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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing both landlords and tenants in residential and commercial property disputes.
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I have a house in CT that has been rented to the same tenant

Customer Question

I have a house in CT that has been rented to the same tenant for almost 2 1/2 years. In April of this year I put it on the market and had a very difficult time showing it because of the extremely messy condition that it was in. My realtor told me on numerous
occasions that the condition of the house was hurting my ability to sell it. Even the day that the pictures were taken and I had requested that the house be clean, they failed to do so. Additionally, they refused several showings from highly interested buyers,
insisting that they have a 6 hour notification time. Unfortunately, life circumstances coupled with my tenants lack of cooperation, forced me to lower the house substantially in price. I finally received an offer this week for much lower than I expected to
get and I partially blame the tenants. They will be vacating Sept 15th, and have already told me that they expect their full security deposit back. Since I believe that I've sustained financial damages as a result of their actions, I would like to know if
I have a case for not paying them back.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Unfortunately, you are probably not going to be able to recover your money from your tenants.

  • The security deposit cannot be used to compensate for anything other than property damage and unpaid rent. So unless there is actual damage to the home, or unpaid rent, you cannot use the security deposit to offset damages. (See: http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/law/securitydep.htm for several helpful resources on this subject).
  • You had a remedy to deal with your tenant and the showings (they were in violation of the lease and you could have sued them then, in small claims court, or have used landlord/tenant mediation to help resolve the issue. But this is not going to help you now. (I don't tell you this to say "hindsight is 20/20", I tell you this because I am trying to explain why I have to tell you the next part).
  • You are most likely not going to be able to sue the tenant for the decreased sales price. There are several reasons for this, they include the fact that your damages claim is "speculative" (legally), because you had a remedy to get them to clean the unit, but you failed to use it (the landlord cannot use their tenant as insurance against a low sales price), and the breach of contract claim (failure to keep the unit clean) is likely to be out of proportion to the dollar value that you are trying to claim in an offset.
  • You can try suing them for breach of contract after the lease is concluded, but I don't think your odds of success are very good.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
William,I am confused by one of your responses. You said: "you had a remedy to get them to clean the unit, but you failed to use it." Did you mean if I had such a remedy in the lease or through some other agreement? Because I asked them to tidy the house up on numerous actions, and they failed to do so which hurt the presentation to prospective buyers.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

You could have sued your tenant in small claims court.

Or, you could have initiated an unlawful detainer (eviction) process against them (given them notice that the unclean condition was going to result in an eviction if they did not remedy it within 3 days, a "cure or quit" notice: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-R-0350.htm).

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. So I could have sued them in small claims court but I no longer can, correct?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

That is correct. Just as a practical matter, you can't sure them to make them clean the unit to show it to prospective buyers after the sale.

You can still use small claims for other issues (if they damage the unit beyond their security deposit, don't pay rent, or some other damage claim)

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