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We rented a townhome for 5 years on a year-to-year lease in…

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We rented a townhome...

We rented a townhome for 5 years on a year-to-year lease in Bellevue, WA. The landlord never created a signed checklist for the condition of the property and after the first year changed the lease and deposit agreement. He converted money we gave him in the initial lease for first and last rent into a larger deposit. When we requested he return the money first so we could issue new checks to reflect the new deposit requirments, he refused. He provided no receipt or escrow information. He wrote into the lease that our deposit would be returned within 60 days after the end of the lease. WA law says 21 days. It has been almost 80 days and he has not returned the deposit. He also failed to give us an accounting of what he was keeping in the damage deposit within the required 21 days. When we finally got the accounting it lists withholdings for normal wear and tear (touch up paint, nail holes form pictures, etc.) among other items we dispute. We're willing to take him to court, but first, my question is: do we write a letter first that says he failed to give a checklist and return the deposit on time so we're entitled to a full refund or do we write a letter disputing the deposit charges or both? What's the first and strongest step?

Lawyer's Assistant: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state the property is in?

Washington state.

Lawyer's Assistant: Has any paperwork been filed?

In court? No.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

I don't think so. Thanks.

Submitted: 8 months ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 1 minute by:
9/16/2017
Real Estate Lawyer: Richard, Lawyer replied 8 months ago
Richard
Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 56,733
Experience: 32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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Hi! My name is Richard & I will be helping you today! It will take me a few minutes to type a response to your question. Thanks for your patience!

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Real Estate Lawyer: Richard, Lawyer replied 8 months ago

Good afternoon. I would first send a demand letter demanding the return of your entire deposit. The landlord has forfeited the right to keep any of your deposit due to missing the time period. The statute also provides that "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 attorneys' fee." So, I would let the landlord know he has a very short specified period of time to return your deposit in full or you will be filing suit seeking not only your full deposit, but also the foregoing amounts.

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Experience: 32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.

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