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barristerinky
barristerinky, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 33797
Experience:  Attorney for over 15 years, landlord 26 years
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I lived in an apartment in ellensburg with 3 other

Customer Question

I lived in an apartment in ellensburg Washington with 3 other roommates. The four of us signed the same lease. We moved out of the house at the end of August. One of the roommates moved out in June without doing her portion of the cleaning to get our deposit back. Myself and the two other roommates spent two days getting the home cleaned and ready for inspection. The property company did a walk through and is giving the deposit back minus charging $180 for carpet cleaning. We were ok with that. The problem lies with we have not recieved our deposit back. All of the roommates except the one that moved in June, have agreed to a specific amount of the deposit to be divided out between the four. The 3 who have agreed believe the 4 shouldn't get an equal share since she did nothing to prepare the home for inspection. The property company refuses to give the refund until the 4 th roommate replies and agrees. It has been over a month and she has not contacted anyone regarding the matter. Is there any way for the 3 roommates to get the deposit without the 4 th roommate contacting anyone or agreeing to the deposit refund. There have been several attempts to contact her by both the roommates and the property company.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  barristerinky replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.

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Did the landlord send you an itemized list of damages and any deposit within 14 days of you vacating the property?

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I am assuming no, so what is their reason for not issuing the refund divided equally between the four of you?

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Did you each contribute equally to the deposit?

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
we paid equal amount for deposit. However we did not get the itemized deposit to ductions until after 14 days.
Expert:  barristerinky replied 1 year ago.

Ok, the landlord has a legal duty to refund any deposit within 14 days of you vacating and would do so in an equal division based on the number of tenants. Any allocation of damages between the tenants would be between them and doesn't have anything to do with the landlord. He just has a legal obligation to divide the refunded deposit by 4 and make a check out for 1/4 to each person.

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But if he hasn't mailed out the deposit, regardless of any dispute between the tenants, within 14 days of you vacating, then you would have the right under RCW 59.18.280 to sue him in small claims court for up to 3 times the amount of the deposit as well as attorney fees.

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So it sounds like you would have grounds to sue for 3x your deposit if the landlord didn't send out an itemized statement along with the refund within 14 days....

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RCW 59.18.280

Moneys paid as deposit or security for performance by tenant — Statement and notice of basis for retention — Remedies for landlord's failure to make refund.

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Within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement and vacation of the premises or, if the tenant abandons the premises as defined in RCW 59.18.310, within fourteen days after the landlord learns of the abandonment, the landlord shall give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement. No portion of any deposit shall be withheld on account of wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises. The landlord complies with this section if the required statement or payment, or both, are deposited in the United States mail properly addressed with first-class postage prepaid within the fourteen days.

The notice shall be delivered to the tenant personally or by mail to his or her last known address. If the landlord fails to give such statement together with any refund due the tenant within the time limits specified above he or she shall be liable to the tenant for the full amount of the deposit. The landlord is also barred in any action brought by the tenant to recover the deposit from asserting any claim or raising any defense for retaining any of the deposit unless the landlord shows that circumstances beyond the landlord's control prevented the landlord from providing the statement within the fourteen days or that the tenant abandoned the premises as defined in RCW 59.18.310. The court may in its discretion award up to two times the amount of the deposit for the intentional refusal of the landlord to give the statement or refund due. In any action brought by the tenant to recover the deposit, the prevailing party shall additionally be entitled to the cost of suit or arbitration including a reasonable attorney's fee.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I spoke with the property company and they told me your information is wrong. They said that since all four roommates signed the same lease that the property company legally couldnt send out 4 equal refund checks, instead they could only send one check with all four names on it. However, the property company knew that one roommate had moved out of state, so there would be no way for the other roommates to cash the check. On October 15 the property company did send out this one check with all four names on it. we can't cash it with the fourth roommate out of state. Additionally, we moved out on August 30. The check was sent 6 weeks later. The check should have been sent within 14 days of moving out. The property company first said they didn't send it because they would have to send it to the address of the home we just moved out of,then they said we agreed to come to the office to pick it up ( which we didn't) finally they are now saying they didn't send it because Of dispute between roommates. Does this matter?
Expert:  barristerinky replied 1 year ago.

Ok, first off, I would like to see a statute that says they have to issue a check back to all four people... There isn't one. And as a landlord myself for over 26 years, I have never seen a landlord issue one check with 4 names on it. Presumably each tenant paid 1/4 of the deposit, so logic dictates that since joint and several liability exists here, that the deposit would be refunded the same way. The landlord likely just doesn't want the hassle of issuing 4 checks instead of one.

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An no, they are putting up a smokescreen for why they are in violation of the law about the return of security deposits. As they change their story, they are trying to divert your attention from the fact that they have violated the law and are now in a pickle with you being able to sue them for damages.. The reason they didn't send it out is irrelevant....they didn't send it in violation of the law..

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If a tenant doesn't' leave a forwarding address, the landlord just sends it to the rental address so they have proof of complying with the law and don't open themselves up to liability like they have done here.

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I don't have any "dogs in the fight", so to speak, or reasons to mislead you, so there is no ulterior motive for me to give you incorrect information..

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If you feel your original question and any related follow ups have been answered, I would very much appreciate a positive rating on the answer I have provided so I receive credit for my work. If you have a new question the JustAnswer folks require that you start a new question page, but you can request me by putting "For Barrister" in the caption and they will get it to me.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The property company did reply and say they will now issue 4 checks if all roommates agree to it in writing.
Expert:  barristerinky replied 1 year ago.

That is great...so apparently this is just their default policy as I suspected since they don't want the administrative hassle of issuing 4 checks each time to tenants.

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With that said, it still doesn't change the fact that they are in breach and you are entitled to sue for damages..

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
i asked to property company what statute says that they have to send a refund check to all four people. They to me it is not a law it is just their policy with their leases. Does their policy hold up legally for them to be able to do this?
Expert:  barristerinky replied 1 year ago.

That is what I though all along... This is just their personal policy, which is not logical especially if the tenants have gone their separate ways as it means that they would all have to meet up at one central location, sign the check, cash the check and then divide the money..

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So there is nothing that would prevent them from returning it the same way they received it...4 checks for 4 roommates divided equally..

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But all this is not legally relevant because none of it gives them the right to violate the security deposit law or prevent you from suing them for doing so..

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thanks

Barrister

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