Landlord withholding part of security deposit

sleepless_stApril 11, 2005

I moved out of my old apartment two weeks ago. A few days ago I received my security deposit in the mail. The check was for $445 - my security deposit was $500.

I had done the walkthrough with the apartment manager and the only deduction he noted was $5 for the oven. So I should have received $495 back.

I called the apartment manager to ask why the additional $50 had been taken. He said that between two and three years ago the landlady started charging tenants $50 to have the blinds professionally cleaned when they moved out. This is not stated in the lease - incoming tenants are told this when they sign the lease.

I moved in four years ago, before the mandatory cleaning charge, so my apartment manager said he was 99 percent sure I'd get my money back.

But the landlady says that she's been charging for the blinds-cleaning forever and she'll "think about" returning my $50.

What recourse do I have?

I've found out that under Washington state's landlord-tenant law, the term deposit can only be applied to money that will be refunded to the tenant. Since she's taking $50 automatically it's no longer considered a deposit, is it?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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In Texas if they withhold part or all of your deposit without notifying you in writing within a certain time period, you can sue them for three times the amount owed you in small claims court. I don't know what the law is where you live but you may want to check into it.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 8:56AM
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If it's a mandatory cleaning charge, it's a :"Fee" and MUST be declared.

Remind the manager that your lease shows a $500 DEPOSIT and says nothing about a "cleaning fee" (which is must) ... and I bet you can sue them in small claims court for illegally witholding an undeclared fee and get triple damages.

Look up the "residential landlord and tenant" laws for your state, or just call the state informaiton number ... they might also owe you interest on that 4-year old deposit.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 9:16AM
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We had a similar situation when we moved out a few years ago. Our apartment manager decided we owed a $75 carpet cleaning fee even though it wasn't in the lease. We couldn't do a whole lot about it without wasting more time and money. The legal process isn't always worth it.

My only satisfaction is that $75 has ended up costing the manager potential tenants. I've persuaded at least 3 potential tentants who would have been excellent renters to not move in there.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 6:06PM
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Thanks for all the advice.
Is it legal for me not to know the landlady's name or phone number? I've asked the apartment manager for her phone number; he said he'd give her my number so she could call me. And that I could write her a letter (I do have her address for rent-check purposes).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 3:05AM
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you can go to the tenant-landlord union for free.I think it is on Rainer ave in seattle. Go to the website of the county you live in if your not in sea

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 9:00AM
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I would call the renter's board in your area. They will tell you over the phone exactly what your rights are and advise you on how to proceed.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 1:50PM
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