Issues with security deposit and taking over a lease - LONG

brokecollegegradJanuary 24, 2009


I will try to make this as short as possible, but it's a long story so I don't know how short I can make it.

I recently moved out of an apartment that I had been living in, along with two roommates, for 2 years. The three of us rented the apartment as college students. The complex is within 1 mile of a large state University and, although it is not owned by the school, to my knowledge all of the tenants are students. This complex is over 100 years old and is known for being a big "party spot". The apartments are small, in crappy condition, ridiculously overpriced, and management is constantly mistreating and taking advantage of the tenants.

My two roommates and I graduated in December. Although our lease does not end until July, management gave us the option of finding new tenants to "take over our lease". Apparently this is something that they do regularly, although IÂve never heard of it before. So anyways, we were able to find three girls (friends of a friend) who wanted to take over our lease. The girls came to look at the apartment on two separate occasions prior to signing the lease and loved the place. We had painted the walls in the living room, kitchen, and 2 bedrooms (colors) when we first moved in over two years ago, and one of our primary concerns was finding new tenants who would accept the paint as is (and thus, would take responsibility for re-painting at the end of the lease, as we did not have time to re-paint before moving out). We explained the paint situation to the girls upfront, and they said that they had no problem with the paint. After they signed the lease, all we had to do was stop into the office and sign ourselves off the lease and that was it. The process literally took two minutes. The document that we signed stated that we were off the lease as of December 31, and the new tenants were on the lease as of January 1.

When the three of us first signed a lease in 2006, we paid a $2,800 security deposit (we have been receiving interest on the deposit in the form of a credit towards our rent yearly). Since we signed our lease over to new tenants, management told us that the new tenants were responsible for paying us the security deposit (and thus, they would receive OUR deposit when they vacate at the end of the lease). This seemed strange to me, but management assured us that this was their standard procedure. Well, we have been in contact with these girls about the security deposit, and turns out that they are suddenly unhappy with the condition of the apartment. The apartment was never inspected by management prior to us vacating  Management never brought it up (even though they knew we were leaving) and the new girls never asked about it. We left the apartment in good condition, and the thought of having it inspected honestly never crossed my mind.

After moving in, the girls contacted management and asked that they inspect the apartment for damages, which they did. They ended up citing the downstairs carpet for replacement (it is stained, but I think a good cleaning would have done wonders) and repainting of the walls ($950!) in addition to a few other minor things. They also cited $120 for removal of the bar that we left the girls for free, specifically because they requested it and we had no longer had any use for it. The girls are now pretending that they had no idea about the paint on the walls and that we had dumped the bar, which is not true. IÂve been arguing back and forth with the girls and with management. The girls want us to pay for all the charges (which, by the way, are not being charged now and will only be charged at the end of the lease if the apartment is in the same condition). IÂve tried to explain to management that the girls knew about the walls and accepted them as is and also about the bar, but their attitude is that they donÂt want to get involved and IÂm being told that there is "nothing they can do".

At this point, my roommates and I are sick of arguing and we desperately need as much of our security deposit as possible (neither of us have found jobs yet, so weÂll all broke!). So, we decided that we might as well cut our losses and pay the charges. We told the new girls that we would re-paint the walls ourselves before their lease ends if they do not deduct the $950 from our deposit, and they agreed. That leaves about $1,500 of the deposit remaining, and I would be more than happy to get our money and forget about this whole messÂHowever, now the one girl whose contact info I have seems to be ignoring me. I have sent her messages online, called her, and texted her to make arrangements to have the remaining deposit mailed to us  itÂs been 5 days and I have not heard back from her. IÂm debating whether or not to call management on Monday, but IÂm hesitant since they havenÂt been helpful at all.

I am frustrated and angry. I did some digging online and found some CT laws regarding security deposits:

(2) Upon termination of a tenancy, any tenant may notify his landlord in writing of such tenantÂs forwarding address. Within thirty days after termination of a tenancy, each landlord other than a rent receiver shall deliver to the tenant or former tenant at such forwarding address either (A) the full amount of the security deposit paid by such tenant plus accrued interest as provided in subsection (i) of this section, or (B) the balance of the security deposit paid by such tenant plus accrued interest as provided in subsection (i) of this section after deduction for any damages suffered by such landlord by reason of such tenantÂs failure to comply with such tenantÂs obligations, together with a written statement itemizing the nature and amount of such damages. Any such landlord who violates any provision of this subsection shall be liable for twice the amount or value of any security deposit paid by such tenant, except that, if the violation is the failure to deliver the accrued interest, such landlord shall only be liable for twice the amount of such accrued interest.

What exactly does this mean? Does this mean that it is managementÂs responsibility (not the new tenants) to pay us our security deposit? ItÂs been almost 30 days since we moved out  does this mean that we might have legal recourse against management if we still donÂt receive our deposit after the 30 day mark? I would appreciate it VERY much if someone could help me interpret this, and give me some advice for handling this situation.

