to it and wasn't filthy. We were advised by several friends that what our landlord was doing wasn't even legal, that he couldn't just decide to have a contract with a specific company and force us to pay for a service that we not only didn't want, but was actually a major inconvenience to us. We were told that we could have taken him to court to get our down deposit back, but we didn't want to go through that kind of trouble even though the $540 was a lot of money for us then and honestly still is now. We were never notified of a bill, and now I get this. 

 

I have 30 days from receipt of the collection notification to ask them to validate their claim. I honestly have no bloody idea why they'd be trying to get an additional $180 out of us when they already kept the $540 deposit, and it was only their shady business practices that caused us to leave, a fact we were very vocal about sharing with them. What options do I have here? I really don't think it's worth suing them over $180. But at the same time, It's like rubbing salt in my wound to think of just paying it off for the peace of mind. 

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This is usual cup of tea,they are acting as debt collectors. Send them this certified mail return receipt requested.

 

 

Debt Validation

Your Name

Your Address

Their Name

Their Address

Account number

 

Date

 

Dear Landlord,

This letter is in response to your letter dated 09/04/2013 (copy enclosed).

I dispute this alleged account in its entirety.

As per the FDCPA,I have the right to request proper validation of the alleged debt.

 

All phone calls are inconvenient, So all communications needs to be by us mail only.

Best Regards,

Your Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look up your state's landlord tenant laws.  If the LL failed to comply with the law and properly notify you in writing that they intended to withhold the deposit and assess fees against it, and itemizing them they didn't comply with the law.  You can dispute this with the CA that way.  

 

Many times LLs will stack the deck with alleged damages that don't exist or are not due to tenant negligence to try and get a former tenant to pay for their renovations instead of out of the LL pocket.  One biggie is new carpet.  Carpet typically has a life span of 10 years.  It depreciates each year it is installed and used.  Even if a tenant does damage the carpet the LL is only entitled to depreciated value NOT replacement of new carpet unless it was new when the tenant moved in.  

 

So when you get a list that says you owe $100 for new blinds you ask how old they were.  If they were more than a few years old they are worth nothing.  LL gets zero for having to replace worn out blinds regardless if your cat chewed them up.

 

Once you know what it is he allegedly wants this money for post back and we can tell you how to attack it.

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The usual wear and tear on carpet is supposed to be part of the rental core cost.  Only when the tenant causes damage in excess of that should the tenant be liable.  When the carpet finally ends its normal lifetime, then the LL is supposed to cover the full cost.  Of course we know LLs do try to make tenants and former tenants pay.  That's just an evil LL like lots of other businesses and banks and debt collectors that cheat and exploit people.

 

When there is X dollars of deposit, and they bill you for Y-X dollars for damage, presumably that is for Y dollars of damage of which X dollars was held to pay part of, when Y is greater than X.  If there is more than one kind of individual damage, and it totals up to Y, that does not mean any one particular damage applies to that Y-X they are charging for after they held the X in deposit.

 

So the question of what the $180 is for does not make sense.  What makes sense is the full itemization of all damages.  It is the LL's responsibility to provide that information.  Defense of this is whether the landlord carried out the steps they are required to do in your jurisdiction.

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I have 30 days from receipt of the collection notification to ask them to validate their claim. I honestly have no bloody idea why they'd be trying to get an additional $180 out of us when they already kept the $540 deposit, and it was only their shady business practices that caused us to leave, a fact we were very vocal about sharing with them. What options do I have here? I really don't think it's worth suing them over $180. But at the same time, It's like rubbing salt in my wound to think of just paying it off for the peace of mind. 

 

Request validation from the  debt collector before your 30 days expire. While suing for the amount being demanded from you is a novel idea, I doubt you'd get much traction with that. It has already been suggested that the landlord may not have followed the law in withholding your deposit. If that is in fact the case, and I were in your position, I would be let them know (a) you're not getting another dime from me, so go pound sand, and (2) if you want to sue me over it, you can expect a counterclaim in the amount of $540 plus interest. If landlord failed to follow the law as suggested, I would consider suing anyway, as long as the claim isn't barred.

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