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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Experience:  Attorney with over 24 years experience.
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I live near Seattle, WA. My former landlord is threatening

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I live near Seattle, WA. My former landlord is threatening to take me to small claims court/wants $400.35 by money order for "over and beyond reasonable damages" for urine on carpet by my cat (was notified prior to move out). However I never did a move in checklist or move out and on rental background screening report stated applicant isn't owing a balance for damages because it will be covered by security deposit. Does my landlaord have legal grounds?
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

If you have a screening report stating you do not owe balance for damages, then you would use this as part of your defense. Furthermore, for the landlord to sue you for excess damages above your security deposit, they have to provide an itemized list of the repairs made and prove the repairs were not from ordinary wear and tear. As far as cat urine, if the landlord does prove that the damage was done by your cat and the other damages exceeded the deposit, then your defense is that the report that all damages were covered was an admission that there were no excess damages. If you have all of the documentation, then it appears the landlord would not succeed here.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My landlord did not collect a pet deposit. I had put one cat on the rental application which is the one that had the accidents. However my son's cat moved in as well which the landlord knew about. That cat died. My son and I adopted two female cats which my landlord was aware of due to the adoption agency calling her as a reference.

Simply put my former landlord is verbally badgering me and is not working and can not apparently afford the loss of a good tenant who paid their rent on time for over 3 years. I gave the legal 20 days notice.

Thank you for your response.

If the landlord can prove that your cat did the damages, even though she is badgering you, I am afraid that the law allows the landlord to collect for damages that are caused by the tenant. I understand that she knew you had the cat, but that does not mean you are not liable for damages your cat caused and if you had no security deposit, the landlord does have a right to recover for that damage I am sorry to say.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My former landlord did collect $800 damage deposit. I also never did a move in or move out check list. As previously stated my landlord did not collect a pet deposit.

I am sorry for the confusion about you saying she collected no pet deposit.

If she had a damage deposit of $800, then any damage caused by your cat would be able to be taken from there. She would not be entitled to more unless she proves the additional $400 because the total damages were that much over the $800 deposit. Again, to get more over the security deposit, she has to prove the actual costs of damages exceeded the security deposit and you say you have proof that the record shows all damages were covered by the 800 deposit.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am assuming that the proof is my landlord stated "applicant isn't owing a balance for damages because it will be covered by security deposit" on the confidential background screening report. Can the landlord even though putting this in writing legally expect the tenant to pay over and beyond wear and tear damages even if she was told about it prior to move out in a voicemail left and confirmed in a email by the landlord?

This isn't about money. It's the about principal. Right & wrong. The landlord has been unprofessional, making threats, and their financial situation.

Thank you for your response.

Yes, as I said above, if they have the information in the background check it came from the landlord and that is the landlord's admission that your damage deposit covered everything (including this new damage they are seeking). The landlord likely does not even remember filing the background report and is guided now by their anger and is not thinking straight. The landlord cannot expect the tenant (by law) to pay for wear and tear, only for damages actually caused by the tenant that were not wear and tear. That is all the landlord is entitled to.

The landlord from your description is doing this merely to retaliate against you and if you prove that in court you can ask the court to cover your costs as well for the landlord retaliating against you in filing this complaint without any legal basis
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It sounds like if I have my ducks in a row when I go to small claims court I may have a case. By submitting the following:

1.All emails (beginning to end of tenancy) and text messages. Definitely can get a sense of verbal harassment/abuse, threat to tell landlord I did not give landlord required 20 days noticed (landlord would of preferred 30-60 days),and retaliatory behavior.

2.Copy of the Confidential Background Screening Report with statement of "applicant not owing a balance for damages due to security deposit"

3.No move in/move out checklists required by WA law

4.No pet fee collected

Should I request a copy of the last 3 years of rent being paid on time by my bank?

The real kicker to all this is I never had any issues until the landlord knew I was considering moving out. Also the landlord was a acquaintance of a former friend.

You've been very helpful with getting my ducks in a row!

Thank you Marsha for your response.

Yes, you have your ducks in a row and if you have the evidence in 1-3, then 4, the pet deposit, really is not an issue, since a landlord does not have to charge a pet deposit to hold a tenant liable for pet damage.

You can get your checks as proof you paid rent, but that is not really relevant because that is not part of her complaint from what you said. The complaint is damage in excess of the damage deposit you paid, so getting proof you paid the damage deposit from the bank is the more relevant proof along with numbers 1 through 3 above.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I feel more prepared to go to small claims court with your advice/guidance. Should I respond to her email about taking me to small claims court or allow the lack of response be the answer?

My father's name was Paul, it's a good name in my book. Thanks again and hopefully regardless of the outcome my former landlord will walk away taking home the lesson of being more professional with tenants.

Thank you for your response.

You should just not respond to her at this point, as it seems like responses only fuel her fire more. At the most any response should be that your security deposit was more than sufficient to cover whatever she is alleging and leave it at that, but it is not likely to do anything but make her more angry than she is.

Thank you very much again and please do not forget to leave excellent feedback.
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