Yes, you absolutely should file suit to recover your deposit. You can do this in small claims court without a lawyer for any claim up to $5,000. Your landlord does not get to simply unilaterally decide on this stuff. Everything you are mentioning is basically normal wear and tear and no portion of a deposit can be retained for normal wear and tear. Furthermore, the "useful life" concept further limits a tenant's liability. This applies to wall paint, carpet, appliances, floor finish, etc. I will use paint as an example. Even if damaged the paint other than normal wear and tear, which includes small nail holes) such that the damage caused would require the place to be repainted, you would still only obligated to pay for the cost of repainting times the remaining useful life of the paint job. Typically, painting in a rental unit would need to be refinished every couple of years. So, even if the place had been repainted immediately before you took occupancy, when you left after a year, there is no remaining useful life and thus you would owe nothing because you did nothing to shorten the useful life. So, file your suit. Once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, you become a judgment creditor, and if the losing party doesn’t then pay the judgment, you can have the sheriff serve a summons on the landlord for a debtor examination. That forces the landlord to meet you in court and answer questions under oath about the his assets. After that information is obtained, the you have the power to garnish wages, attach bank accounts, have the sheriff seize other personal property, and/or place liens on any non-homestead property to satisfy the judgment.
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