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I would say that at the very least you really need some good legal advice, whether it comes through Legal Aid (if you can't afford a lawyer) or senior law students who you know. You really shouldn't have signed off about getting your deposit back from those girls rather than mgmt, and I don't know if mgmt had the right to arrange things that way, or if they are responsible (with or without your having signed) for returning your deposit. They certainly seem to be playing fast and loose with everything. As well, you need to have something on paper about exactly what you (and your friends), the girls who moved in, and the mgmt are and are not responsible for - clause by clause. I don't think it's a great idea for you to be trying to figure out the law piecemeal on your own as you could end up not only even cheating yourselves, but possibly being liable for who knows what unnecessarily. Get some real advice... what's here is just speculation.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 6:13AM
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You need to seek some legal counsel, as lucy suggests. Mgmt sure did muddy up the waters for you. :/

Were it me, I would have simply terminated your lease and signed the other 3 tenants up. As it stands, the new occupants pretty much have zero incentive to take care of the place since it's your money that mgmt has and not theirs at the moment.

Regardless, it sounds not quite right to me. Unless this is a sublet deal wherein your names are still on the lease, then 'signing off on the lease' indicates the contract has been terminated. If the contract is indeed terminated, then it's time to wrap it up and address the Sec Dep deductions and refund per your State's regulations. Because if your contract has indeed been terminated, and now the new occupants are under separate contract and they are named as Lessees or Tenants, then you are essentially paying for the new tenants' security deposit. And that's not the way it works.

What did the 'sign off' paper say that you signed?. Has your name been removed? You do not want to be attached to a leased unit for which you pay no $, have no access to, that's just asking for a world of trouble (e.g. mgmt could attempt to collect from you if new occupants don't pay, etc.)

And the language in your law that you posted, as I'm interpreting it, does indeed indicate that once the agreement has been terminated, the LL must address the SD issue before the 30 day mark is up. **A note, cover yourself from any possible loophole and provide a forwarding address to mgmt in writing. In fact, whomever had their name on the lease should provide a forwarding address, or you could include it for them. Prepare a simple note today and mail it tomorrow. Send it Certified, so mgmt office has to sign for it. Doesn't have to be complicated, just "We wanted to advise you for future correspondence our new addresses are [insert your name, your roommates names and each ones forwarding address]. Then simply sign is. That way mgmt can't say they didn't refund anything because they didn't know how to reach you.

For your own protection, don't agree to anything else verbally and don't sign anything else until you've sought some kind of legal advice (and have your lease, sign off papers and any other paperwork in hand).

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 1:01PM
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There is no way to give an answer without looking at the documents signed.

"After they signed the lease, all we had to do was stop into the office and sign ourselves off the lease and that was it."

I'm not sure you are using the correct terminology in describing the situation. They signed a lease? Were you subletting the apartment to them with landlord's permission? If so, you do not get your SD back until they move out at the end of the lease and you are responsible for everything. But in that case there is no reason for the LL to get involved with the issue of paint, carpeting and furniture left behind until the end of the lease.

OR, did they sign a rental agreement with the LL and you still hold the lease in your name as such would be done when one or two roommates would move out and be replaced with another while keeping the original lease in effect with at least one of the original tenants remaining? Years ago it was common for one person to have the lease in their name and all the roommates were listed separately merely as occupants. Roommates could be replaced with LL permission or knowledge and the original lease remained in effect and untouched with one person's name on it.

You need a lawyer to look ever what you have signed so far. It could turn out that the paperwork you signed is not legal and would not hold up in court. Just because you signed a document does not mean it was written according to your state laws. OR, maybe you just did not understand what you signed which is unfortunate. If anything the lawyer will tell you where you stand and what, if anything can be done at this point. All contact between you and the former LL AND you and "your" new tenants should go through your lawyer.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 7:31AM
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Thank you for your responses. Unfortunately I do not have copies of any of the documents at this moment (stupid me, I know), but I am in the process of obtaining them. This is not a subletting situation, I know that much (management does not allow subletting), nor do I believe it is a rental agreement, as all of the original tenants have moved out and were replaced by new tenants. After we signed the last document, management verbally confirmed that we were no longer on the lease, although now I feel like an idiot for not looking more closely at what it is I signed.

Technically, we did not provide management with a written notice of our forwarding addresses (because we were expecting the security deposit to come from the new tenants, not management), however they do have a record of all of our current addresses because each of our parents were co-signers on the lease (and have received correspondence in the mail from management). Regardless, I am going to go ahead and mail them a certified letter with our addresses so that they can't say they didn't have them.

As soon as we get copies of our lease and the document that we signed to remove ourselves from the lease, my father will be contacting his lawyer to see what our options are and I suppose we'll go from there. Thank you again for your responses, I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 1:53PM
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Good luck with it all. You said it's not a "rental agreement", but it is (unless you bought the place :-). I know you meant about getting the money from the new tenants, but the whole thing is about rentals, and not purchasing (or subletting - which is still 'rental'). When you know more from the lawyer, come back and tell us what happened!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 6:42PM
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I hope it gets resolved fairly. Please do check back with an update. Landlords in college towns/neighborhoods are notorious for trying to take advantage of young people who do not know the laws and who are often lax with obtaining and retaining copies of their paperwork.

I am curious now that you mention having a co-signer for your lease, how it came about that the co-signers did not have to "sign off" (as you say) with the lease when you did.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 11:42PM
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