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How We Got Back Our Rental Deposit (from a shady property manager)

Updated on January 3, 2015
"Money Behind House"
"Money Behind House" | Source

How to Get Back Your Rental Deposit!

Our family recently moved out of our rental home of three years. I'll share our story (of a shady property manager and getting our full deposit returned) as well as what I have learned about getting back your rental or security deposit. I hope this page helps you through your own rental journey.

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Financial Umbrella
Financial Umbrella | Source

What Is a Deposit?

A security or rental deposit is generally one month's rent plus a pet fee if you own pets. Security deposits may vary but the one month is pretty typical.

This deposit should be given back to you unless there are damages beyond normal wear and tear. Also, you should leave the house or apartment just as clean as when you moved into it

Normal Wear and Tear?

If you are interested in getting back your deposit, you are probably wondering what 'normal wear and tear' is. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a standard definition of 'wear and tear'. However, most legal sites seem to agree that if it is going to happen no matter who lives in the home, that is normal wear and tear.

For example, carpets are going to be a bit more worn depending upon the length of time you've lived there. Paint is going to fade. Nail holes, if they are not excessive, are also considered to be normal wear and tear.

You just want to make sure you leave the house just as clean and fix any things that you might have damaged.

If you have questions or need advice about your rental experience, you may want to check out the folks at Expertlaw.com

Six Steps To Getting Your Deposit Back

  1. Clean your house. Make it as clean, if not cleaner than when you moved into it. Keep receipts for any house or carpet cleaners. Make a copy to give during the walkthrough.
  2. Fix anything you've broken. Check your original walkthrough and make sure the house or apartment is in the same condition.
  3. Read your lease! Find out what you need to do at move out. You'll need to make sure services are still on for the walkout (i.e. electricity, gas, water, etc...). You never know what little tidbit may be hidden in your lease. Read it carefully!
  4. Return all keys and garage door openers.
  5. Take lots of pictures. Most often, these photos will not be needed but if you end up in Small Claims court, they can definitely help.
  6. Make sure you don't owe the Landlord money. Pay your rent. Unless you paid your last month's rent up front, pay that last month and pay it on time.

Cleaning Checklists

One of the best ways to ensure you get your deposit back is do thoroughly clean your house or apartment.

The easiest way to ensure a clean house is to hire a housecleaning service that specializes in move out cleans. This is also the priciest way to go. Move out cleans can easily cost $200 or more. Always get and keep a receipt! Give a copy of that receipt (and keep a copy for yourself) during your final walkthrough.

If you'd like to handle the cleaning yourself, here are some good sites with checklists to help the process:

Move Out Cleaning Checklist in pdf format

Our Recent Experience

trying to get our deposit back from a very shady Property Manager

First Week of May

Our Property Manager sends an email to my husband letting us know that after almost three years, she's been fired by the Landlord. Her last day is May 31st and, oh, our rent is going up by $200. She says the new Property Manager is going to contact us.

And, so, we wait.

Middle of Second Week of May

Still, we've heard nothing from anybody about what is happening. My husband contacts our soon-to-be-former Property Manger for the Landlord's phone number. We want details. Our lease is up May 31st and we've heard nothing. We are told the Landlord wants nothing to do with tenants but here is the phone number. My husband calls, gets voicemail and leaves a message to ask what is up.

Early the next morning, we have a voicemail waiting from our new Property Manager. In his message, he introduces himself and says since we are moving out by June 1st, he needs to get in, take photos and start showing the property! What??? This is all news to us.

Several friends urge us to contact our local Tenant Landlord advocate. We do and leave a message.

My husband waits until he knows the Landlord should be on his commute home from work and gets a hold of him. Landlord did not sound thrilled to be contacted but explained that he wasn't trying to push us out but this new Property Manager says he can get $400 a month more for the property. He says he told them that since we had been there a long time, just raise our rent $200. My husbands asks for some time to think this over and Landlord agrees.

