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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 30349
Experience:  Attorney
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Our landlord after we moved out found that there was water

Customer Question

Our landlord after we moved out found that there was water damage from a leaking pipe behind a wall, this apartment had been flooded prior to us moving in, and had much work done, additionally, the neighbors also experienced such problems. We also notified him that we saw termites. He has now threatened to sue us for thousands of dollars. We paid a large deposit and were excellent tenants and don't want to be sued, but we don't want to pay him thousands of dollars that we are confident we don't owe. Any direction is appreciated.
Best regards,
Jon Margrave
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hi Jon,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

What state are you in? Was there any evidence to alert you to the leaking pipe while you were living there?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
And no, there was not evidence to alert us to the leaking pipe. I have the owners letter to us at home I can get and scan in this afternoon if that helps, along with our responses to him
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I believe he is trying to extract money from us, he has been a hands off landlord and his demand for funds was totally unexpected. He told our neighbor that we left the apartment in better shape than any of his other tenants. We also did upgrades to the dirt yard by bricking it in.
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you.

Under California law, a landlord may only deduct from a tenant's deposit for unpaid rent at the time of leaving and actual damage to the apartment. A tenant is not responsible for things that just happen to break while the tenant is living there, or reasonable wear and tear. That means that your landlord has no legal right to keep your deposit for the leaking pipe. I understand that he could try to sue you and you don't want that, but if he does, you can countersue for the entire deposit that he withheld.

On top of that, when a landlord withholds a tenant's deposit in bad faith, the tenant is allowed to sue for TWICE the deposit as a penalty, meaning that if you go to court, you can get three times what you initially paid. Cal. Civ. Code, Section 1950.5. If you send the landlord a copy of that statute along with a demand for the return of your deposit, it's possible that he'll see the wisdom is NOT pursuing you for the damage caused by the leaky pipe.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

He's supposed to have sent you a written, itemized statement of deductions from your deposit within 21 days after you vacate. If he didn't do that, it's further evidence of bad faith and makes it even more likely that a judge would rule in your favor. The fact that he told others how nice the apartment looked when you left should count in your favor, because you can call those people in to testify if necessary.

You don't have to give the landlord warning before you sue. You could choose to go to the local Small Claims Court and sue for 3x the deposit on the twenty-second day after you move out. But if your primary goal is not to get sued, it may help to send a letter first.

If you have any questions or concerns about my response, please reply WITHOUT RATING. It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so I am paid for the time I spend answering questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. There is no charge for follow-up questions. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Here is an email exchange we had with Shawn, our landlord, I also have his itemized list of stuff he had to repair, other than worn carpeting after 4 years, we were unaware of any issues with the apartment. Your help is appreciated.$200 per month starting March 2016 until the entire amount plus interest is paid.If we sign an agreement today, I will not proceed with Court Action.I have attached the agreement form to be signed by you and returned no later than today.Shawn Makanvand--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: "*****@******.***"
Sent: Monday, 7 March 2016, 8:30
Subject: Re:Hi Shawn,We were not aware of any water damage upstairs, and we visited with the new tenants after they moved in during January. We don't have money for a court battle which we suspect we would win. We will agree to some form of payment plan if you agree to drop any court actions on us. This seems very unfair, but you have us at a disadvantage as we are broke.Let me know how you want to proceed.Jon-----Original Message-----
From: Shawn makanvand
To: jdmargrave
Sent: Sun, Mar 6, 2016 7:12 pm
Subject: Re:Your email makes no sense whatsoever.the vanity with water damage during your stay was upstairs. The previous water damage was all downstairs. The previous water damage was 100% mitigated before you moved in.The new tenants did not move in until early February 2016.I am proceeding with filing Court papers. I will accept a payment plan until the entire bill is paid off plus interest. Any Court and legal filing fees will be added to your bill.Shawn--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: "*****@******.***"
Sent: Sunday, 6 March 2016, 18:58
Shawn,I have been reviewing your letter, it is mistaken on the facts. When we moved in, the place had just had major water damage repaired and done much damage to the neighbors next door unit, you stated there was water and mold damage, we were unaware of this and suspect it was due to a poor job on the original work done for the significant water damage that had previously occurred. Additionally, the neighbors next door on the other side also had a water leak that we were told about when we visited the area to see some friends after we moved out on January 11th. We were unaware of any leak or mold, and are not culpable for this. As for the termites, we notified you as soon as we discovered them, I do not see how this is our responsibility as a renter, we would have welcomed a termite inspection at anytime you desired.We visited the neighbors, and while talking to you, you told Vera Rudello that we had left the apartment in better condition than any of your other tenants.I have read the lease and I don’t see how we can be liable for defects in your building that we were unaware of, particularly with its history of problems, and the other neighbor’s water problems. We would like to resolve this without going to court, but we feel strongly that you are trying to take advantage of us after we were excellent tenants for a number of years.We took good care of your apartment and made many upgrades to the yard. The condition we left it in was as good as when we moved in. We agree that the inexpensive carpet wore quickly, and that the paint was poorly done. We were good tenants that paid you nearly $100,000.00 in rent, now we are struggling and have no money. We do not want to go to court because we cannot afford it, and would be willing to pay you $200.00 to prevent any further action. We did good by you and would like you to do good by us. We have no desire to end up in court as we will soon be moving to Indiana. We honestly believe that we owe you nothing and should receive a refund from you, and we also believe we were great tenants and frankly, you should accept our deposit(s) and money we spent on your place including paying the utilities for 21 days after we moved out, and paying rent while a new tenant was already living there without any further request for money.We ask for your fair response.Thank you,Jon and Brenda Margrave
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry, but we're not able to review documentation and provide commentary. That would require hiring a local attorney and paying an hourly lawyer's fee. Do you have a specific question about your rights and obligations or about any of the information I provided?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your time, I suspect I will need to pay this person or try to find a local lawyer. I appreciate your feedback.
Best regards,
Jon Margrave
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Did you read my response? Because I feel that it was quite clear that you do NOT have to pay him.

Not only that, you can sue him for A LOT OF MONEY. If that did not come through to you, please let me know so I can help clarify.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

If your #1 concern is to not be sued, then you have the ability to pay him, write "under protest" on the check, and then sue for a full refund of what you paid PLUS three times your security deposit. You do not need a lawyer to sue, and you do not need to pay an unscrupulous landlord for things the statute has made quite clear are not your obligation.