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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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We moved out of a rental house on July 31. We told the

Customer Question

We moved out of a rental house on July 31. We told the landlord that we could not do a final mowing of the lawn because we couldn't get a working mower(the one we had been using had broken). She began showing the property on Aug 1 and continued to ask us to mow the lawn. She scheduled an open house for Aug3 and had the lawn mowed, trimmed, and edged before the open house. The new tenants moved in Sept 1. I waited until Sept 12 and then asked her when she would be returning our security and pet deposit and stated that I wanted invoices for any amounts deducted from it (this was by text message). A couple days later she emailed and informed me she was withholding $780 for the lawn accompanied by an illegible invoice, as well as $250 for garage door repair and $200 for repair to the wood floors in 2 of the bedrooms but no invoice for either work. When I questioned the lack of invoices, she told me she didn't have invoices because the work has not yet been done but she intends to have it done.
First of all, $780 is more than 10 times the going rate in our area for mowing a lawn of that size. Her excuse for the high price is that she had to pay that much to get same day service since we didn't come back and mow like she asked us to. Secondly when I asked for invoices for the repairs she said she was getting those prices because she was getting a new garage door at her home and having her floors done so she had asked the workmen to include the work at the rental house in what they were charging her and if I wanted invoices the prices would be higher.
Can she:a) charge me 10 times the accepted charge for the lawn work; and b) charge me for work that hasn't been done but did not keep her from renting the property and cannot provide me with estimates or invoices for the work?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

No, the landlord cannot withhold in these amounts.

  • Amounts withheld must be "reasonable" fees - if the amount for the yardwork is 10x the going rate in your area, the landlord is going to have a very difficult time convincing a judge that the fee is either "reasonable" or what they actually paid.
  • While it is permissible for a landlord to withhold an "estimated" repair fee - they cannot do so based on what they think it may be, it must be an actual estimate.

You can sue the landlord in small claims to recover the excessive withholdings from your deposit.

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