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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 recently moved out of a house I rented in the state of MA

Customer Question

I recently moved out of a house I rented in the state of MA for 5 years. My landlord did a walk through on the last day with one of the tenants and said everything looked fine. A few weeks went by and I did not hear any word on the security deposit. I asked on 3 separate occasions and each time he said I will let you know. It was over a month before he got back to me on "damages". It's now been almost 2 months and we are going back and forth. There were 3 small chips in the granite counter tops (less than 1" each), a small plastic part of the dish washer handle had broken off, and there were 2 small dents on the refrigerator. My former landlord is now requesting I purchase a brand new refrigerator, replace the dish washer handle and also repair the granite. He is expecting me to find the repair men for these jobs as well. What is considered "normal wear and tear"? Am I responsible for finding the repairmen and paying for them. I am considering going to small claims court because he is a very unreasonable man but I want to make sure I am in the wrong first. Any advice would be great!!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn about this situation.

You have 3 separate issues here:

  1. Your landlord has failed to return your deposit, or an itemized statement of damages for deductions, within 30 days of the termination of the lease. You are entitled to the return of the deposit plus damages. See: http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/securitydeposits.html
  2. You may be liable for the additional damages. Damage to countertops, handles, and appliances are generally above and beyond "normal wear and tear" (that usually covers repainting, sweeping, and repair to worn (not intentionally damaged) flooring - so tread marks on carpet is covered, cigarette burns are not). While not from MA, this link to the CA attorney general's handbook is the best illustration of what "normal wear and tear" is: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml (scroll down in the article to the discussion on this topic). You can find similar language re: MA here (albeit not in as much detail): http://www.somervillema.gov/departments/fair-housing-commission/faq, http://www.rentlaw.com/dep/massdeposit.htm, and here: http://www.malawforum.com/content/what-normal-wear-and-tear-massachusetts-security-deposit-law
  3. Your landlord has the obligation to make these repairs then charge you for them. As we discussed above, the landlord is already in violation of the security deposit law, but they can still charge you for the damage (and sue you if you do not pay). It may be in your best interest to try to find your own repairmen for these damages (you can help control the costs better this way), but ultimately it is the landlord's obligation to get these repairs done, then provide you with evidence of the cost of repair.

You can compare the actual damage to the various aspects of the unit to the descriptions of "normal wear and tear" I provided above, determine whether or not you believe that the landlord is within their right to charge for it. (As noted, generally damage of this type is charged to a tenant, but you will need to assess the scope of the damage based on your actual knowledge of the damages). You can then proceed with negotiations with the landlord, complete with the knowledge that your landlord has violated the security deposit laws in your state and is now liable to you for that.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for this information. It is very helpful. In regards ***** ***** repairs, I am mostly concerned about the refrigerator issue. There are 2 small dents in the doors. If the dents cannot be repaired would I then be expected to purchase a new refrigerator? This one is 7-8 years old and is in fine working condition except for the dents. I read somewhere online that I would be responsible for the depreciated value of the refrigerator but not the cost of a new one. Sort of similar to how an insurance company would give you money based on the current book value of your car, not the cost of a brand new car. I'm not sure if that is true or not.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Yes, you would be responsible for the depreciated value of the fridge (not the cost of a brand new one).

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
OK, that makes sense. Can my landlord still deduct damages from my security deposit even though he did not declare the damages of the house to me until after the 30 days?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

No, see the first bullet point above. Your landlord is in violation of the security deposit law and owes you damages!

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