Our thoughts at this point: We are not thrilled about the way the new company came in and tried to push us out of our home. Not sure we want to deal with that and really not thrilled about how we found out about the large jump in rent. We contacted a friend of a friend who is a real estate agent and start looking to buy

During all of this, the Tenant Landlord Advocate had left a message. We contact her the next morning and explain that the new Property Manager was overzealous but our Landlord told us we could take time to figure out our options and we were happy with that. She said to call back if there were any further problems.

In the meantime, we get a couple messages from the new Property Manager to call him immediately but my husband has asked the Landlord who our Property Manager was and he said the old one until the 31st, so every time the new one called, we called our old Property Manager who was always very empathetic and apologetic that this was happening.

Third Week of May

We send our 30-day notice to the old Property Manager, certified mail along with our last month's rent at the old rate since we were never given anything in writing and had not signed a new lease. Per our lease, we gave our thirty days notice plus our lease states that we have until the end of that calendar month so we knew our last day in the house would be June 30th.

Fourth Week of May

My daughter and I are both really ill with a virus when early one morning there is a knock at the front door. It's the new Property Manger taping a notice to our door letting us know that if we don't sign a lease with them that week, we're evicted. Nice! So, I explain that I am really ill as I am sure he can surmise by my sickly appearance and I also mention our 30-day notice that should have been received last week! He acts surprised but seems happier than happy that we are moving. The guy practically skipped back to his car.

We are informed by our landscaping company and pool company that they will no longer be providing services because the new Property Management company is letting them go. Per our lease, these services are provided by the landlord.

First Week of June

New Property Manger comes in. He insinuates several times that we won't get our deposit back. I tell him we've have always gotten our full deposit back. He said that we'll forget to dust blinds or need walls painted. There is always something he says. He takes photos and tells us he was hired because the Landlord wants more money and the old Property Manager believed our rent was fair. He says he can easily get $400 a month more.

House gets listed.

Second Week of June

Two different families walk through. Both say it is a nice home but priced too high. They'll keep looking.

By this time our pool is turning a bit green due to lack of services. The salt water system has been out and not been replaced and the pool company is no longer dumping chemicals in the pool to keep it clean.

Third Week of June

Hubby has contacted the new Property Manager several times since we've been unable to use our pool and the yard is getting overgrown. Apparently, they are 'looking' for new companies to take over.

Nobody is looking at the house and I'm fine with that. After all, we're packing for a move!

Fourth Week of June

They drop the price of rent by $100, interest is renewed. We have about four families who want to see the home. Each and every family wonders about the pool because by this time, it is thick with algae and dirt. The yard has finally been mowed because, over the weekend, my husband sent a terse email explaining that we can no longer clean up after the dogs in the backyard because we can't see it. With the rains beginning from Tropical Storm Debby, somebody in an unmarked van with a lawn mower shows up to mow.

Two families told the leasing agent that if they lowered the price, they'd rent although they were concerned about the mud pit in back (a problem we've been complaining about for three years and have been told repeatedly it would be fixed) and the fact that the pool is not being cared for. One couple looked at the pool and just walked out of the house without finishing the tour. Nobody rented. One guy drove by as we were moving and asked me what was up with this Property Management firm. He felt they were shady and didn't trust them. I didn't disagree.

Fly Away Money
Fly Away Money | Source

We moved everything out the 26th and 27th. I had a cleaning company and carpet cleaners come in the 28th and 29th. We spent almost $600 making the home look great and it did! The Property Manager leaves a message that he wants to show the house at 10am on Saturday. I told him that because we'd spent so much doing the clean, he could show it AFTER our walkthrough. After some time, he emails to let us know, he'd do the walkthrough at 9:30am on the 30th.

By this time, we'd been in touch with our local Tenant Landlord Advocate again. We were so bugged that they cut off our services when we gave notice. Along with everything else this Property Manager had put us through, she believed we had a really good case should we end up in small claims court but let's see if we get our deposit back. Really, that is all we want. We did find out that if we do end up in court, the Landlord will likely owe us even more money since our lease was broken numerous times (didn't do our yearly carpet cleaning despite our asking, didn't get things fixed in a timely manner and, of course, this Property Manager who thought he could just forego Florida law and bully us out of our home).

