I moved out of a rental home on June 21, 2013. The end of July I sent a letter to the landlords requesting return of the security deposit and explaining the Idaho 21 day rule. I included a letter from my mother also requesting return of the entire deposit, all mailed certified. In 1999 my mother signed the rental agreement on my behalf, paid the security deposit, and also the first 6 months rent. No new lease was ever signed in my name. Verbal agreement was I would take over rent obligation on the seventh month of occupancy . I consistently met this responsibility for 4 more years The landlords responded to my mother's letter, not mine, stating that they would not return the deposit due to all the "favors" (ie. snow removal, minor car repairs) they had done for me and my 5 children while we lived in their home and that they were offended that I would expect them to return it. It has been 60 days since I was their tenant. I live less than a mile from the landlords and they have been to my new home twice since I have moved. They have both my personal and work number. As stated in my letter to the landlords, we are pursuing this matter in small claims court. PROBLEM: My mother is from Illinois, and I live in Idaho. All business has been done in Idaho. She is currently in poor health and cannot travel at this time. 1. Can I pursue this in small claims without her? Or provide the judge with an affidavit from her/her attorney? Thoughts and suggestions? 2. What is the statute of limitations for recovery of a security deposit? She may be able to travel in the Spring 2014. FYI: I was a month to month renter. I gave verbal notice to both landlords, at which time I asked if they would allow me to pay for 2 weeks of rent rather than a month. They agreed, accepted the check, and deposited it. I later requested an additional week, they agreed, accepted the check, and again deposited it. But was listed as a "favor" in the reply letter. Thank you for reviewing my questions and all suggestions are greatly appreciated as I prepare for this matter.
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The statute of limitations for filing a breach of contract claim (breach of the lease agreement/failure to return security deposit) is 5 years in Idaho. However, the sooner you can pursue recovery you can increase your chances to actually recover the judgment.
Your mother will be required to appear in Idaho for the trial itself (all hearings can be conducted by telephone - you need to submit a motion to the court requesting a telephonic appearance, but it is routinely granted - I will forward the webpage below).
http://www.courtselfhelp.idaho.gov/small-claims (The site has a great deal of helpful information regarding a small claims dispute. If you are looking for a trial appearance of next spring you may want to check with the clerk's office and see what the backlog is and gage your filing date based on that).
I am concerned that when we appear in court that the landlords may start making claims of damages to home. I do have a video tape taken of home two days before the completion of the move. The quality is average. What else should I take with me?
Your landlord can only keep your security deposit for things such as damage to the unit beyond normal wear and tear, and for any breaches of the lease agreement. They may not keep it as payment for "additional services" they provided without negotiating those services beforehand. Furthermore, the failure to give an itemized accounting makes it impossible for them to keep the security deposit.
Has the landlord identified any damage to the unit in response to your letter and your mothers?
The 21 day rule requires an itemized statement of damages against the security deposit withholding.
The reply does state that they have made repairs. ie. wall paint, batteries for the garage door opener. But this was just now addressed in the replay letter received this week. No other correspondence on the issue was made.
Wall paint for a unit that was rented for 14 years is the landlord's responsibility (same with batteries). The 21 day rule is statutory, and the rule cannot be extended any longer than 30 days even with the tenant's consent.
What would you recommend that my mother and I have ready to provide to the court? We have original contract, rental checks, certified letters, a witness to the condition of the home upon exiting, and a video tape.
That sounds very thorough. Read through the information on the Court website above about the small claims process. You will want to do "discovery" on the other side, send them a set of formal questions (there are specific forms you must use) asking for information about their claims and defenses, and then prepare your trial strategy from there. Small claims is designed to be used by individuals without attorneys, and is less formal than civil court, but being prepared with your own evidence is important, and if you follow the rules for civil procedure to get "interrogatories" and "document demands" out to the landlord as soon as he responds to the complaint you will be even better prepared.
Thank you for your help Attorney B. I have one last question. My understanding of what I have read about the 21 day rule is that since the landlord failed to provide a list of perceived damages within the allotted time frame, that my mother is entitled to a full refund of the deposit. Am I correct?
That is correct.
Thank you for your time and the additional information. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Have a great weekend!!
Thank you very much, and you do the same. I wish you and your mother the best of luck in this matter.
Thank you for using our service, please do not forget to rate my answer when you are satisfied. If you have any further questions do not hesitate to ask and I will follow up directly. Best regards, Bill.
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