Our Walkthrough

My husband arrived at 9:30am for our walkthrough. Not only was the Property Manager there but he had a family waiting to see the house! My husband pulled him over to the side and reminded him of our walkthrough. The guy sort of huffed and puffed but agreed they could wait.

My husband brought along our initial walkthrough checklist of which one has been sent to the new Property Manager earlier in the month by the old Property Manager. He tried to push a new checklist on my husband and my husband said no that we were using the one we were given initially. By this time, the new Property Manager is realizing my husband is not a pushover and agrees. He starts pointing out flaws. For example, in the first room, he points out scuffs on the walls, my husband points to the old checklist and shows him where it was noted there were scuffs then. The Property Manager was a bit huffy about it and tried to say these were new. My husband told him that he was done then and leaving. He wasn't going to play this game. Property Manager then agreed but still tried this in every room.

The only problem that was found (bit of shock to us really) was a big basketball sized blue stain where a bookcase had been in the living room. It wasn't there when we moved the furniture out and it wasn't there when the carpet cleaner cleaned. He would certainly have remembered it. Turns out, it was wicked up by the carpet cleaning and could have been under the carpet for years. I'm doubtful that it is our fault since there was a bookshelf there.

Finally, 40 minutes later, the leasing agent comes in and says the family is REALLY tired of waiting and about to leave. My husband offers that that they can go outside and finish this conversation. My husband gives him a copy of all cleaning receipts and explains that after all we've been put through, not only does he expect his full deposit back but, since the lease stated that our carpets were to be cleaned yearly by the landlord and they never complied, we want to be refunded for this cleaning. The Property Manager huffed and puffed. My husband very calmly let him know that if we were not, we'd be in touch with a Tenant Landlord Advocate to help resolve the matter. At this point, the property manager accused my husband of threatening him and declared the conversation over.

First Week of July

Spoke with the Tenant Landlord Advocate just to update her a bit on the walkthrough. She found the comment about the 'threat' as being interesting. Our next step, wait for the deposit or letter. If we receive a letter, then we pass that on to her and their office will deal with the Landlord. They don't even deal with the Property Manager. If it is not resolved that way or we just get frustrated by the process, we go to Small Claims court where we can get up to three times the amount of rent plus double the deposit back. We have been told by the old Property Manager and the Advocate that, in Florida, the courts do tend to side with the tenant and we do have a really good case against them.

This is currently still the first week of July and the house is still not rented.

So, now we wait and I will update as events unfold.

Our Newest Update

We got our full deposit!

I am happy to report that we received our full deposit INCLUDING our pet fee which surprised us. They really did not want us going further with a claim. We are happy. We bought a home and have settled in nicely.

Remember, the Tenant Landlord Advocate is there to help if you are being treated unfairly. Do not hesitate to call. We've never had to call before but, in this case, it obviously made a world of difference.

If you need a Tenant Landlord Advocate, go to your favorite search engine and type in "Tenant Landlord Advocate" with your county's name or, if necessary, the name of your State.

Some Books to Help You - through your renting journey

Are you currently awaiting the return or your deposit or getting ready to move? Would you just like to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you.

I'd love to hear from you

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    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @Countryluthier: Thank you :)

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia

      We rented over 9.75 years and had half our deposit purloined on move out. This lens verily reeks of move out truths. Wise squids will follow the wisdom contained here.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 4 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Very helpful information and tips from your personal experiences in getting your rental deposit back.

    • profile image

      loyddonald 4 years ago

      Useful ideas here, great lense.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      I lived in France for a few years. My company rented an apartment for me. In both cases, the landlord fought to kepe the rent deposit. The places were better an celaner when we left - it seems to be a national characteristic in France to do this. Not very honest.

    • Zebedee32 profile image

      Zebedee32 4 years ago

      Very interesting and informative lens. Thank you for sharing

    • profile image

      JerStein 4 years ago

      I am sure this happens every where, sad it happened to you. My landlord let me use my deposit as 2nd month rent. My property manager and I get along really well, probably because I fix things without bothering him and let him know what I fixed later on in time. Good Luck in your fight

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